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Is my life going up in smoke?
by Richard Berman
2006-11-11 09:51:28
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Here I am trying to work out why I smoke, calculating that over the last 17 years - 6205 days - I have smoked around 160,000 cigarettes, 8,000 packets and at a cost of about 32,000€, why? All those other things that I could have done with that money and always making sure that I have that extra packet in my pocket, just in case I ran out.

I think to myself all the time, 'Ok, now its time to give up. I will wait until Monday morning and that's it: no more fags.' I cannot remember the amount of times that I have said that. Then every New Year's Eve, 'Ok, now its time to give up!' Will I ever be able to kick this habit? My wife has been on at me for years now, it used to be the occasional, "So, are you planning on giving up?" Now it's like every other day. She is always telling me of her Friends that have given up and how easy it was for them. I feel sorry for her because she is really trying to help me.

I had a good go at it about five years ago, just before my first child was born. "That's it!" I said to my wife about two months before the baby was born and I did really well. Five whole weeks without a cigarette, but I was using the gum and plasters, which are easy to buy in Finland from most shops and petrol stations. I was feeling good for five weeks, no heavy head mornings and no headaches during the day. Yes, this was it, I was no longer a smoker, but…

Yes, the big 'but'. I then went out for a few drinks a couple of weeks after the baby was born to wet the baby's head, and I started to smoke again. During these periods when I give up smoking, I find it hard to know what to do with myself. During my coffee breaks and lunch breaks, I just walk around thinking more and more that I really could do with a smoke. And I find that I do a lot more work to try to keep my mind of it, but, by doing this, it makes me want to smoke.

I look back and think that everyone I knew smoked. My friend's mum and dad, brothers and sisters, everyone, but now most of them have had the will power to give up. You would think that I had the biggest reason in the world not to smoke. My dad was a smoker for about 35 years, and I always remember the times I was sent to the local shop at a very early age to get his evening paper and a packet of fags. Yes, the guy in the shop was breaking the law, but he knew the cigarettes were for my dad and this made it very easy for me to buy them from him at an early age with no questions asked.

And then my dad got the big C, yes, cancer, in the throat of all places. His mum also died of cancer and his sister has had it. I remember the hard time he had going to the hospital all the time, and thinking it was not a good time for him to quit smoking with all the stress he was going though. You would think that this would stop me picking up a lighter to light that next fag.

So, I grew up with both my mum and dad smoking in the house, the living room filled with smoke night after night, the net curtains having to be washed every other week because they were yellow; maybe this is the reason my body is so used to having its fix of nicotine. I pass over the adverts in papers that show pictures of the insides of people who smoke and the television ads, such as the one where a young girl in her wedding dress is wishing her dad was around to see her get married.

In the 1950s, smoking was linked to cardiovascular diseases and some facts I found include studies that have shown a 1.5 to 2.5 times greater risk of coronary heart disease for smokers than non-smokers, plus lung cancer has been comprehensively proved to do with smoking. Most of the money I pay in tax when I buy a packet of cigarettes goes to the government, then it is taken by the hospitals to try to cure people that have these diseases; it is one big circle.

Now most governments around the world are changing the laws on where and how you can smoke. It was very strange last year when I was in Spain, my wife went into a shop with the kids and I stayed outside to have a fag, when the shop lady came out and said, "No, no, you come inside, no problem." I felt very strange walking around this shop and the lady smoking, while taking money of my wife.

There will soon be in Finland smoking boxes in bars, just like the little boxes you get at the airport. This Finnish Parliament approved the bill banning smoking in all bars and restaurants in June 2007; it is aimed at protecting catering staff from second-hand smoke and I bet there will be many other happy non-smokers.

I was in the first nightclub in Tampere to have one of these boxes. It was a new nightclub, so you would think that the place would be packed. However, there was me and two of my friends, plus about 10 other customers. The lady behind the bar told us that people will not come here because they do not wish to sit in a box and smoke. So when this new law comes into effect next year will there only be a few people on the dance floor and the rest in the box having their own party?

Personally, I think it is great news that workplaces around the world and in Finland are smoke-free zones, meaning that staff can no longer smoke during working hours; it does not help me when my boss walks around all day with a fag in his month.

I hear all the time about people suing these cigarette companies and I wonder why do they sue? Everyone knows that cigarettes are not good for you - it's like suing McDonald's because you are overweight. I know that years ago there was not much information about how harmful it was to smoke, but over the last 10 years everyone knows how bad it is for you mainly due there being so much in the press during that time.

The one thing I find funny about smoking is that I hate it when others smoke around me when I do not have one lit. I also have to leave a place if it is filled with smoke - strange for a smoker to dislike others smoking. I do not smoke around my children and I try not to let them see me smoking. My five-year-old is already going on at me about it, pushed on by her mother, and I do not want them to smoke when they are older. I walk around the streets seeing these 13 and 14 year olds smoking and I think that was me, how cool did I look, and then I say to them in my head, 'Don't do it, or you will have a habit as bad as mine.' There are still shopkeepers around selling them to kids or older friends buying for them, so I think something more than law has to be done, like more education.

After writing this, I am still planning to go outside and have a fag, why I don't know…maybe I need the fix. I will try once more to try to give up, so my children will never remember that I smoked, I will try to pull the will power from somewhere and try my best. Yes, I have told myself this many times and I will go and buy the gum and patches again, but the cigarettes will sit in a cupboard in my house waiting for the next time I try to give up smoking.

There is so much help out there for me, places to go and people to talk with, such as Internet forums and telephone helplines. You would think that every time I pick up a packet and it says, 'Smoking kills', that message would stop me, so why can I not do it? I want to do it.

Any non-smoker maybe thinking, 'Oh just give up,' but if you are a smoker you must know or understand what I am saying and trying to do. It is not easy to give up, and I know, but with the support of my family and friends, I will try my best.

Smoking is an addiction. Tobacco contains nicotine, which is a drug that is addictive and can make it very hard, but not impossible, to quit.

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Thanos2006-11-11 16:07:03
Respect!!! :)

I need a cig now!!!

Asa2006-11-11 17:30:46
I just don't get it. I have never smoked, so where the hell has the €31,000 gone?

Richard2006-11-11 19:02:32
Thats the problem, you think that you would save alot of money by giving up, but you would soon spend it on different items.

Asa2006-11-12 13:36:30
Even though I don't smoke, I do hate smokers who are never prepared. "Can I bum a cigarette?" "Do you have a light?" Come on! If you want to smoke, at least get your act together. You don't see chocoholics asking for a gram of cocoa of a stranger.

Richard2006-11-12 20:58:13
Real smokers don't bum fags, real smokers always have that second spare pack in their pocket, car , home etc

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