At the beginning of the film Smoke (1994), one of my favourite films, William Hurt mentions that Walter Raleigh was a favourite at the Court of Queen Elisabeth I and that smoking (Raleigh had discovered tobacco) had caught on at the court. He said that Raleigh once made a bet with Elizabeth that he could measure the weight of smoke. Toldwalterraleigh it was impossible, like weighing someone’s soul, he took an unsmoked cigar and weighed it on a balance before lighting up and smoking it. He carefully tipped the ashes into the balance pan. When he was finished he put the butt alongside the ashes and weighed what was there. Then he subtracted that weight from the original weight of the unsmoked cigar. The difference was the weight of the smoke.


Later in the same film Hurt tells Rashid the story of Bakhtin, caught in the Siege of Leningrad in 1942. He’s holed up in an apartment expecting to die any day. He has plenty of tobacco but no paper. Desperate, he took the pages of a manuscript he had been working on for ten years. He tore up his manuscript and rolled cigarettes from the pieces. Rashid asked if it was his only copy. Hurt says that it was and ‘You think you’re gonna die, what do you want? A good book or a good smoke?’ So he huffed and he puffed and little by little he smoked his book.


I quit smoking in December. I’m really depressed about it. I love smoking, I love fire, I miss lighting cigarettes. I like the whole thing about it, to me it turns into the artist’s life, and now people like Bloomberg have made animals out of smokers, and they think that if they stop smoking everyone will live forever.

David Lynch


I recently started smoking again after 3 years, the longest period I’ve managed to stop. I wasn’t even missing smoking at all, had got past all the withdrawal symptoms and thought of myself as a non-smoker for the rest of my life. A drink with an old friend, a cigarette, convincing myself I’d only have a couple and I was hooked again. Not only hooked but now I don’t want to stop; it’s too late – I enjoy smoking. If you’ve never been a smoker then I suppose it’s hard to understand, but the response of Bakhtin was the action of an addict – I am an addict. I started through boredom with my job at seventeen and now I’m stuck with it.


He found a tree that had not been damaged by shellfire and sat down beneath it, lighting a cigarette and sucking in the smoke. Before the war he had never touched tobacco; now it was his greatest comfort.

Sebastian Faulks – Birdsong (1993)


Although I am a smoker I never, when I had given up, looked down on those who smoked. I did reach a stage where I felt sorry for them, thought of the health damage and the expense, but I would never object to anybody smoking anywhere, even in my own house. In years to come we will probably look back and consider smoking insane, but for now it persists. I accept that people should not be subjected to other people’s smoke in restaurants and pubs, but to ban it everywhere is ridiculous; there should be smoker’s pubs and smoking rooms in non-smoking areas. The Health Police have gone too far.


Whatever Aristotle and all the philosophers may say, there is nothing equal to tobacco. All good fellows like it, and he who lives without tobacco does not deserve to live.



Smoking is supposed to aid writing; it certainly feels as though it does. I smoke loads as I write. When I didn’t smoke I continued to write. I look back and find stuff I wrote then and some of it is rather good. It just didn’t feel as though it was good. I am undecided. While I was a non-smoker I became a recluse; I didn’t go out and I didn’t travel because the temptation to smoke would have been too great. I think I have just been smoking for too long to stop. Who knows what I would have written if I hadn’t started. But I did.


Dear Mr Eliot

I read in the current Time Magazine that you are ill. I just want you to know that I am rooting for your quick recovery. First because of your contribution to literature and, then, the fact that under the most trying conditions you never stopped smoking cigars.

Hurry up and get well.


Groucho Marx


It’s very hard to explain to non-smokers why you smoke. You smoke because you’re addicted and you enjoy being addicted. Look at any film before the eighties and everybody is smoking. The tobacco companies held sway then; they had convinced enough people that it did not damage your health and we wanted to believe them. There wasn’t a big movement against smoking then; too many people did it. Now the anti-smoking brigade hold sway; it’s mainly poor people that smoke, and the citizens of poorer countries where the tobacco companies can still influence young people. I suppose it’s crazy, a really stupid thing to do, but it has its attractions. The writer Iain Banks died last year. He was diagnosed with terminal gall bladder cancer and died very soon afterwards at the age of 59. I had enjoyed some of his books many years ago and remembered a passage from Complicity (1993).


We tried another cigarette, and by then I’d – maybe instinctively – sussed how to handle it. I sucked that smoke in and made it part of me, joined mystically with the universe right at that point, said Yes to drugs forever just by the unique hit I got. It was a revelation, an epiphany… this was better than religion…I became a semi-junkie that day, that afternoon, that hour. It was that virginal rush of toxins to the brain…truth and revelation. What really works.


