Peter Molloy attempts the unthinkable and throws out his cigarettes…
It’s a commonly used cliché that giving up smoking is harder than giving up heroin. Whatever the relative medical basis behind that assertion, the general principle – that tobacco cessation is an exceedingly difficult goal to accomplish – is sound.
For a smoker, committing to abstaining from the habit, for any length of time, represents a hugely significant personal undertaking.
Like anyone else who’s ever smoked, I know only too well the challenge that quitting poses. At this point, a trail of failed resolutions to drop the habit almost as numerous as the crumpled cigarette butts of a beer garden ashtray punctuate my experience as a smoker.
Some have been more successful than others – a three week spell free of nicotine in 2006 contrasts far less favourably with a more recent effort which saw me smoke my final cigarette before a 3pm tutorial, only to be tearing at the plastic seal of a fresh packet by tea time.
The constraints of personal circumstances mean that every would-be ex-smoker’s individual hurdles and obstacles vary hugely.
For some, myself included, the idea of a night-out spent socialising in a pub or club is inconceivable without the reassuring presence of cigarettes. To my befuddled, addict’s mind, tobacco and alcohol are inherently complementary goods – the idea of even moderately enjoying the latter without the accompaniment of a cigarette seems an impossible aspiration.
Other individual issues serve to complicate and impede attempts to kick the habit, especially for student smokers. The uninspiring but necessary part-time work that serves to fund many students is a less than helpful environment from which to launch a brand new, smoke-free existence.
Long, deeply unexciting evenings and weekends spent stocking the shelves of a supermarket or serving in a pub are little incentive to giving up. On the contrary, the temporary intermission offered by a quick, furtive smoke-break does much to ease the malaise of a dragging Thursday evening shift.
The experience of college itself can also lean heavily on even the most resolute of intentions. Assignments due? Christmas or summer exams rapidly approaching over the horizon?
Perhaps only the most masochistic would consider abruptly ending an infatuation with tobacco under such pressing circumstances. Even if that crude logic ignores the fact that there never really is a simple time to give up smoking – that there will always be areas of stress and pressure – it still exercises a hugely detrimental influence on smokers with even the best of intentions.
Smokers unquestionably develop a unique personal routine and quite aside from struggling through the physical symptoms of nicotine withdrawal, it is breaking away from this mould that frequently poses the biggest challenges. I’m no exception.
Some cigarettes – the first in the morning, shivering by the bus-stop, or the first proper cigarette at the end of a long shift in work are, to many, sacrosanct.
I can comfortably go for extended periods without touching a cigarette, or even wanting one. Put me in certain places and situations, though, and the little paper cylinders are the only things that come to mind.