Dying for a drag

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I haven’t smoked for over three days now. I’m not bragging, I’m just explaining the inspiration behind this article, because even though it’s only been three days I already miss it. In many ways, the following article is a closure of sorts. May it help as many of you as possible stay strong.

For the last few months, I have been a happy smoker of a single cigarette per day. My beloved Magda finally made me stop just a few months from the twentieth anniversary of my first drag. So let’s start with summing up this period financially or in other words:

How much did I spend on cigarettes during my whole life?

I have smoked for roughly 7165 days (give or take a week) and I have never been a chain smoker. In the darkest, most stressful years I have rarely smoked more than 10 cigarettes a day and smoking a whole pack during one day was truly exceptional. Moreover, for the first three and the last two years I have been smoking far less than 2 cigarettes daily, so it is safe to say that throughout my smoking days I reached an average of about 6 cigarettes per day. Still, when we multiply it by the number of days it totals to just under 43 000 cigarettes, which constitutes 2150 packs. Let’s disregard the actual price of a cigarette pack over the years and count it all at today’s prices. Thus, the result will be both easy to understand and roughly accurate as the inflation will be already taken into account (although the price of cigarettes has risen much faster than the inflation, but this is a topic for a different article altogether). The average cost of a pack of cigarettes in Poland today is € 3.75, so throughout my entire life, I have spent around € 8060 at today’s prices. Not a small amount, but not enormous by any means.

Mind you, Poland is a relatively cheap country to live in and I haven’t smoked all that much. If you are a moderate smoker living in Britain, smoking 12 cigarettes daily over the same period of time as myself, your expenditure would sum up to around £ 24 500. In the US it would be on average about $ 30 000, but not in New York. You have to be a Rockefeller to smoke in New York.

Anyway, being a light smoker has not been ruining me financially, but…

Was it ruining my health?

Before I answer that let me tell you how surprised I was to discover that 26% of adult US smokers are non-daily smokers, smoking less than 6 cigarettes a day. Times have changed since I started smoking, when if you did smoke you rarely smoked less than a pack a day and it turns out many people nowadays are asking themselves the same question: how harmful can these few cigarettes be?

OK, let’s start with the worst news (and the least obvious for that matter). Even if you are a very light smoker (up to 4 cigarettes.day) you are just as likely to suffer from a meniscal problem as a heavy one (over 23 cigarettes per day). Menisci are the two C-shaped, elastic discs cushioning your knee and they are the first to go if blood isn’t flowing freely. Now, for the cardiovascular system itself, it makes little difference how much you smoke. You take as much as 70% of the damage of the chain smokers anyway. The relatively good news is that your lungs pay only 20% of the price compared to those of a heavy addict, but are still 4 times more likely to get cancer than those of a non-smoker.

How bad is quitting?

To be honest, I am not qualified to give you an opinion based on my own experience. For at least half a year I have smoked only one single and very lonely cigarette per day and that is not enough to develop a full blown withdrawal syndrome upon quitting, but I can tell you that even with such a small daily dose I did experience a mild discomfort if I didn’t have my routine cigarette. Thus, I can imagine quitting can be tough for even a moderate smoker.

In general, the nicotine withdrawal symptoms start within just two hours after you have finished your last cigarette with increased irritability, anxiety or even depression and keep getting stronger until up to 72 hours after quitting, during which you can experience headaches, nausea, fatigue, digestive problems and sleep pattern alteration. Oh.. and, of course, there’s sweating… the sleazy kind you never forget. Afterwards, they slowly wither to disappear about two weeks later. A common substitution for tobacco craving is an increased hunger and sweets consumption.

Personally, I didn’t experience most of the symptoms listed above, but I did sleep a lot over the last weekend (26 out of the 48 hours). Even considering the need to catch up on some sleep after the week, it still remains an anomaly in my sleep pattern. My anxiety and irritability levels have been off as well for the last few days and as far as coincidences go these facts combined are difficult to dismiss, so it might be argued some withdrawal symptoms are visible even with only one cigarette a day.

What happens afterwards?

Well, we’ve suffered through hell to stay clean for long enough to start experiencing the good sides of quitting and the longer our cleanliness persists, the better the advantages. Just 20 minutes after finishing a cigarette your heart rate, blood pressure and body temperature return to normal. If it happens to be the last cigarette, the carbon monoxide level in your blood will have done the same after the next 12 hours. After 48 hours your taste and smell will begin to recover. After just 72 hours you will be 100% nicotine free.

Even though other aspects of your health take a bit longer to improve, keep in mind that the risk of cancer and heart diseases decreases each day after quitting. Most cancer and heart-related risks decrease substantially within 5 years of quitting and dissipate to the level of a non-smoker after around 15 years, so it seems it’s never too late to quit, especially if you want to live forever.

Let me give you some advice.

If you’re a heavy smoker don’t quit on your own. Either test your willpower and cut back to less than 10 cigarettes a day (keeping it that way for a few weeks) or consult your physician before any rush moves. Otherwise… well, think for yourself. let me tell you this: cutting back is always a good idea.

Having said that, I must admit I loved smoking. I still do and, however politically incorrect it may sound, I hope I will have a chance to smoke one cigarette or cigar from time to time…

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