By Douglas Boyd
14 July 1978
For God’s sake, let us sit upon the ground,
And tell sad stories of the death of kings:
How some have been deposed, some slain in war,
Some haunted by the ghosts they have depos’d…..
King Richard II
. . . The last four kings of England died from cigarette smoking: from emphysema, Edward VII, heart disease, George V, lung cancer, George VI, and throat cancer, Edward VIII, later Duke of Windsor.
All were heavy smokers. George VI was a three pack-a-day man. . .
But how many of us, unable to live like a king, are all too likely to die like one because we smoke cigarettes.
Leaving the cold figures aside, the answer is, simply, far, far too many.
. . .In the last decades of the 20th century, any person born without congenital defects and who has the normal run of luck can expect to live into his early seventies. . . The man who dies (and I shall refer to men, although the lung cancer figures for women are increasing at an appalling rate) before that time is either very unlucky or very stupid.
Leaving luck aside, the person who smoke is deliberately and consciously shortening his life, perhaps even to the extent of halving it.
Most people never realize how foolish they are being until they sit in front of the doctor, who is finding it somewhat difficult to meet their eye as he discusses their X-rays. . .
If you really want to give yourself a fright, go to a cancer ward . . . as I did once when a close friend had cancer (incidentally, for those who like clutching at straws, this friend didn’t smoke, but then he didn’t die, either). The wretchedness and futility of that cancer ward was oppressive. Most of the men were in their 40’s and 50’s… and virtually 90 per cent, almost all the incurables, in fact, had lung cancer.
Then there is a world’s biggest killer, heart disease. Okay, modern sedentary living and executive stress have a lot to do with it, but cigarette smoking is still regarded as the major culprit. . .
However, the purpose of this article is not simply to scare the hell out of you for a few minutes, but to try to offer a few suggestions on how to stop smoking.
I had better state my own case, first. I am a periodic smoker, and despite what the anti-smoking lobby says, I reckon to have enjoyed just about every damn cigarette I have lit.
According to my last medical, I suffer no ill effects… so far. I don’t even have a smokers cough.
But I started smoking comparatively late, at the age of 21, and I am only in my…… uh….. middle 30’s. Since starting, I have also spent about three years without tobacco. I have almost always smoked filter cigarettes. . . and tend to put them out when they are about two-thirds finished, having once heard that it’s the last half-inch that kills you. Whether this is true or not, I don’t know, but tobacco is meant to be its own best filter, so maybe I’ve been cutting out a few of the nasties.
From my own experience, and from talking to other people, I can offer the following advice about stopping smoking cigarettes.
Firstly, you’ve got to psych yourself into it. . . You’re not going to have much success unless you believe you should give up, and for a very good reason. Fine, let’s say, for example, that living an extra ten to twenty years is a good reason. You may also want to feel better. It’s worth pointing that you can’t expect miracles. It takes 15 years for the effects of heavy cigarette smoking . . . to wear off.
In fact, for the first couple of weeks, you might feel worse. That’s mainly because your membranes are returning to normal and are doing their proper job of cleaning out the old tubes. A lot of people quit smoking, think they’ve developed a smokers cough, and go back to the weed again. Just give your body time to adjust.
Secondly, don’t make giving up smoking a major test of willpower, manhood, intelligence, or anything like that. Make it seem an impossible challenge, and that’s just what it’s going to turn out to be.
Never make a grand announcement: ‘I’m giving up smoking tomorrow!’ Tomorrow you just might not feel like it, and you’re going to be humiliated… again. Some people advise making such announcements, but it just means that the fall is greater and you are unlikely to try again in a hurry.
Adopt the mental attitude that you’re trying to give up smoking. Maybe on the first day you’ll only last until 4 p.m. No problem. Maybe the next day you’ll last a bit longer. But lightning a cigarette when you’re trying to quit is hardly a fall from grace. It takes willpower, but we’re trying to keep your life, and the lives of those around you, liveable.
Above all, bear in mind that smoking is a habit. This means that if you’re going to kick the habit, you’re going to have to kick a few others as well.
Obviously examples include lighting up after the first cup of coffee in the morning or when making a telephone call, entering a room full of people or having a drink.
Instead of having coffee, drink orange juice. When you make a phone call, have a pencil in one hand and take down every word the other person says. Enter a room carrying something, a briefcase if it’s a meeting, flowers for the hostess if it’s a party. . .
Now comes the slightly harder part. If you’re going to quit smoking, it’s probably a good idea to lay off the sauce for a while as well. For a start, a drink and a smoke just seem to go together perfectly. Secondly, the juice does tend to lower willpower. For the first few days of non-smoking, you’ve got to be alert to every temptation. . .
Which brings us to another point; it seems to be accepted wisdom that when you [stop] smoking, you’re going to start eating like a horse. This is nonsense. You’ll probably start eating normally – smoking cuts the appetite, so for all these years you’ve been undereating.
You are going to feel a bit nibbly, however, but use your common sense and avoid the pretzels, potato chips, sweets, candies and stuff like that. Go for the raw carrots, celery and fruit. Again, the idea is to keep a fresh taste in your mouth, so that smoking is alien. Just cleaning your teeth every couple of hours helps as well.
The most dangerous period is after a week or so. The ‘Hey, look at me!’ feeling of triumph is over. You’re not smoking but you’re not taller, richer, better looking or smarter. You’re still having occasional bad moments. You think you’ve proved something and therefore you deserve a little reward, a cigarette, for example.
Unfortunately, there’s still to offer in the way of help here. Just sit at it. The bad moments will get fewer. You will, gradually begin to feel better, but, after all, your body is just returning to normal, it’s not going to improve on the one you started out with. The real benefits will be in your 60’s and 70’s, when you find there’s plenty of life still to enjoy.
After all, if you can’t live like a king, what’s the point in dying like one?
Featured image/Riccardo Vicidomini
Lung x-ray/Yale Rosen, CC BY-SA2.0
Enjoying a cigarette/Bozza, CC BY2.0
Orange juice/Eiliv-Sonas Aceron
Edward VIII/Albert Collings, PD