Although the above is taken from a novel, I’ve no doubt those were Banks’ thoughts too. He met his sudden death with equanimity. I do not know how much he regretted it, how much longer he would have liked to live. Longer I’m sure. I remember a cartoon I saw somewhere: two decrepit old men sit in an old people’s home in wheelchairs.


‘Just think’


says one to the other


‘if we hadn’t looked after ourselves we would have missed all this.’


Of course that leaves out the often terrible deaths suffered by smokers. We all think it won’t happen to us.


Although I don’t think I’ll attempt to give up again, I’d like to try electric cigarettes. I’ve bought some but haven’t got round to trying them yet in case they don’t work. The Health Police are banning the advertising of them and are trying to ban the cigarettes too; their reasoning being that they fear people will try them and then take up smoking, when it’s obvious that the opposite is happening – people are using them to try to stop smoking. I’m encouraged that a serial smoker like Martin Amis is using them. If they work for him…well, I’ll try them soon.


On the wall was a sign bearing the saddest words Keith had ever read.


Martin Amis – London Fields (1989)



153 thoughts on “Smoking

  1. When I smoked, I couldn’t imagine not doing it. I loved everything about it. I loved the ritual, the heat, the imagined control, the danger. In the end, what I didn’t love was the smell. And the taste of ash in my mouth. Now, I am one of the annoying former-smokers who can smell the stuff a mile off. It sickens me. I know. I’ve become one of those. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that I’ve joined an anti-smoking squad, but neither can I imagine that kind of enmeshment now.

  2. I’ve given up at various times using different methods, which tells you everything you need to know! The longest I lasted was after reading Allan Carr’s book but as soon as something traumatic happened, I was right back in the swing of things. I want a full post about the experience of using electronic cigarettes when you manage to try them!

  3. After smoking for nearly 10 years, I finally managed to give it up last year and not fallen off the wagon yet (pat on my back). But somehow feel that the sickening smell now actually makes me nauseous and I go about glaring at public smokers like a pretentious b@*$h..In SE Asia it’s a public smokers paradise. Loved this post.

    • Well done for giving up. I know what you mean, but I am such a serious smoker I can’t disapprove of others when I give up. It does begin to nauseate though. I am completely different when I give up – definitely two different people. I often wonder what life would have been like without smoking. Too late now. I spend a lot of time in Cuba and no smoking areas are creeping in. Health advice on the TV. New world!

      • Well it was very hard to give up. And still now I do get cravings especially if tensed or worried. But hold on and it gets easier each day.

  4. I applaud this. I have been a smoker since I was 16 – now, in my mid-50s, I’ve cut down to about 20 a week rather than a day, but I never want to be a non-smoker. I can’t smoke in the house because of my husband’s health, but that’s good for me, too; I now chew nicotine gum when writing, instead.

    I don’t think that we’ll one day look back on smoking and think we were all insane. I think it will always exist – I hear more places in Ireland (who enforced the public smoking ban before England did) are allowing it again. Interestingly, the amount of teenagers taking it up is as large as ever, I’ve read.

    What I object to is the right that people think the smoking ban has given them to complain about cigarettes even being smoked in the open air – like outside the supermarket when I’m waiting for a taxi, for instance! A piece on television annoyed me so much last year that I wrote a blog post about it – you might like to read it, it’s not very long.

    Oh, how I miss the days of a fag with a drink in a pub – I don’t know a pub owner who hasn’t said the ban has ruined their trade. I love to see 60s films when people just lit up, here, there and everywhere. Yes, I KNOW it causes cancer, and it makes your clothes, hair and house smell nasty. But I still love it. And the electronic tabs do work – I know several people who find them a good substitute I just prefer the chewing thing, that’s all

    • Good post. Interesting that you think smoking will remain – a safer version maybe. I know, the Health Police are very annoying. I miss the pub fag too and enjoy smoking in the bars in Cuba, although even Cuba has no smoking areas now and anti-smoking ads on TV. I didn’t think that would ever happen.

      Banning smoking in the fresh air is ridiculous. There are many causes of cancer of which smoking is just one. I think smoking gets blamed for other causes we are not supposed to know about. Smoking pubs should certainly be introduced.

      I love the old films too, and the chat shows where people drank and smoked. And the snooker and darts where they always had a pint and a fag.

      People generally think they have a right to interfere in other people’s lives now. Technology (which we are using) is the main cause, giving people instant access and communication with each other. Lots of people are just sitting and waiting to get offended or ban something or hound somebody.

      I’ll have a look at your blog later.

  5. Having smoked for 25 years now, I know I should quit or at least cut down from the burning feeling I get in my chest at times as well as the inability to run or climb stairs for any period. However, I have no desire to do so. I’ve tried e-cigs too, but they’re just not the same. I know I’d be healthier and wealthier if I quit, but I just don’t know that I can do it. Much agreed about the health police though. Great post!

