Smoke makes bees stupid
Charlie Brooker wrote about his triumph over cigarette addiction in May 2007 and, because it is January, and it is CB, his article is still surfacing on the Facebook Guardian app.
I used to think New Years’ resolutions were cynical and flimsy. Now I act upon the clarity that comes with early January. You know it: after the cleansing rituals of giving and eating, taking stock of our human treasures, contemplating the mouthfeel of true happiness. Time slows. A light snowdrift may pass.
At some point, heart and mind airpunch their way off the sofa. This is so good it must never ever end! We delve for the will to be less apathetic, to punch up the system.
This year I’ve got the big one. I’ve stopped smoking. For a long time my habit has housed me like a condemned building. I was smoking because I didn’t know what to fix first. Trigger: a natural spasm in concentration – you think you need a change of scene. Trigger: all kinds of hunger. Trigger: tired. Feeling awkward in company.
I’m 8 days in. I feel good. The lust has needled only once: when I got off the phone from Haringey Council. Trigger: despair.
This January the general kick-butt movement hears from the Harvard School of Public Health that, in the long term, nicotine replacement is no more effective than cold turkey.
This was by no means a massive study, with only 787 smokers followed over three non-consecutive time periods. While many studies have shown that NRT significantly aids quitting, the study does remind us of the importance of a sustained outlook (read Brooker’s article for an insider’s take on that). We all know behaviour change doesn’t stop being hard.
I’ll be looking to find out whether patients who received professional or self-directed support had better luck with their quits – in the UK at least, NRT is bundled with patient support programmes and efficacy is rarely attributed to the product alone.
To my mind, understanding your smoking habit is key to cutting it loose. Charlie Brooker had plenty of relapses, mostly on pub doorsteps. If we know our weak points, let’s never leave them undefended, and not just for January. I’ve boarded up the condemned house and I’m out of there, but not in the pub just yet.