Cigarettes go up in smoke

8 Jun

I always promised myself that I would never become a preaching ex-smoker, so this blog is going to (attempt to) tow a fine line.

On the night of Monday 30 May I had my last cigarette ever (probably). I have quit once before, so to a certain extent I knew what I was in for. But that time I did it cold turkey. This time I have eased my toes into the smoke-free waters, so to speak, and gone for the patches.

This time has been hard, but a whole lot easier than before. My poor girlfriend has witnessed my mood swings (or rather swing: I’ve been grumpy most of the time), I’ve found it hard to concentrate and the intense yearning for a cigarette is one that is almost impossible to ignore. And the patches cause problems in themselves: they made me feel, well, odd; twitchy. Also I was on the 24 hour patches to begin with, which seemed to disturb my sleep. It was the thought of the struggle that put me off quitting for so long.

A few weeks ago, Laura Milsom, the editor here, showed me a book about the effects smoking has on your health from Quit, the charity that helps people stop smoking. It had pictures of the blackened lungs of smokers. But it was strange; I could look at that book and not feel in any way connected to it or the consequences of what I was doing. But smoking does kill; it does drastically shorten your life. And I knew this as anyone does.

But I’m happy to say that already it’s been worth it. I do miss being able to get away from my desk for a couple of minutes during the afternoon or morning. Smoking allowed me to go outside and switch off for a second. But already I’m starting to feel the benefits. As a smoker I found the afternoons quite a struggle. I felt like I was on a continual merry-go-round of keeping my body topped up with the nicotine I needed to function; continually going up and down. Already I have more energy, and can breathe more freely. And, as I found out this morning when I had my first of umpteen coffees (perhaps the next thing I should quit?) I can smell far better. And because I’m not constantly topping up my nicotine levels I can concentrate for longer and feel less tired.

But I’ve just read a worrying fact in the quit smoking literature. A man’s lungs do not stop developing until the age of 24. I’m 24. And I’ve been smoking since I was 16, with a habit since I was 18. And smoking before the lungs have fully developed leads to irrevocable damage. As I’m young, quitting smoking now means my will lung function will improve. But it’ll never be what it could and should have been.

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