  6. I’ve smoked on and off for ten years, and I have a really strange relationship with cigarettes. I don’t think of myself as “a smoker” even though I smoke pretty often, although almost never on weekdays. There are times – when it’s sunny, when I’m on holiday, (most common) when I’m drinking, after a long train journey – that there’s nothing I enjoy more than a slow drag on a nice relaxing fag. Other times – at work, first thing in the morning, after a meal – I literally couldn’t imagine anything less enjoyable. I suppose I’ll stop one day. As you say though, my problem is that I don’t really *want* to stop, although I know I should.

    • There are dozens of moments when you enjoy or need a fag: drinking, on the phone, after breakfast, driving, after coffee…the list is endless. It does help in moderation. Trouble is I can’t do it moderately.

  7. Great post man!
    I quitted smoking some times too… Twice for a year, once 8 months and now since November. Although recent 2 months there were some occasions when I smoked just 1 or 2 cigarettes. The thing is that sometimes it just goes so well with drinking. I also had the feeling you described that I didn’t even like the smell anymore, so there was no temptation. Still when drinking with some friends it’s kinda nice and that’s when I started again.
    Now some time ago I stumbled upon a research that explains why this is and made a post about it. If you’re interested here’s a link:
    All the best to everybody trying to quit smoking. Cheers,

    • I’ll have a look at your post. I think you have to go ‘cold turkey’ and stop completely. It takes more willpower to cut down. If I smoke one, I smoke twenty. I thought I’d stopped forever, didn’t miss it. One careless fag was all it took. I have noticed a change in character though. I become a total recluse if I don’t smoke. Cheers.

      • True… In my experience the first week is hard. But people have this habbit of giving you compliments when you quit smoking and I guess my ego is bigger then my desire for nicotine hahaha

  8. E-cigs are tricky. You have to find just the right one and just the right flavor. Although I am a smoker now, I did quit for a time with the assistance of an e-cig, and after many trials I finally found one I loved (a liquid one) with a flavor I loved. Sadly, I received the wrong liquid for Christmas which just didn’t do it for me. Instead of going back to the store to see if I could exchange it for my regular kind, I just started smoking again. It’s true, I enjoy it. I do play to quit, mainly because I have a 3-year-old son. But not right now.

  9. Quitting smoking has been one of the best things and one of the worst things I’ve ever done. It’s better to go cold turkey (imo), those e-cigs will maintain the addiction and who knows what long term effects they’ll have on your health.

  10. I used to smoke a pack a day. I could smoke four cigarettes on my half hour lunch break (not eating lunch helped). Sometimes I would get off work and smoke a pack before bed. I quit smoking at least three or four times before it finally took. I’ve been smoke free for about ten years now. I do look at other smokers now and feel sorry for them. For the way their hands stink, the way their clothes stink, the yellow of their teeth, and the money they are spending on suicide. Glorifying the act in writing is irresponsible insofar as it might make some young person who’s not yet addicted think that smoking is okay, even glamorous. The only difference between smoking and putting a needle in your arm is that smoking is cheaper and also physically harms the people around you.

    • ‘Glorifying the act in writing is irresponsible insofar as it might make some young person who’s not yet addicted think that smoking is okay, even glamorous.’


      ‘I did reach a stage where I felt sorry for them, thought of the health damage and the expense, but I would never object to anybody smoking anywhere, even in my own house. In years to come we will probably look back and consider smoking insane, but for now it persists. I accept that people should not be subjected to other people’s smoke in restaurants and pubs.’

      ‘The writer Iain Banks died last year. He was diagnosed with terminal gall bladder cancer and died very soon afterwards at the age of 59.’

      ‘He met his sudden death with equanimity. I do not know how much he regretted it, how much longer he would have liked to live. Longer I’m sure.’

      ‘Of course that leaves out the often terrible deaths suffered by smokers. We all think it won’t happen to us.’

      ‘…their reasoning being that they fear people will try them and then take up smoking, when it’s obvious that the opposite is happening – people are using them to try to stop smoking’.

      I write about why people smoke and how hard it is to stop. I think I emphasise the dangers.

  11. I agree, the health police have gone too far. As with most “mommy & daddy” laws, no smoking laws can be very invasive. Private business owners shouldn’t be told whether or not they can allow smoking on their premises. I am a non-smoker, and even though second hand smoke can make me very sick very fast I still support a business owners right to make their own choice. After all, If I don’t like the smoke I can always do business elsewhere.

    • I agree. If a pub or club owner wants to allow smoking, they should be allowed to. There’s no law against junk food, which probably kills as many as smoking. I’ve always supported the freedom to smoke, even when I didn’t smoke.

