"I gave up smoking around thirteen years ago. I had my first cigarette at the age of 9 years (a Woodbine) and smoked for the next fifty-two years. Even as a nine-year-old, I succumbed to the power of advertising on the packet. The cigarette packet described the cigarette as being a 'Wild Woodbine' and being wild myself, it was the most natural brand for me to smoke. I remember being able to buy a single Woodbine from the corner shop for a few coppers on my way to school. No proof of age was ever required.
I grew up at a time when smoking cigarettes were seen as being the smart thing to do. Everyone was at it, the man on the television, the athlete, anyone aged twelve and over; even the doctor in his surgery and the patients in their hospital beds. Whenever a man and woman wanted to portray the onset of a blossoming romance on the cinema screen, the dominant partner would place two cigarettes in one's mouth, light each up and lovingly transfer one of them to the mouth of their lover. Upon reflection, the cigarette was probably the very first phallic symbol I was ever acquainted with, but was unaware of such symbolic significance in my youthful innocence/ignorance.
For the first five years of my working life in the mill, it was the most usual of sights to see working men toiling and smoking cigarettes simultaneously. There was one chain smoker called Fred Rhodes who I never once saw without a cigarette dangling from his lips. He would smoke a full cigarette, never once handling it once he'd put it in his mouth. Fred would manage to keep the column of ash from dropping to the floor until the last puff. It mattered not whether he was talking, eating, drinking or violently coughing; a fag end could always be seen dancing and dangling from his mouth. I always wondered how it was possible for him to kiss his wife on a night or make love without burning the bed down! He died in his late fifties, and just in case you'd assumed he died prematurely from lung cancer, he was killed in a traffic accident when a bus collided with him as he crossed the road in Cleckheaton. I don't know if he was being attentive or inattentive as he crossed the road, but wouldn't have been surprised in the least had he been lighting a fag up at the time!
If I was trying to disincentivise young people from smoking today, I would be stressing the hygienic and psychological factors more than those of ill-health as being the most persuasive with them. All young smokers are delusional and generally believe that they will be able to easily give up smoking in their thirties when they decide to stop, and until then, they will keep their consumption strictly non-habit forming and under control. The most likely advertisement to succeed today with the fashion-conscious young is ironically the one that plays on romance and sex again. Instead of using the cigarette as a phallic symbol, I would epitomise every smoker's mouth as containing a dirty ashtray filled to the brim with fag ends and coughing uncontrollably. I would depict the smoker's breath as resembling the pungency of a stinking sewer, too smelly for rats to reside in, and ask; 'Would you want to kiss this?'
Throughout my life, my mother chain smoked. My father hated cigarette smoke and would open every window in the house in protest whenever she lit up. And yet, despite the obvious harm that smoking cigarettes was doing to my mother, and indeed, every smoker's health, like millions of other confirmed smokers, I suppressed the mounting evidence in the daily press that 'smoking kills' and entered a process of self-denial that lasted until I was 61 years old. Even when Roy Castle told me that despite being a non-smoker he had contracted his cancer by entertaining in the smoke-filled rooms of northern working men's clubs, I was still a bit sceptical initially.
Throughout my smoking life, the doctor would warn me of the dangers each time I visited his surgery, and so would my wife every time she saw me light up. Even my children's constant pleas as they begged me to give up the habit fell on deaf ears. You see, I strongly believed in destiny. I believed that I was made differently to the more common man and would not be taken from this earth before my natural time. Even two heart attacks within the same week at the age of 59 years, and the need to be resuscitated three times on the hospital operating table, plus the presence of a twenty-year-old 'smoker's cough' to start my day every morning, still wasn't strong enough to convince me that I needed to give up smoking cigarettes if I wanted to live longer.
Between the ages of 61 and 62, I twice tried to stop smoking. Each time I lasted three months before giving in to temptation and resuming the habit. On my third attempt, approximately thirteen years ago, I succeeded and have not smoked since.
My smoker's cough went immediately and my lung capacity improved significantly. I have no doubt that I could still enjoy a puff but don't have the desire for one. I believe that there is no guaranteed way for any smoker to give up and it seems to be 'each to his own.' However, I do believe that for each smoker there is a 'best way' for them to break the addiction. We each have different mindsets and philosophical views; hence some approaches are either 'more or less suitable' for one smoker than another wanting to quit their habit. For some, a gradual withdrawal will work, whilst others may respond better to hypnosis, transcendental meditation, behavioural therapy, shock tactics or plain cold turkey.
I have always been a bit of a 'control freak,' and I found that being able to view myself as 'an addict' to tobacco did the trick for me. Once I could consider myself as being no better than any other substance abuser, whether it be alcohol or hard drugs, I was able to see that my addiction of smoking forty cigarettes daily was killing me with each puff I took; doing no less harm than every swig of an alcoholic's daily bottle of vodka or the needle of a heroin addict 'shooting up!' Just as soon as I had it firmly established in my mind that 'some substance other than me was controlling my body,' the battle between this control freak and his addiction to tobacco was over. There was only one winner; me!
However, an addict I was and an addict I shall remain until the day I die. I will never describe myself as a 'non-smoker', but instead as a 'tobacco addict who no longer smokes'. Like the alcoholic and other drug addicts, I know that I am only one cigarette away from smoking again." William Forde: October 5th, 2017.