"A few months ago I reached my 73rd birthday; a landmark that I would never have attained had I kept on smoking tobacco. Between the ages of eleven and sixty, I smoked cigarettes daily. The only bad thing that ever resulted from the closeness I shared with my mother was that she was a chain smoker and gave me the first puff of her cigarette when I was eleven years old, besides turning a blind eye when I used to buy the odd cigarette from the local tobacconist. Ironically, the only bad thing resulting from the close relationships I shared with my own children was that in earlier years of their development, I too often smoked thoughtlessly in their presence whilst illogically verbally discouraging them from ever adopting the habit. If there is a distinction to be drawn between my behaviour and that of my mother's towards our respective children, it is this. Given all the scientific disinformation coming from the bogus tobacco research findings at the time, she may not have known the harm she was doing by her example, while I had no such excuse to fall back upon. At worse, deep inside I knew or at best, I should have known, but preferred to allow fact to be transformed into suspicion.
When I first started smoking, many adults would invariably turn a blind eye to a young person having a puff and shop keepers would split a pack of five Woodbines and sell cigarettes to youngsters for two pence each on their way to school. This was a time when society had been generally led to believe that smoking reduced tension and had a considerable calming effect upon an individual.
If one examined newsreels at the time about soldiers in the war, it would have been easier to find a baboon who'd been awarded a Victoria Cross for bravery in battle than to have found a serving soldier without a cigarette drooping from his mouth!
I was in hospital a good many times as a child and I still recall patients smoking in their beds. I remember doctors smoking pipes on their rounds and patients waiting in doctor's surgeries as they coughed away amid the fumes of Woodbines. I never saw one of my favourite film stars seduce the romance in his life without first sharing the same cigarette with her in an act of social foreplay and can still remember doctors and eminent broadcasters chain smoking on television programmes as a matter of course.
During my early years of smoking in public, cinema owners engaged in the practice of pretending to consider the comfort of the non-smoker in their establishments by having the smokers sit on one side of the theatre and the non-smokers on the other. I don't know which bright spark thought up that one! Thinking back now to those days when one smoked at the table between courses, shocks me to the core. I find it hard to imagine that non-smokers allowed the smoking lobby to ruin their lives for far too long without throwing buckets of water over them at the first sight of smoke emanating from their gills. Also, I think I'd rather be asked to clean a toilet basin than wash out an overfilled ashtray, let alone be expected to kiss a woman who smoked and feel romantic about the experience!
Throughout my years of smoking over twenty fags on a good day and forty on a stressful one, I was forever employing my good brain to defy logic by refuting the possibility of ill-health and the likelihood of an earlier death as a consequence of my smoking habit. However many examples were cited to me of smokers dying in their early fifties, I'd come back with constant references to 'so and so' who'd smoked sixty Capstan full strength daily and lived passed their hundredth year before getting run over by a number 57 bus in Clapham. Even experiencing two heart attacks at the age of 58 years still wasn't enough inducement for me to break this dangerous habit. I still preferred to rely upon my unwavering belief in the constancy of 'fate' to that of 'fact.'
I was sixty years old when I eventually gave up smoking altogether and I only did so then after I finally admitted to myself that 'I was addicted to the weed' and as such, I was no longer in control of my own body and was just as pathetic as some drug addict injecting their bloodstream daily with harmful toxins in order to get a high.
Being a person who liked to be in control, once I got it into my head that the tobacco weed was controlling me and not me, it, that was the last straw! My ego just couldn't take it a moment longer and I stopped, cold turkey. Since the tobacco haze has cleared, it is now easy to see that I was certainly killing myself through a habit that me and my loved ones had paid dearly for during earlier years. However, like all meaningful insight, awareness needs to be self realised and not hammered home by another! Telling me to give up before I'd decided to do so under my own steam, would only result in me smoking an extra fag in sheer defiance!.
I would just say four things to any smoker today who wants to stop being an addict to tobacco. (1)When you decide to quit, do it for yourself. (2)Don't deceive yourself that there is such a thing as being able to cut down your regular intake to a mere few cigarettes smoked daily on a long term basis, as the strength of the addiction is far greater than your will power to hold back its inevitable advancement once more. (3)Never forget that though you have stopped smoking tobacco, you will stay a 'tobacco addict' for the rest of your life and will never be any farther than one cigarette away from starting up the habit again!
Finally, never underestimate the pulling power of the weed. That desired mood alteration that a smoker gets with that first cigarette of the day is no less powerful than the high feeling one gets when you are in love. Just as 'being in love' can create a blindness to all other possibilities than what you want to believe, and preventing you seeing what is beyond your nose, so does being hooked on smoking!
Just as The Platters informed us back in my days of wild youth with a few lines of their hit song:
'They said someday you'll find
all who love are blind.
Oh when your heart's on fire
you must realise
smoke gets in your eyes.'"
William Forde: January 22nd, 2016.