  12. I don’t smoke, However, I understand addiction and I even understand wanting to be addicted. I even get that a certain ritual can aid in writing. For me that ritual is running bath water with eucalyptus salts. But to each their own and frankly, it’s no one elses business. My brother is trying to quite and he has the e-cig and I have never discouraged his efforts even when he smokes in my house and around my kids because, well, it’s LIFE and my kids are going to see it/experience it sometime and they need to learn to deal with whatever or they will be terrible at relationships.

  13. “A drink with an old friend, a cigarette, convincing myself I’d only have a couple and I was hooked again. Not only hooked but now I don’t want to stop; it’s too late – I enjoy smoking.” … Sooooo get that.

    Thankful for Quitnet – an online forum for quitters support, I celebrate 7 years smoke free, having quit for five, smoked for seven more. Not One Puff Ever – NOPE.

    Great blog, great layout, love the interesting black and white theme for such a gray topic!

  14. Thank you for this soulful, thoughtful post. I struggle between fear of cancer, guilt for burdening my loved ones, and love, need and enjoyment of smoking all the time. I have been able to quit only by chewing nicotine gum… and I have gone without for 6 months at a time but I will always love smoking and smokers. Thank you for saying so eloquently what I wish I could.

  15. I don’t smoke and never have, but have been around a lot of smokers. One thing that surprises me is that of all the reasons given out for not smoking, is how it prematurely ages you, particularly in the appearance and feel of your skin. I should think in this day and age of eternal youth and cosmetics, this would be one of the biggest reasons, at least for women. But I’ve never heard it mentioned anywhere. All the smokers I know have skin that belongs to people ten years older than themselves. 😦

  16. I only managed 6 months before going back to smoking. It felt like I never really “got over” my relationship with cigarettes. I enjoy them too much. They are like a destructive girlfriend. You know they are bad for you, and that you’ll be healthier without them, but they keep pulling you back. And you don’t even want them to stop.

  17. I am lucky to have Bio C, a product in Nutrilite. With this one of my uncle who was addicted to smoke started loosing this habit. This habit can lead to Cancer and is not supportive to health.

  18. I’ve never smoked and I really dislike the smell so at this point I probably never will. I work in healthcare and I am glad the smoking ban exists because it protects babies and children (smaller lungs, bigger effect from passive smoking) but I am spitting nails over the proposed ban on e-cigarettes. There is NO evidence that people take up smoking because of them, and as you say if anything it’s the opposite. And there is no evidence that they are in any way bad for your health – in fact the research tentatively suggests that nicotine alone may have some benefits for health, when it’s not mixed with tar and so forth. It’s a stupid political stunt that will do more harm than good. I can think of a hundred things that research has shown to be more damaging than e-cigarettes and perfectly legal. Caffeine, for instance. I’m not advocating banning that either!

    • Don’t blame you for hating smoking. So do I! This is a humerous look at addicts. Dead right about the E-cigs. They should be encouraged, not banned. I would never smoke around people who didn’t like it, especially children and babies.

      I love caffeine too. And rum. Hopeless.

  19. I quit years ago. Smelling smoke has at times made me nauseous but a police state makes me infinitely more nauseous. Smoke away, just respect my space is all I ask. We all use something to get through the day and life.

      • For me, life is more about trying to achieve a balance with respect for the needs of others. We are becoming an uncivil society with too much focus on ourselves. The anti-smokers as as bad as anyone. We need less world saving and more charity.

  20. As a non-smoker, I’ve greatly enjoyed some of the new rules. No smoking on airplanes is my favourite. I remember a time in the “bad” old days when I was sitting in the non-smoking section on an overseas flight, and the guy across the aisle was puffing on a cigar. I asked the flight attendant if this wasn’t the non-smoking section, and she went and talked to him. She came back to me and said, “It’s OK. He says he won’t smoke when we serve the meal.” What a peach!

    But I think the anti-smoking police are going too far when they want to ban smoking in enormous, wide-open public places. If you’re going to get that worked up about carcinogens, you’d better get a lot more proactive about smog reduction.

    • I remember smoking on a Cubana flight between Spain and Havana in 2001, four months before before 9/11. That must have been one of the last times. Strict no-smoking after that. There are No-smoking signs at Jose Marti airport too, though nobody stops you if you do smoke. I think the Cubans have the attitude of ‘What difference does it make?’ Is a fag going to blow up the airport or a plane? No, of course not. There should be smoking areas, even on planes. It’s easy to divert air away from non-smokers.

      But it’s changing, even in Cuba: a few no-smoking restaurants and ‘don’t smoke’ public relations ads on the TV. Even Fidel gave up cigars!

      Yes, banning smoking in wide open places is mad. Nothing to with health but a compulsion to tell people how to live their lives. Smog, junk-food, alcohol, stress – they all contribute to illness. We’re not going to live forever.

