I started smoking as a teenager because it was part of
growing up. The vast majority of adults in the nineteen
fifties were smokers. It was normal. By age sixteen I
was openly smoking at home and like most of the other
high school students routinely carried cigarettes.

I joined the service after high school and cigarettes
were part of life there as well. We made jokes about
health issues, referred to cigarettes as coffin nails, but
didn’t really believe they hurt us.The effects were not
obvious. We were young, in shape, active and
smoking was an unimportant detail.

At age forty five, after thirty years of smoking it finally
became an embarrassment. I played golf all summer and
tennis year round and noticed failing strength and
stamina. I stopped smoking at home to set an example
for the kids but continued at work and other places.

I finally quit altogether when I realized I had become a
slave to it. I was a weakling. Adjusting more important
things to a tyrannical habit. Sneaking, hiding for what
purpose? What exactly is the importance of smoking?

It was a ritual. Something I did with my hands and
mouth thousands of times. It was automatic, familiar
and easy. I associated it with a relaxing break, looked
forward to it, regarded it as pleasure.

Quitting cigarettes was mentally like dieting. Giving up
something I want. That is why I put it off, tried but
cheated here and there, ignored the possible health
problems that could be already forming. It required a
mind change.

Addiction to cigarettes was almost entirely mental.
There were no serious physical withdrawal symptoms.
I stopped and never had another cigarette with no ill
effects. I did not get sick from not smoking. What I did get
was a vague feeling of missing something I enjoyed.

I believed if I kept the ritual and substituted something
else like food, gum or nicotine gizmos it was only a
matter of time till I went back to smoking. Instead I
changed the hand to mouth habit and it faded away. I
was amazed at how easy it was. Other activities were
not spoiled by lack of cigarettes. Smoking soon meant
nothing to me but the memory of dirty ash trays.

Breaking free from cigarettes was a welcome relief.
When I see people, especially young ones, huddled
outside in the cold for a quick smoke or holding their
cigarette outside the car window I feel sorry for them.
They are still ignoring obvious negative effects and
gambling on getting away with it.

I hope they realize the truth about luck before learning
the hard way. Health is a basic ingredient for a happy life.

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