Sunday, April 24, 2005

Puffing away

I am rapidly approaching a major crisis in my life. The variety of cigarettes I have smoked regularly for fifty years are no longer being made, & I am down to my last few packets of untipped – no filter - Rothmans KING SIZE, 16 mg of tar per cigarette. & in looking for alternatives, I have discovered that the only untipped cigarettes left on the market are Camels, a brand that I remember hearing referred to as the only cigarette that has a picture of the factory on the packet.

In a recent post at really bad movies Richard Lopez, a former smoker, writes of having been enamoured of the accessories of smoking such as Zippo lighters. Not for me, though when young I used specific, obvious, cigarettes – Gauloises, Sobranie Black Russian – to accessorize a particular image I was trying to present.

I came to smoking through my family though no-one in it smoked apart from my father who smoked a pipe. But in one of those small rituals that families have to accompany certain celebrations, he would be given two cigars in metal cases at Xmas, one of which he would smoke after lunch. & I would be given a puff. Which, I'm fairly sure, I didn't inhale.

From there it was buying cigarettes loose from the tobacconist. Five for threepence, about 2½ cents. Always for one of your parents, a transparent lie but acceptable then though now that sale would be a criminal offence. I didn't smoke much, though enough to later be able to joke that I did give up smoking for a time, for a year between the ages of eight & nine.

At high school it was a packet of 20 a day. At university it went up to three packets, a rate I kept up until I was fifty when the firm for which I worked banned smoking in the office, & I went back to a daily packet. Also, L. gave up smoking around ten years ago, so since then I've never smoked in the car or inside the house – I have been fortunate in that we've always had pleasant outside areas. That latter act has drifted into my poetry, to the extent that sometimes I think of writing a macro so that with one keystroke I can insert the lines "I go outside / for a cigarette."

I am paranoid about running out of cigarettes, once thought of committing air piracy on a flight to Perth – airline schedules say it's a four-hour flight, but because of the prevailing winds it tends to be a five-hour flight there, three hours back - & forcing the pilot to set down in the Nullarbor so I could have a cigarette. I cough continuously, am short of breath, have a raspy voice that replaced the more mellifluous one I used to have. When I went back to New Zealand last year, those of my previous compatriots that were still around all seemed to have emphysema. I have overcome other addictions that are popularly supposed to be more difficult to do so. But never smoking, though I can now go for much longer without a cigarette than I previously could.

I am thinking about patches, or cold turkey. But next week I will probably go into town & buy a single packet of each of about ten varieties, try them out & then make my decision.

(Whilst writing this, I have worked out that, at their present cost, I have spent around $250,000 on cigarettes over the years. Yep, around quarter of a million dollars. Think how my life might have changed with that sort of money.)

Only one thing to do about it.

{insert macro}

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