  21. I’ve given up smoking two times – the first one for three years, then I took this up again for about two years, and now I’ve been smoke-free for 3 years again. I know that I am an addict and I just cannot have a cigarette anymore. I was a natural at this, I got hooked up right after I smoked my first one. I liked the rituals, I liked people who smoked (they *are* a tad different, right?), and sometimes I even liked the taste again, sometimes it just felt as if it was the first time.
    But I was also tired of being a slave of my addiction. My whole life depended on when I would smoke again, my thoughts circled around planning my trip to work well enough to be able to smoke one more cigarette before I enter the building, I craved for the first cigarette in the morning, half-awaken, I planned the last cigarette in the night, half-asleep. When I realized how many moments in life I was missing just because the thought of having to smoke, planning to smoke, wishing to smoke destroyed them – I knew I could do this again.
    I still miss it sometimes, but I know it’s my addiction – and *not me* – who plays with all those wistful memories in my head. Because, honestly, smoking sucks. You know that.

    • Good reply. That’s how I smoke too. Fag in the car, fag in the morning, last one at night – I know exactly what you mean. Yes, smokers are different – strange that. A persecuted breed now, though. I’ve always known it’s bad for you. My father begged me not to smoke because he did (a lot), but I started through boredom with my first job and it had me – a true addict. I felt the same way as you when I gave up. Never dreamed I’d start again. You’re never really free of it.

      • I always thought smokers are a defiant lot. They are not willing to follow even one of the most established truths outs there (‘smoking is bad for you’), so why would they blindly follow any other rule? Of course, their choice of established wisdom they go against is rather stupid in retrospection, but what can you do. The point is it’s usually a part of their character and so you can feel it in many others areas of their life, during discussions, unconventional outings, just about all the time. Well, who else goes out at 4 am on a freezing winter night just to have this last one and call it a night while realizing that the world *is* beautiful even though their fingers are about to fall off because of the cold? It’s crazy, but it’s also pretty awesome. Nothing a machine perfectly fit to 9-to-5 scheme would do I’d say.
        And even though I’ve met a lot of non-smokers who were as defiant, opinionated or just plainly awesome as the smokers I know, they always lacked this special ‘bad kid’ (good kids don’t smoke, right?) attitude. I’m not entirely sure whether it’s not the attitude that we all love about it most.
        Or maybe I’m just creating a wistful mythology?

  22. Great post. I’ve had a love hate relationship with cigarettes for close to 20 years now. When I’m stressed or enjoying a particularly good cup of coffee, I feel the urge to light up and when I do, I wonder if it was worth the expense and effort for the effect it actually had. I know the answer is a resounding no, but I continue to buy cigarettes anyway, and this, I feel is a trap that a lot of smokers get caught in.
    I have tried to give up a few times but I always seem to slip right back, much to the exasperation of my wife.
    For me, it’s never been about how they make me feel. Quite frankly they don’t make me feel anything remarkable. My fascination had always been with the smoke itself. I love the way it looks streaming out between someone’s lips, hanging on the air. Don’t even get me started on smoke rings.
    But I digress. All I really meant to say was yes I agree that smokers have to deal with entirely too much flak from the health Brigade and that I enjoyed reading this piece and am looking forward to more. Thanks. ☺

    • I know what you mean with the fascination with smoke. I do like how they make me feel, but only from about 5 a day and I smoke 25. There is a coolness to it, even though it’s filthy. People smoking in films looked really good (and the actors were often well-paid by the tobacco industry). The tobacco industry is really quite wicked, still encouraging the young to smoke worldwide. But that’s corporations for you – out-of-hand.

      It makes a difference whether you inhale. My mother smoked for fifty years but she didn’t inhale. I take the smoke down to my feet!

      There will be more. One of my posters said that smokers are ‘different’. That’s true. I’ll have to have a think about that – and write about it.

      But keep trying!

  23. Aaah smokey-smoke-smoking! I have a need, an addiction. It controls me. It keeps my weight down. My temper calm. It costs me dollars I cannot afford. It makes my non-smoking friends avoid me. It makes my children cringe from my breath.
    It makes that first cup of coffee in the morning taste so much better. It gives me an excuse to sit outside, be by myself for a while.
    It implores me to do it again and again. Take another and then more. It bonds me with my man. We smoke together.
    It makes the flu last several weeks longer, and the cough may never quite go away. It reminds me of my mortality, but everything else on earth is conspiring to kill me, why not this?
    I’m thinking about it now, seeing the yellow stain on my “smoking fingers”. Still smelling the smoke from the last on my clothing, in my hair.
    Why? I ask myself. Doesn’t seem to be an acceptable answer. Having given up 6 times, I am always drawn back, just like that smoke.

