Today is the Great American Smokeout. If you’re trying to quit today, you have my heartfelt sympathies.
Quititng smoking is really hard. I know this because I did it many times. I quit smoking so many times I finally got good at it and stopped completely around 17 years ago! Yay me! How did I do it? Easy: I spent my last couple of years as a smoker making my habit really inconvenient for myself. I wouldn’t let myself smoke in my house or my car, which was fine because even I thought smoking was disgusting. My workplace was smoke-free. And I refused to let myself buy a pack of cigarettes. I’d buy singles at the tobacco store: three a day. For an entire year I was as attached to those three daily cigarettes as I had once been to the entire pack that was my former habit. Go figure.
What finally did it was a sinus infection. I never liked to smoke when I was sick anyway, so that was a good opportunity to ditch my daily three. And I realized that to make sure I never had to go through that ordeal again, I’d have to stay off cigarettes completely. I could never, ever bum one from a friend, or have a puff of someone’s, or anything of that nature. There’s no “little bit” with tobacco. Smoking is one of those habits that stays with you for life. I still get cravings, believe it or not — 17 years later! Granted it’s just about once a year but it still happens. All I can say is, thank God I never got hooked on heroin.
It’s a lot easier to be a non-smoker now than it used to be. Temptation isn’t everywhere: you can go to a bar or a restaurant and not have someone puffing away at the next table. I mean, I’m old enough to remember when people smoked on airplanes, in movie theaters and even at the grocery store! Yes, kids, that actually happened once upon a time.
You know what I miss? Matches. Used to be, you could go into any restaurant — be it a fine upscale dining establishment or a cheap diner — and you’d get a book of matches. Whatever happened to matches? I still use them to light candles or to keep as souvenirs but they are hard to find these days. The last establishment I visited that gave away matches was, I shit you not, a funeral home in Kentucky. Go figure.
Anyway, it’s easier to be a non-smoker than a smoker these days. And I always wondered how Big Tobacco lost that battle. When local, state and federal governments started passing all of these anti-smoking ordinances, it’s like Big Tobacco just gave up. How did that happen?
I mean yes, for years Big Tobacco tried desperately to cook the books on this one. Remember this?
Oh yeah, they tried to tell us that smoking was “healthy,” and when that didn’t work they launched a thousand propaganda campaigns to convince us maybe it wasn’t as bad as everyone said — the “science” was “undecided,” they said. Just like Big Oil is saying now with climate change. Big Tobacco spent millions of dollars on astroturf and phony front groups from Rick Berman and the like, but then it’s like one day they just folded up their cards and went home. I’m not really sure I know what happened there, maybe it’s the fact that Big Pharma was making so much money hawking gum and patches, and Big Tobacco just lost a sales war.
But we sure need to figure it out because we have plenty of major folks playing the same propaganda game today. Climate change, junk food, union-busting, consumer protection busting: these assholes don’t quit. They’re still at it today. We need to figure out what worked so we can do it again.