Thursday, April 24, 2008

Smoking Log

It has been 3 months since I had my last cigarette I have probably quit 10 times in my life - this time feels a little different. The main inspiration for my quitting was Angela Parenza - one of my biggest triggers and one of my best friends. Angela has smoked about as long as I have - but maybe a little more intensely. She lives right around the corner and whenever I see her I associate her with lighting up. When she quit I knew that I could. Thank goodness she finally quit.

I have many fond memories of smoking with Angela Parenza, hopefully we will able to build more memories doing something a little more healthy! Sometimes healthy doesn't sound so fun. I need to get over that type of thinking.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

A Sophisticated, Contagious Epidemic

Teen suicide in Micronisia and teen smoking in the US--stick with me--I can make the connection. But first, let me say that a physician once told me cigarettes are harder to kick than heroin (talk about "hooked"-- take a look at this British anti-smoking ad. Krikey).

Malcolm Gladwell talks about the above comparison in The Tipping Point. Thinking about the way in which teen suicide in the South Pacific was used by the suicidee as a form of communication, he wondered if first smoking experiences didn't also have a language of their own. He conducted a little survey, asking people about their earliest cigarette memories, and therein his answer was revealed.

It turns out that, among the interviewees, the earliest memories related to smoking had in common a sense or perception of sophistication. Sounds like bunk, right? I thought so at first, too, but soon had to acknowledge two significant things: I was influenced by grudges I harbored regarding those manipulative ad campaigns of yesteryear,

and, my older sister, a smoker, was the coolest. Plus, when people were describing their earliest experiences to Gladwell, it was like Proust's cookies (allow me the Remembrance reference, whether or not he even ever had a madeleine...). Even if they weren't smokers, they were consistently nostalgic about their first smoking experiences and memories.
I mean, seriously nostaligic. Like, remember every detail nostalgic. Check out these excerpts:

My mother smoked, and even though I hated it...she had these long tapered fingers and full, sort of crinkly lips, always with lipstick on, and when she smoked she looked so elegant...there was no question that I'd smoke someday.

My best friend Susan was Irish-English. Her parents were, in contrast to mine, youthful, indulgent, liberal. They had cocktails before dinner. [He] had a beard and wore turtlenecks. [She] tottered around in mules, dressed slimly in black to match her jet-black hair...and virtually always, had a dangerously long cigarette holder dangling from her manicured hands.

...Billy was incredibly cool. He was the first kid to date girls, smoke cigarettes and pot, drink hard alcohol and listen to druggy music. I remember sitting upstairs in his sister's bedroom--his parents were divorced (another first), and his mom was never home--separating the seeds out of some pot on the cover of a Grateful Dead album...

[Pam and I] rode the bus together... She taught me how to inhale, how to tie a man-tailored shirt at the waist to look cool, and how to wear lipstick.

Gladwell makes the point that the war on smoking is failing because it targets tobacco companies for trying to make smoking look cool. The trouble is that smoking was never cool-- rather it is the smokers who are cool, and the entire epidemic is fueled by a few cool smokers--people, who weren't cool because they smoked, but instead smoked because they are cool. The Tipping Point has a lot to say about how smokers are influenced and by whom, but I'd rather touch on Alexander Glassman's work.

The link between depression and smoking is readily acknowledged by the medical and scientific communities, and depressed people have even been counseled against quitting smoking due to the possible adverse effects (listen, don't give me a hard time about the Psychology Today reference-- I'm not forking over 30 bucks to get at the same information on Science Direct).

So, depression. I'm not saying everyone who smokes has a bonified Axis I, but the link has been made as far back as the mid-80's when participants in the bupropion trials reported decreased cigarette cravings. I'm just acknowledging what the wigs say about it. And, although the Micronesion suicides appear to have more to do with conflict in the nuclear family than with a mood disorder, I get what Gladwell is saying about the epidemia of both situations-- and I'm glad I got out.

How does it feel to be free of it?
Sisters, if I were a bell I'd be ringin'.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Smoking: A Poem

by Frank O'Hara

The blue plumes drift and
sway before my eyes-against my

grey skies they are quite blue,
perhaps merely gasps of ether

and disappointment fitfully
escaping from a covered heart--
caught, mirrored instantly, a
breath of these thin tourmalines,

a grey heart's horizon of
silence, a shadowy cancan line--

Photo: Cigarette Smoke from

Thursday, April 3, 2008

I Don't Smoke Anymore

It's an old joke.

I don't smoke anymore.
Sure. But I don't smoke any less...

A college
friend used to use the line about drinking (this is the same friend who proposed dropping to the ground and eating grass when under attack).

But this time it's true. About quitting smoking I mean. I am officially a non-smoker. And not just me. I know several people who've called it quits. For instance, Maggie Larson, Angela Parenza and Nancy Duncan. Oh, yeah. And Clancy Jane's friend,
Christine. Go us!

I know, I know. 3 months in I am reticent to call myself a non-smoker. There is the widely held theory that, whereupon one considers himself or [read with Monty Python accent] herself addicted, that same one ought to identfiy as being in
perpetual recovery. One day at a time and all that.

But then there's this
guy, recently deceased, whose Easyway plan refutes that basic tenet noted above and held so dear by most clinicians, recovering addicts and support groups. And it was even reported on by the BBC (Hospital Stubs Out Bad Example)! Still. I know what a hard time I've had, and I can't bring myself to believe anything about quitting is easy.

Smoking Skull (C) 2008

Tuesday, April 1, 2008


I'm on board.
Very soon I'll be establishing links to the blogs of Angela Parenza, Clancy Jane, and Bombeck.
That's all for now. Janeway out.