    • Brilliant reply. You express much of what I feel about it. That coffee in the morning – wonderful. But then all day you try to repeat that feeling. And it doesn’t quite work. I probably only actually ‘want’ about 5 fags a day, but smoke 25.

      I know: the money, the smell, the stains, the health – why do we do it?

      But we do it.

  24. I found this a very interesting article and I’d like to throw in my tuppence worth if I may. I’m a smoker and I enjoy smoking. When the no-smoking law came into force I was appalled by the Governments decision. We supposedly live in a free society, but our freedom to choose has been taken away. The pubs should have been given the choice to be a smoking or non-smoking pub. Now, smokers have to go outside in the freezing cold when they want a cigarette, but the publican still wants their business. What kind of customer service is that? If any other business maltreats their customers, they’d be reported to Trading Standards.

    Yes, we all know the harm ciggies do to us, but it’s our life. The truth is this. The Government really doesn’t want us to give up smoking, drinking or driving our cars everywhere. The taxes keep the economy going. If everyone in the country called the Government’s bluff and said “OK, we’ll stop smoking, drinking and we’ll walk or cycle to work, the British economy would collapse in a matter of weeks.

    Pubs used to have a smoke room. If you want to smoke, go in there. If you don’t smoke, stay out of that room. Sorry about my rant, but it does make me angry.

    Now that I live in China I’m free to do as I choose. I can smoke in pubs, bars and most restaurants. In a car I don’t wear a seat belt and I ride my motorbike without a crash helmet, because I choose to. By the way, £1 Gets you 2 pints of beer and a packet of fags here.

    Keep up the excellent writing.

    Chris Just

    • Excellent reply.

      Yes, pubs should have smoking rooms – a choice. The present ban is ridiculous. It stopped me even going to pubs (except a couple of months in the summer when you can sit in the garden). The ban happened under a Labour (sic) government. I’m no Tory, but I don’t think the ban would have happened under them. By 2006 Tony Blair’s lot had already created over 3000 new criminal offences. They were not a Labour government. They’re all neo-cons now, across the parties.

      Ride your bike with no crash-helmet. Brilliant.

      Two pints and a packet of fags for a pound? £14 here. Can I join you?

  25. I can relate to what you’re saying. I hadn’t touched a cigarette in over 10 years…even after the sudden death of my husband I really felt no need to smoke. Then I went to let off some steam with old friends. A cigarette, some drinks, more smoking, more drinks. 3 years later…still smoking. I can also relate to what you wrote about smoking and writing. Like coffee or alcohol, smoking seems to be a natural fit with it. Sigh…

    • 10 years. Blimey! I thought I’d done well with three years.

      I know it’s so easy to slip. You never really lose the urge. Bit it’s best not to worry about it. You’ll either stop or you won’t, and stress kills more people than smoking.

      Coffee, rum, fags…sigh. But never mind.

  26. Great post.
    I think even if you stop smoking for twenty years ,one pull is enough to get you back in there. Kind of like you never forget how to ride a bicycle. It becomes almost instinctive. I dunno how I feel about that but it never really goes away. I quit for about 3 months because i could no longer afford it but as soon as I was able , I bought them. I guess it’s one of those terrible relationships – ” i can’t quit you but you’re so bad for me!” . I don’t think i’ll ever stop however valiantly I try.

    • An unrepentant smoker at last. Well, almost unrepentant. You look quite young so maybe you will give up one day. I’ve given up a few times but now…? I sort of want to stop but at my age – Is it worth it? Too late to stop now.

      Enjoy your fags, anyway. You might as well.

  27. Hi Chris!
    Like yourself I started smoking when I was but a young wan!..14 maybe 15.. And at the that age sure the worst outcome for me was my parents finding out…although I’m pretty sure they knew- I’ve given up and I can smell a freshly disguised cigarette a mile off..
    For many years..nearly twenty I smoked a lot! Some years less than others but always smoked.. The final years I found myself waking up in a cold sweat at random times of the morning with a horrendous feeling of self imposed cancerous doom and eventually the premonitions became too much. I had to quit. And I had to go cold turkey. No e-cigarette was going to intervene or act as a go between. There are times when I may miss them but I don’t miss the fear. Together we smoke but alone we quit. You have to be ready there is no other way, crutch or patch to help you through. You’ll do it when your ready.. But not before.. So enjoy them while you can!

    • I feel as though I’ve given up too many times, yet always go back. Perhaps it’s too late now. Never really worried about the effects, although I’m sure they’ll come some time. Just had a awful cough that I’ve got used to. Well done for stopping, thanks for the reply.

      • Hey just so you know you inspired my latest blog.. I put a link in it to yours:) it’s never too late by the way I gave up umpteen times before it actually stuck!

