Sunday 17 December 2017

Don't let the festive season push you back into smoking

Mark Twain: 'Giving up smoking is easy... I’ve done it thousands of times'
Mark Twain: 'Giving up smoking is easy... I’ve done it thousands of times'

Fiona O'Connell

Fasten your seasonal safety belts - because Christmas is upon us. When, along with silent nights, we face an onslaught of sociable ones. Which in Ireland is often a euphemism for overindulgence. And not just in food and drink. For tis the season to chain-smoke like Santa's favourite chimney.

There are plenty in this country town who have health issues from doing so. I hasten to add that there but for the grace of God go I. For while I'm an ex-smoker, I agree with Mark Twain when he said: "Giving up smoking is easy... I've done it thousands of times."

I fit the theory that smokers may have an oral fixation, since I was an avid thumb sucker as a toddler. To deter me, my parents applied Colman's Mustard to that delectable digit. However, this was like putting ketchup on chips, because it just made my thumb even tastier.

I tried all the methods to stop. I even got hypnotised by a retired Irish doctor who operated on soldiers during World War 2 without anaesthetic. I stayed smoke-free for a week - but mainly out of respect for that impressive gentleman.

Tibetan Buddhists believe cigarettes are evil. Certainly, smoking is scary; not just for your body - but also your mind. Smokers can be unnervingly nonchalant about risks, sprouting sentiments about how we all have to go some way. Such detachment soon disappears if they are unlucky enough to be diagnosed with a disease. For smokers are unlikely to experience a sudden death. More probable - and painful - is a drawn-out deterioration in quality of life.

But penalising smokers by imposing outrageous taxes on cigarettes is both hypocritical and cynical, given smoking is now recognised as an addiction and not a take it or leave it habit. A profitable industry has grown around nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) and e-cigarettes. Yet statistics suggest that NRT has a poor success rate.

No method is foolproof. But speaking from my sadly vast experience, the Allen Carr clinics are among the best. It helps that they are run by former smokers who can thus empathise with those stuck in the trap.

"Smokers smoke because they believe it does something for them. But it's a total con job," says Brenda Sweeney, manager of the Carr clinics in Ireland. "No matter what happens, the solution to any problem or situation is not in 4,000 chemicals going through your body."

She believes "smoking is still a huge issue. The problem is that it is old news. A lot of people think that just because it is prohibited inside, it has gone away. But all that has happened is the problem has moved outside."

So why wait for next month's rigmarole of resolutions to save your life? There is no time like the present - make stopping smoking your Christmas one to yourself.

Sunday Independent

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