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.
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!
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!
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.