  28. I quit on a whim this past April. I can’t tell you how much I miss it, almost as much as my friends who’ve passed on from this world. I tried to “reignite” with my old friend, but I just couldn’t take the taste. If I ever do enjoy lighting up again, I will be happy. It was something I enjoyed doing very much. Great blog topic!

    • Sounds like you may not be truly addicted. That would be good for you. Some people don’t inhale or don’t inhale much. I do, right down to my feet. If you couldn’t stand the taste then that’s good. Perhaps you could go back to it occasionally without too much damage. Although I’m not encouraging you to smoke! Good post.

  29. Oh Chris –
    I am so conflicted about this. I live in Los Angeles, home of the second hand smoke police. Totally nutso here. So on the one hand, I agree with you and other commenters about freedom to smoke.

    I am the child of two smokers – my father, now 84, finally quit when his cardiovascular health was critical – it was either quit smoking or die. He decided to quit and live, but he still has to use oxygen and is not exactly a spry 84-year-old. My mother quit for about six years and re-started saying it was her last pleasure. Well, she’s honest and still smoking at 80. Neither have had a cancer scare from it, thankfully, but obviously that is not the only issue with smoking.

    My father taught my mother to smoke at UCLA in the early 1950’s – everybody smoked. She smoked when she was pregnant with me and drank, too. I still have a high IQ, so it’s hard for me to see the detriment, if the woman is in otherwise good health. But try telling that to a nervous pregnant woman today – most won’t touch a beer for goodness’ sake.

    Anyway – I never started. Thankfully. And then years later, my son started smoking at age 19. He’s now 30 and has struggled with smoking, off and on. He’s currently not smoking and I’ve decided to use the “harm reduction” model in my thinking about him and smoking.

    I know my mother won’t stop. I hope my son does. But I know he may be a person who goes back and forth with it – my sense is that in the times he’s not smoking, he is, at the very least, not contributing to ill health. That’s harm reduction, even if it’s not full abstinence form it. I have mentioned e-cigs, but he’s not smoking so doesn’t want to introduce a smoking substitute in case he can stay quit. Obviously I hope one day at a time he can stay quit.

    Lastly, I have a very good friend who died a bit over a year ago from the effects of COPD – chronic obstructive pulmonary disease – at age 57. She’d been smoking since probably age 18 or so, maybe a bit earlier. She hated it and especially how it made her a social pariah here in Southern California, but she couldn’t quit except for a short period when she almost died (the first time). When her doctor said, you have to stay quit if you want to survive, she did. But after a few months being off work, when she returned to work, and the stress of her job and life came back, she succumbed to her crutch. I can’t blame her – it was how she coped with a myriad of horrible situations in her life. Eventually it caught up to her and she was given the same admonition – you have to quit to survive – but the second time she knew she couldn’t do it. She knew that she’d be a smoker to the end and she was. She ended up in a diaper and with hospice, dying at home. Yes, horrible. Yet, I understood why she couldn’t stay quit.

    I dated a man many years ago who was an alcoholic and addict earlier in his life. He would laugh when he told the story of how he abstained from alcohol and heroin and cocaine – and the hardest one to quit was cigarettes. I believe it. It’s that powerful an addiction.

    I understand the idea that it’s too late and maybe it is. But I think of my dad who was over 70 when he quit. He’s a person who is remarkably able to just decide to do something and do it, though. I’m probably not that focused or motivated or able to resist backsliding, but considering he rolled his own at age 11 and didn’t quit until he was over 70 – yes, he’s done damage to his heart and aorta, but he’s still alive and kicking. And wouldn’t be if he’d continued.

    So you can see I have much conflict – even though I’ve never smoked (okay, I smoked one or two cigarettes when I was a teenager, but having lived with it growing up, I didn’t like it at all.)

    The primary person I want to quit and stay quit is my son, of course. But I have no control over him, although I can tell him about his grandfather and my friend. I don’t think anybody wants a death like my friend had, but yes, as others have said, we’re all going to die someday and of something.

    Thanks for your very thoughtful post – I’d pass it on to my kid, but I don’t want him to go back to it. (smile.)
    Laura (zental floss)

    • Some people get away with it, like your mum (so far). Some people die horrible deaths, like your friend. I suppose all smokers believe they’ll be on the ‘get away with it’ side. I do. I have a terrible cough, but no other real health problems. I’ve got used to the cough, even miss it when I give up.

      Some people smoke for pleasure, didn’t start off with too much stress or problems with their lives. Some people smoke because of severe stress. Who knows what kills them – the fags or the stress.

