Summer of ’99
My second year Engineering summer was in the college workshop working the tools -welding, casting, etc. One evening, a buddy of mine (let’s call him… Slash) and I were sitting outside the cafeteria under our University’s symbolic “Polo Hut” and he lit a cigarette. After 3-4 puffs, he casually dragged his hand towards me and I took it from him with the same amount of casual attitude… It was a Marlborough Light (it’s a “Light”! What the Heck!!!)… kept it between my lips and the rest is history… well, not exactly..
My dad was a smoker. Well in those days, everyone’s dad was a smoker.. it was the thing… everyone did it.. it was the cool thing to do.. non-smoking men were probably considered asocial in those days. On the other hands, my mom hated his smoking, so smoking was never a household hobby. He would sneak into the backyard, balcony, evening walk, office, etc, but never inside the house. As kids, my sister and I knew it was a bad thing primarily of a few reasons
- He didn’t smoke at home or in front of us(kids), so it must surely be something he was not very proud of
- My mom made me her knight on her fight against habit. And I had fun in causing trouble to dad telling upon him among other things.
- But, the thing that had the maximum impact on me as a child was a non-smoking campaign on TV undertaken by a non-profit organization in India which featured this video with Gary Lawyer’s song “I remember the time” in the background. This video had a deep impact in my mind all through my growing years and until now.
4-5 years before I went to college, my father had actually given up on smoking as smoking had damaged his vocal chords and he developed asthma and developed multiple other ENT related issues.
“In retrospect, even with my experience from my father, it took me a second to extend my hand and accept that cigarette. And if any kids are reading this, believe me, it’s not cool”
Summer of ’01
For 2 years, I remained an occasional smoker, if you consider 2-4 sticks a day “occasional” (it’s a matter of perspective, I’ve met people who call this much smoking being non-smoking). For the 2 years I kept thinking it was just a silly habit and will be shaken off before I graduated. A bunch of guys from my class were smokers, but the majority swung towards non-smokers. It was kind of weird. Was the tide shifting from my dad’s days? Were more people leaning towards being tobacco clean? I took the leap and shook it off within 3-4 months. As I said, a lot of people considered me a non-smoker.
For 9 years, all the cigarettes I had were on occasional bar visits or with my post-grad MBA buddies between 2002-03, but never took on smoking consistently after that.
Temptation !!! sure there was… but there are many ways to be strong and resist it. Most bars in India used to allow smoking back in the day, so I started picking non-smoking bars. I would never step out of a restaurant to give someone company while smoking. In Canada, the situation was much more supportive. There was no reason to step out in the cold and smoking indoors was not even a question.
I used to often think about starting to smoke again. It did give temporary relief from stress, but due to the things I seen my dad going through, I resisted temptation. This left a lingering question in my mind through these years. Was I a non-smoker?
At work near Chicago, I made buddies with a guy (let’s call him Kishore Kumar) who was a smoker. In colder days, we used to pick our coffees during coffee break, have it indoors in the cafeteria and then break-out – he went out for a smoke and I headed back to my office. As the project became more time-sensitive and the weather started to get warmer, he suggested me to join him outside and I said – “sure, a breath of fresh air is never so bad”. No points for guessing what happened after that. At least the question from my resistance phase was answered – I was not a non-smoker.
I always thought smoking was in my complete and absolute control and I could quit at a moment’s notice. I never told my wife and would mask it well before touching home. About 8-9 months into these coffee breaks, one weekend I was home and the craving got intolerable. I ran a phony hour long errand to go out smoke and get rid of the breath. I knew that day that I had lost control. It took me 2 full months to recover this time, but I did it.
I have not touched it since that episode, not one, not a drag, not even a thought. This time I knew I have to be completely free of smoking. Luck supported and I somehow, stopped running into people who smoked. Let me correct this… I did not run into anyone who smoked for 4 years, so there was no question of socializing with a smoker. Until a few weeks back, I met a guy who recently migrated from Dubai (let’s call this one Rod Ryan). Rod turned out to be a heavy smoker. My first instinct was to avoid contact for fear of getting dragged into another spell of smoking.
As the night went on, we made several trips to my backyard for him to smoke, and in not 1 of those trips I had the temptation for a cigarette, or a drag and I did not even think about it. This was when I was having scotch. I realised that day that I had lost temptation for smoking and I don’t even think it helps in stress any more. I experimented by meeting him a couple or 3 more times, but nothing…. I lost all urge… it was gone…. and now I could proudly announce to myself that I am 100% smoke free and all my previous records have been cleared as well.
Applauds to #CVS for quitting the sale of tobacco products Read here. This is one place less where one can get lured to buying tobacco. This not only makes sense, but it’s good business as well. Because I want to support this bold initiative, I would drive an extra mile for CVS. CVS is building a loyal customer out of me and thousands others like me.
I had a pair of bell-bottom jeans in college which I could never fit into after graduation. I liked those jeans so much I was holding on to them in hope of being able to fit into them some day. That night I pulled out those jeans and trashed them because like smoking, those jeans were out of fashion and there is no value in holding on to unfashionable baggage.
FactSheet – Cigarette smoking trends in United Stated