Everyone Likes A Quitter

15/10/2015 5:46 AM AEDT | Updated 15/07/2016 12:50 PM AEST
Peter Dazeley via Getty Images
Man cutting businessman's cigarette with garden shears

Cigarette /sıgə'rєt/ n. a pinch of tobacco rolled in paper with fire at one end and a fool at the other.

The good thing about writing about smoking is that for once I don't have to watch my words. Nothing I say could possibly offend smokers more than the government's shock tactics and cigarette packets themselves.

Those of the self-poisoning persuasion are the one section of society you can tear to pieces with impunity. They've been told a million times they're not wanted. I imagine they're so stressed out by the merciless attack that they need a cigarette.

A HuffPost Australia colleague has finally tired of being told he is a modern-day pariah and is attempting to extinguish his addiction. The stats suggest he will succeed. According to the smoking rate of Australian adults has almost halved since 1980.

From Yul Brunner's stark and simple warning -- "Whatever you do, just don't smoke" -- to the more graphic image of a father-of-two coughing his lungs into a hanky and realising he will miss his children's adolescence, a generation of anti-smoking commercials has rammed home a message which most of us knew but many of us ignored.

And if hooks piercing tongues weren't traumatic enough to do the trick, cigarette packaging has changed from eye-catching colours to grotesque images of human organs -- inoperative and inoperable. Look in your newsagent's adult-proof cupboard and you'd swear Jack the Ripper was doing the marketing at Philip Morris.

And then there's the price. From memory, a pack of Winnie Blues used to set me back about four bucks. These days nicotine would need to be budgeted for rather than bought on a whim.

I started smoking at university, probably because I studied film noir -- that post-war cinematic genre showcasing the anxiety, suspicion and pessimism of the 1940s, all of which were (and arguably are) calmed by a good smoke.

It was a classic case of copycat cravings. Even the hatstands were smoking in The Maltese Falcon and Double Indemnity. It makes the feats of the genre's leading directors -- Billy Wilder, Orson Wells, Alfred Hitchcock -- more laudable because at times it must have been difficult to see the actors.

Lights, camera, ash tray!

Moving to Europe didn't help my addiction. A decade ago, no smoking signs in Europe were decorations rather than decrees. At Rome airport I saw a policeman smoking directly beneath a no smoking sign. I asked if I could take his photo and, ignorant to irony, he replied that it was forbidden to take photos in the airport.

I smoked more heavily when I was travelling, probably out of some nostalgic desire to follow in the Beat Generation footsteps of Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg. You might say I used to smoke a pipedream.

Qantas helped me quit. Boarding a flight from Los Angeles to Sydney, I knew I couldn't smoke for 12 hours, so when I arrived in Australia I pretended I'd been refused entry on account of the fact I was a smoker (for how much longer will such a concept be absurd?) and was forced -- in handcuffs so I couldn't smoke -- to board another flight back to The States.

Then another, and another, back and forth across the Pacific until those fictional smoke alarms in those fictional toilets could have their fictional batteries removed because I was no longer a real threat to setting them off.

It's just a shame I couldn't claim the frequent flyer points.

Serious smokers will be scoffing (and perhaps coughing) at my achievement, claiming I wasn't a real smoker in the first place. So what is a real smoker?

A yellow-fingered friend of mine once suggested that a real smoker shouldn't be judged on how many cigarettes they smoke a day or the nicotine content of those cigarettes but on whether they smoke in bed or before breakfast. If you're willing to set your sheets on fire or change the Lord's Prayer to 'give us this day our daily Dunhill' then you're officially hooked.

According to this litmus test, my colleague is (but hopefully soon 'was') a real smoker. In his efforts to bin the bad habit once and for all he has decided to go cold turkey, which is first cab off the rank in the how to quit list, followed by the reduction of the number of cigarettes you smoke.

Anyone trying this method should watch Irish comedian Dave Allen (a man who claims to have been so addicted he even smoked between smokes) giving it a go:

Nicotine patches are also popular, perhaps because they give you two chances to win. If they fail to do what it says on the packet, you can put one over each eye so that you can't find your cigarettes.

The most unusual method I've heard -- other than pretending you're handcuffed in an aeroplane -- is to eat your cigarettes rather than smoke them. The only problem here is that most smokers feel like a cigarette after a meal.

But the best meal is still cold turkey. At least my colleague thinks so. Hopefully he'll have quit by Christmas, when cold turkey is all the rage.

Failing that, he could put the video below on repeat play.

This blog first appeared in October.

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