      Picasso lived till he was 91 and smoked his whole life. We all hope to do the same. He was an artist with a curious mind, trying something new every day. I think that makes a difference. Some people may want to die. It’s hard to figure out, but there are many things that can kill you in this world – smoking is bad but I’m not sure it’s the worst thing.

      Interesting that your mother smoked and drank during pregnancy. Lots of mothers of previous generations did, and you know what – there’s not too many signs of damage. You are a prime example. Yet today in our health obsessed society we have all sorts of ailments that we never even knew existed. I’m sure many of them don’t. The drug companies invent them and many people can’t wait to be labelled with something. It’s psychological.

      I hope your son stops eventually. But he’s 19. Loads of time to figure it out. He’ll either smoke or not, maybe just be a part-timer. Whatever, it will be his decision, not yours.

      The Smoke-Police eh? Quite mad. They make you want to continue smoking just to spite them.

      Great reply!

      • Thank you, Chris, for your thoughtful reply/response.

        Point of clarification – my son started at age 19, but is now 30, so he’s had 11 years off and on. He loves smoking – currently not doing it, but . . . it’s pretty darn appealing!

        And I agree about spiting the smoking, especially the “second hand” smoking police! In fact, it makes me want to START smoking just to spite them, but then . . . I remember the other stuff and I don’t light up.

        I’ll just drink a soda instead – they’re coming after sugar now, you know.

        Who knows what it’ll be next!!!


  30. Its great but hard giving up. I smoke cannabis now and occasionally enjoy a cigarette when I’m high but I don’t miss the morning coughs, the numb hands and wheezing.

  31. I like this post and you are pretty honest about your feelings.

    I have never been a smoker and for some odd reason, my drinking has completely tapered off as well. So I get through life by just sucking things up and dealing with it. This shift in my life has really altered my view of others. I see them as very fragile.I guess being a bit neurotic is part of the human condition.

    So instead of seeing smokers as people being social and having a great time; I view them as slaves. People that view a brief break in their careers as a chance to huddle in some far off corner to steal a smoke instead of pressing on. Even in the most miserable conditions when a sane person would not want to be outside; there is some poor soul huddled under a door way puffing away. Do not get me started with the butts on the ground either.

    Well maybe one day you will change your direction or maybe not. You will only do it after you decide that Chris Hilton is more important than a habit with poor consequences.

    Boa sorte!

    • The operative phrase in your reply is: I have never been a smoker. Everything you say is true, but you do not understand the addiction. It is said that smoking is more addictive than heroin. It is; it is more addictive than anything – hence the self-deception and willingness to suffer in other ways.

      I did give up for 3 years and felt much the same way you do, but smoker or not, I will always have sympathy with smokers because I understand them. You don’t.

      As you say: maybe I will change direction, maybe not. It may be too late (I’m 63). Chris Hilton has always been more important than any habits. It won’t make that much difference. You’re going to die too, you know.

      I don’t drink (except on holiday). I feel pretty good. May stop, might carry on. Who knows.

      Buena suerte a usted!

      • It is true that I can not relate to the addiction. Obviously I know it is difficult or everyone would just quit. They do not for various reasons. Some just do not want to put in the effort and for some it is harder.

        People are not cartoon characters and have complex issues. That is why I made the comment about humans being neurotic animals. With that being said, I know we all are going to die. I just want the cards to be stacked in my favor and then I just have to let the cards drop. I have a son and I want to be around to see things in his life.

        Anyway, you are a great writer and writing a blog invites interactions. Some with different views. Thanks for hearing mine!

        Art is better when it challenges.

  32. Thank you for this, Chris. I quit over two years ago, but I’ve quit for up to a year before and gone back. The same as you, I think of myself as a nonsmoker each time, but one drink with an old smoking friend and it’s over. I’ve cut down on drinking this time, way down to rarely. But when I do, cigarettes and their smoke suddenly don’t seem so very disgusting anymore. I hope you quit again someday. Maybe try marijuana, when it becomes legal, if you like. It’s only too late when you’re dead.

    • Keep it up. I suppose the experience of failing makes us stronger, realise more the little traps to fall into. I too practically stopped drinking when I gave up. I don’t really like it now. But a drink and a smoke – they do go together. I know what you mean with the drinking, somehow the effects don’t seem to be there – it’s all harmless – until the morning. I don’t really like marijuana (I don’t care if it’s legal or not). Maybe I’ll stop, maybe I won’t. We’re all going to be dead.

      I’ve had a big response to this – surprising. Thanks for yours.

  33. brilliantly put, i’ve decided (for the hundredth time) that i will be quitting by the end of this year, 5 years did me much. but this post makes me rethink it all!

    • I didn’t mean to encourage anybody. Give up if you can. It’s hard though. I’m at the age where maybe it’s hardly worth it.

      If you’re young you can get away with quite a lot. Your body will tell you when to quit.

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