Monday, February 1, 2010

Smoking cessation

I'm friendly with a guy here in town who is graduating college this year and probably moving back east, to DC or New York. He told me that he's going to a smoking cessation doctor in the next couple of months so he can get treatment while he's still on his mother's health insurance. I said, What do you need all that for? When you're ready to quit, you'll quit. He said, No one quits cold turkey.

It is just me and my deeply cynical nature, or do all these patches and pills and things seem like just another way for some corporation to make some more money off someone's nicotine addiction on the way out the door? And is it really true that "no one" quits cold turkey?

Then in yesterday's Times business section there was an article about Altria (formerly Phillip Morris) in which this appeared:
About 70 percent of the nation’s 46 million smokers say they want to quit, government surveys show, and about 40 percent try every year. But only 2.5 percent succeed, the surveys say. The government estimates that 400,000 Americans die of smoking-related diseases each year.
I have to say I find this kind of hard to believe. I suppose I shouldn't replace analytical studies with my anecdotal experience, but I basically was this kid 20 years ago, all my friends smoked, and today virtually none of them do, and they didn't quit by dying. (Most of them, anyway.)

Not that it was easy. I developed a plan to wean myself off tobacco over the course of a week, and it went like this: the first day I waited an hour after waking to have a cigarette, and then I had one per hour after that. The second day I waited two hours, the third three, etc., until on the seventh day I had to stay up extra late to get to the second cigarette, and after that, that was that. This worked for me on three occasions - the first two I went back after some months, and the third time I stayed off till this day, kineyenahora, ptui ptui ptui.

I put the cost of a pack of cigarettes into a jar each day for the next year or so (even though I really smoked more than a pack a day) and used that money to make my first trip to Israel. Me being the anti-corporate type that I am, quitting giving my hard-earned money to Phillip Morris was a major motivating factor as well.

I don't want to minimize the addictiveness of cigarettes or the fact that many people never manage to quit. But I quit when I was 28, when the circumstances of my life changed and it was time to, and it's a long time ago now, and like I said, all my friends have quit since then too. I still stick with what I said to the kid: When it's time to quit, he'll quit. And he won't need to give Big Pharma his money to do it.

Or am I wrong?

No comments: