I started smoking when I was 14 years old. Sneaking a Viscount filter down my bra before going riding with girls I no longer see. I was at a school for a single term while we were relocating (story of my life). We’d ride across highways into the bush, down to a stream at the end of Loyalty Road in North Rocks. Let the horse splash in the creek, sit and talk as girls do about boys and horses and life as we knew it. "Have one" said my friend Kate, and eager for acceptance of new friends in a new state, I complied. “Do the draw back.”
I gasped slightly at the burn. No cough, no choke. Had that happened I might have decided it was disgusting and stopped but I didn’t. I took to it like a fish to water. From then, sneaking behind the girl’s toilets at school. Stuffing the packet of 10 (when you could buy them) into my shirt. I remember my mother saying to me one day when I came back after only leaving the house for five minutes, “Forgotten your cigarettes?” Yes the jig was up. But that was the 70s and even into the 80’s smoking was acceptable, affordable.
I remember sitting at my desk at work. The whole office smoked. Inside! Inconceivable in this day and age. Strangely, I gave up during each pregnancy but the best cigarette? Truly the finest fag…was the one I had after the delivery of each baby. Well that and a cup of tea.
The most reminiscent times of my life included coffee with my mum…and cigarettes. Coffee with my dad…and cigarettes. Despite the health warnings, my peak flow is huge. I have good lungs.
My mother, a nurse, used to say that smokers recovered from surgery better because they were literally gasping for a gasper which made them mobile and travel up to the roof garden for a ciggie. Mobility after surgery being the first step to recovery.
Then the nanny state took over. Passive smoking became a bigger issue than climate change. Banned in the workplace, banned in restaurants, banned in pubs and clubs that didn’t have an ‘ostracism’ room with smacked up aircon and extractor fans, banned in sports arenas…BANNED. And me and the other pariahs of society banned with them.
Now, the only place I can smoke is in my own home or a narrow range of restaurants that have a ‘designated area’ for we nurrel indulgents. My kids hate it. My friends hate it. My in-laws hate it and worry for my welfare. But for years it gave me solace. Like a dummy to a toddler, that cool draw and burn provided comfort. I hate to admit it, but it is my crutch. I like it.
Smoking is supposed to affect your sense of taste and smell yet my sense of smell is acute. As is that of a couple of other smokers I know. If my sense of taste is affected…I don’t really want to taste ‘better’ since resisting life’s gastronomic pleasures is already a challenge. But I am sick of being relegated to the corner so to speak and I’m sure I can no longer afford to do it.
What changed? Well there’s the price. Here they cost around $18-$20 per pack of 25. The disapproving looks. The inability to socialise and having to get up, go out and mingle with the other 'lepers' in the beer garden. And, support of my darling Skyman who's tried so often, for so long and failed. Perhaps we can support each other.
So…this week, I’m down to about six a day. By the weekend hopefully 2 and by next Monday? Well I can’t promise but I can’t afford it. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t like it. So wish me luck. But seriously, if you’ve never smoked, don’t bother with platitudes. If you have and managed to give up…fantastic, I applaud you. The real reason....I want to travel, hike, walk, manage steps and mountains without being out of breath. I want to shame someone 20 years my junior with good health and verve. I don't want anyone to say (as I've heard) "My God there's nothing worse than an old woman smoking..."
Could be an empty promise. Could be an extra $400 a month on my credit debt.