I had my last cigarette in the fall of 1971. My last cigar was a few years later, in 1977, and had been given to me by a co-worker whose wife had given birth to a daughter—the aftertaste was with me several days and I decided enough was too much. I haven’t used tobacco in any form since. In part I was able to quit because I never really enjoyed it.
I didn’t really start smoking until I was 18 years old and a senior in high school. I smoked regularly from then until about age 26, when I quit for several years. While I was in Vietnam I was surrounded by smokers and finally gave in and started again, knowing I could quit if I wanted to.
Back then a lot of people were smokers and it was kind of an ‘in’ thing for a lot of us and I just went along with the crowd. The horrible aftertaste was something I could put up with. I didn’t have to like it and I certainly didn’t. I have often wondered if I was truly addicted or if it was just a habit. I think now it was a little of both. I was addicted enough that it was not easy to quit. I did quit several times, but usually started up again.
Smoking is largely a social habit. Smokers offer a cigarette to a friend or even to a stranger, just as a matter of courtesy. It seems rude to refuse a smoke. Back then a lot of military people smoked–not as many do now, since many government buildings are smoke free.
Once I quit for good I was determined to stay quit and was able to do so because of that determination. I had decided to quit and stay quit years earlier. Some people have asked for my advice on quitting this habit and my best answer is “Don’t give up. Keep on trying. If you backslide, try again.” Quitting is possible and we have every reason we need. Smoking is unhealthy and inconsiderate of others. If we have children it will likely affect their health.
It has been so long since I was a smoker that it is incomprehensible to me that I ever was. Best advice I can give a young person is to never start. It is expensive, unhealthy and not as socially acceptable as it once was.
Good luck and good health—smoke free!
WARREN DOMKE is a columnist for the Pleasanton Express.