When smoking isn’t cool
The first time I saw one of my peers smoke a cigarette, I was 13-years old. It was after school, behind the dumpsters and I was so upset with my friend I stormed home alone.
Fast forward four years. I was 17 and drinking socially with friends at a bush party. Some people were passing around cigarettes, “hacking a dart.”
When someone asked if I wanted to try, I took it and inhaled without hesitation. I don’t remember why I so casually put that cigarette between my lips; I don’t remember why I didn’t think twice. I was raised in a family of non-smokers.
I was, in fact, raised by a mother who taught me smokers were bad people, criminals even. This was her way to protect me from ever picking up the dirty habit. Despite her efforts, I rebelled. I started socially smoking when I was 17, because I never really thought I’d become a regular smoker. I thought regular smokers were pathetic.
Why would you regularly do something that could kill you? Why would you regularly spend money on something so stupidly expensive? Socially smoking was cool and badass when I was a teenager, but those kids who stood outside our school’s fences over lunch break to smoke everyday were losers. As I started university, my habits remained the same. I would buy a pack of cigarettes here and there, smoke when I was drinking or partying and that single pack would last me months. Slowly, however, I realized my habit was becoming more regular. There were two people in my life that I was close to who smoked regularly and I found myself smoking more and more if I was around them, even without a drink in my hand. In 2015, I officially labeled myself a smoker, something that was really hard for me to come to terms with.
I wasn’t just a social smoker anymore. I was officially addicted to nicotine. I smoked on my morning commute to work and school. I smoked in between classes. I smoked on my lunch breaks at work. While I was still a moderate smoker, I was doing it everyday without hesitation.
For non-smokers, this habit may not make any sense, but an addiction to nicotine is a strange thing. It almost feels like anxiety. When the thought you want a cigarette pops into your head, it is followed by the extreme urge and panic that you must have one.
This anxiety only lasts maybe five minutes, but the craving is so strong, which is why most people give in. Fighting that craving and convincing yourself that you will be okay if you don’t smoke, is a battle that all smokers who are trying to quit must face.
I was at a point in my life where I felt like I was old enough to make my own decisions, while young enough to abuse my body without major consequences. It wasn’t until my sister asked me one day, after I came inside from having a smoke, if I could wash my hands before playing with my baby nephew, that I realized I had to stop. Standing outside in the cold, alone, smoking a cigarette isn’t cool. Excusing yourself from enjoyable social situations to go smoke also isn’t cool. Asking a room full of people if anyone has a lighter, only to find out you’re the only smoker is humiliating. If you’re old enough to buy cigarettes, you’re also old enough to know how to properly take care of your body.
In November, I caught a pretty bad virus that basically forced me to stop smoking. It had been in the back of my mind for months that I needed to kick the habit, but getting sick is what really forced me to do it. After I was better, I smoked the odd cigarette when a craving would kick in, but I found myself not being able to finish a whole cigarette. I didn’t enjoy it anymore.
My goal was to be completely smoke free by 2016. I have not reached that goal, as I still smoke the odd cigarette when I’m feeling stressed or drinking with friends who also smoke, but I’ve made a serious dent in my habit. Like most goals, it takes time and patience to fully quit smoking. Bottom line is that so many social smokers think that they won’t get addicted to nicotine, but they will. You can argue that you don’t have an addictive personality — whatever the hell that means — but nicotine is addictive. To everyone.
Most smokers are aware they should kick the habit. They don’t need a condescending lecture from a non-smoker about how smoking gives you cancer.
Everyone knows smoking is bad for you, especially smokers. They also need to know that while quitting is hard, it’s a mental battle that will only have positive results after winning.