15th Anniversary

I used to be a smoker. That changed fifteen years ago today.

In November 1998, the tobacco manufacturers and the attorneys general of most US states reached an agreement that created a means for states to recoup the extra health care costs caused by smoking. The settlement is complex, so read the link above for details!

Toward the end of November 1998, the State of Nebraska also added an increase on the per pack tax of $.50 (as I remember), bringing the total cost of a carton to something like $37 or $38 unless you smoked generic or Brand X cigarettes made from floor sweepings in a state-owned tobacco factory in Eastern Europe….

Though I may be off on the exact numbers after fifteen years, one thing was clear to me then: At the rate I smoked the nasty things, I would save around $2000 a year by stopping! In 1998, now for that matter, $2000 amounted to a big deal! According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, $2000 in 1998 is equal to $2,865.60 worth of purchasing power in 2013.

Change adds up fast: initially I saved around $2000 a year by not smoking!

Change adds up fast: initially I saved around $2000 a year by not smoking!

Further, I formed a mental image of all the lawsuit attorneys driving around in really fine imported and luxury autos for their services to the states, and I was helping to buy those autos each time I lit up. I had to stop! But first, I would smoke the rest of the cigarettes in the last pack. Cigarette smokers trying to quit are pretty predictable on that sort of thing!

I woke up early the morning of December 1, 1998, listened to CDs, wrote a letter to a friend, and smoked the last cigarette in the pack at 3:00 AM.

The old joke is, “It’s easy to quit smoking, I’ve done it dozens of times!” And I had. But this time was different. I followed the advice of a Seventh Day Adventist smoke cessation plan I’d seen on public television a few years earlier: drink lots of water to flush the nicotine out of the system and eat lots of fruit to restore the body with vitamins. It worked!

Fortunately, I quit around the citrus season! I love citrus, especially Clementines!

Fortunately, I quit around the citrus season! I love citrus, especially Clementines!


The smoke cessation plan I made for myself also included an understanding that if I never smoked another cigarette again, I would always be a smoker. Some friends at work quit for ten years one time, smoked a cigar at the 19th hole at the golf course after a round after work on a Friday, and came to work the next Monday smoking again. It was an instructive moment for me.

That self-understanding about being a smoker even if I never smoked again also helped if I had an urge for a cigarette. “I want one but I don’t need one because I can start again later if I want!” Sounds delusional, but it worked!

Fresh air in the Nebraska Sandhills... thanks to no cigarettes!

Fresh air in the Nebraska Sandhills… thanks to no cigarettes!


There was only one moment during the first week when I might have returned to cigarettes. I dreamt I was smoking in bed, fell asleep, and the lighted cigarette fell under my bed. The dream was so vivid, I woke up and crawled for a look under the bed for that damn cigarette! I laughed at myself once I figured out I was reacting to a dream: I was less concerned about a fire when I woke, and more concerned about smoking the rest of that nasty cigarette! Ha!

Another thing that helped a lot was a change in office policy before I quit. Previously, you could smoke in the offices, but that changed so you had to take a smoke break at an allowed spot. Little by little, the allowed spots disappeared, the office rules extended to the plant, and the place was smoke free. Without visual cues watching others smoke, the stench of gagging smoke in the offices and on the production floor, it was easy to stay on track with cessation. Further, no one at home smoked.

Fifteen years smoke free as of today, thanks to stopping cold turkey. I still think of myself as a smoker, even though I haven’t touched tobacco in all that time. I also know that it’s better to be one of the 80% who don’t smoke these days than the 20% who do.

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13 thoughts on “15th Anniversary

    • I think the combination of fruit and water was brilliant! I’m not a member of that church, but I truly appreciate the advice they give to cease smoking because (in my instance) it worked very efficaciously. I thought I’d go for a month or two fighting the urge to buy cigarettes, but, with the exception of the cigarette dream in the first few days, that urge never happened. I think exercise, too, might have been part of their program, but I don’t recall for sure.

    • It was surprisingly easy because I finally came up against a negative big enough to motivate me. Actually, it was a combination of cost, health, and an on-going cultural change against smokers that did it.

  1. I think my doctor would say that we are better off because we don’t smoke. I smoked for almost 52 years before I quit with the help of a nurse and “The Patch.” I haven’t looked back in all that time. By the way – – – congratulations on your success!

    • Congratulations to you, too, John! Within five years of quitting, I came down with Wegener’s granulomatosis. Among other things affected were my lungs. I was on oxygen for a few weeks until they healed, and there is no way a person should smoke while on oxygen! (I know of people who did and suffered horrendous injuries, sometimes death from being so thick.) Having five years being smoke free at the time helped a lot. I can’t imagine being sick with WG and quitting smoking at the same time.

      • To: Weggieboy

        I have been fortunate and have suffered no ill effects. I wish you all the best and my prayers are always with you.
        Thanks for talking about this with me. 🙂

  2. Congrats and way to go!!!
    I have almost 14 years and it happened when my hubby had his first heart attack and stroke. He could not come home unless I quit smoking and I did cold turkey, and with the help of a stop smoking class through the va. Hubby also has almost 14 years and we do not even wish to return to the habit.
    I have to say though that it was hard to quit and I am so grateful we stuck it out til the cravings stopped.

    • Congratulations to you two, too! One of the people who started smoking again recently died at age 62. I’ve wondered if there was a connection to the smoking, though it’s not the sort of question one asks his family.

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