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BREAKING NEWS

Daily News Editorial

By Staff | Jun 19, 2008

Beginning July 1, smoking will no longer be allowed on any city, county, or state property. The new smoking ban extends even to people smoking in cars in parking lots or in outdoor athletic facilities.

For businesses, there will no longer be any smoking indoors, period. There are notable exemptions, such as casino gaming floors and the state veterans home, among other selected places.

Considering all this, if you still smoke, maybe this would be a good time to quit.

I quit myself — twice. The first time was in 1976 when I quit for 20 years. Then in 1996 I was working for a magazine in a smoke-filled room. I became addicted to tobacco again via second-hand smoke and I started smoking again.

Still a smoker, I met a woman in 2000 that I later married. I tried to quit smoking just before we were married, because her mother had died from lung cancer and her father had suffered several strokes due to cigarette smoking but still smoked.

I was successful in staying off cigarettes for a time, but when the stresses of life got to be too much, I started smoking again. I was sneaking around like a teenager. My wife found out that I had been smoking on two occasions, and that pretty much put our marriage on the rocks. There were certainly other problems, and the marriage wouldn’t have lasted anyway, but my smoking didn’t help.

I’ve been cigarette free for four years now, and I have absolutely no intention of smoking again.

Now I’ll admit that when I was a smoker that I was in there puffing with the best of them. Now, though, cigarette smoke bothers me — a lot. I rarely ever visit my best friend in South Dakota anymore because he’s a smoker as is his wife. There are restaurants I would like to go to but haven’t in years because they’re just too darned smokey. I would like to say that cigarette smoke has kept me out of the bars but that wouldn’t be true. I haven’t done a 12-ounce curl for over 12 years now. Heck, I guess that makes me perfect.

Quitting smoking was tough the first time and it was a lot tougher the second time. I’m glad I quit.

I’ve seen statistics that show that only 10 percent of people who try to quit smoking succeed. I can believe that.

So how did I quit?

It was really a matter of deprogramming for me. Nicotine addicts have this little voice inside their heads that tells them that they’re missing something when they’re not smoking. What you have to do is tell yourself is that when you’re quitting smoking that you’re actually GETTING SOMETHING that you weren’t before — clean, pure oxygen.

It takes about three or four days to rid the nicotine from your system. That’s it. Any nicotine craving beyond that point is purely psychological. It’s just in your head. I found nicotine substitutes like patches a waste of time. After all, if you’re wearing a patch you’re still addicted to nicotine. The point is to rid your system of nicotine.

Water helps a lot. It speeds up the rate at which your body eliminates nicotine.

Another thing that helps is eating carrots. The carotene in carrots is a pseudonicotine substitute. Your body thinks its getting nicotine but it’s actually getting vitamin A which is not a bad thing unless you eat several pounds of carrots a day. Eating carrots also keeps your mouth busy.

Chewing gum helps too. It keeps your jaw muscles occupied.

Exercise helps the body rid itself of endorphins, those nasty little things that make you depressed if you don’t have a cigarette. Exercise gives you the same type of “high” as nicotine, but it’s natural and won’t kill you 20 years early.

One thing that helped me a lot was to carry a pen that I would flick like a cigarette. After all, it’s those behaviors that one associates with cigarette smoking that become part of the addictive process. If you continue to perform those associative addictive behaviors but abstain from nicotine, you’re fooling your subconscious mind into thinking that you’re still smoking.

If you quit smoking, you will dream that you’re still smoking and probably that someone has caught you smoking. I still dream about smoking to this day. While I’m certainly no psychologist, I think smoking dreams are a way for your subconscious to deal with nicotine addiction. After all, addiction is a subconscious process, not conscious. A person doesn’t say to himself or herself, “Gee, I think I’ll become addicted to cigarettes.” It’s a lot more subtle than that. It really sort of creeps up on you, subconsciously.

One of the worst things you can do is to tell yourself that you can have just one cigarette. Cigarettes are sort of like Lay’s potato chips that way. I’ll bet you can’t have just one. You can’t.

If you’re quitting, good luck. It’s not easy. But you can do it.

After all, I did.

–Michael Tidemann