The time that I spent smoking didn't last long. I was one of those underage smokers, in Texas, who had access to a vending machine and coffee shop employees who looked the other way. That was my supply. During the height of it, I only smoked two or three cigarettes I day. I started when I was 17 and quit at 18. Occasionally I would smoke a cigar or visit the hookah bar. Of course, most smokers tell me I never was a real smoker. I'm ok with that.
But when I published my article "12 Reasons to Cut Back On (Or Even Quit) Drinking," I received a Facebook message from a friend. She is currently trying to quit smoking and wanted to share the benefits she is already seeing. So I spoke with her and compiled this list of benefits for any of you who are thinking of cutting back on (or even quitting) smoking.
Benefit #1: Smell better.
The first thing my friend said to me was, "so far, I'm excited to not stink!" My other friends echoed the same sentiment. I remember using more perfume to cover up a recent smoke or, when I went to smoking bars, cringing the next morning because I had to wash the smell out of my clothes.
Benefit #2: Kiss more.
My mom drove it home pretty hard when I was a teen. She said, "kissing a smoker is like licking a dirty ash tray." Well, I showed her. I just started smoking and found other smokers to kiss. Weaning off smoking by switching to vape or hookah, opens up the dating pool. Quitting all together assured that the reason for a bad date wasn't my smoking habit. So... thanks mom.
Benefit #3: No more hiding.
My friend explained, "I was mostly a closet smoker, always trying to hide it from my coworkers. So it was pretty exhausting worrying if someone could smell it!" I remember hiding my smoking habit. I would smoke in my car with the windows rolled down, Febreeze the hell out of myself and put in a fresh air freshener just so I wouldn't get read the riot act. Now, with some offices banning smoking within 20 feet of their door, smokers are exiled. The office next to mine just banned it on their property PERIOD. I feel so bad for the employees who literally have to cross the sidewalk to have a smoke.
Benefit #4: Save money.
She then told me, "I am super excited to save money, smokes are now over 7 a pack! Holy cow, I'm gonna transfer that money into my savings each week!" Cigarettes were substantially cheaper when I bought them out of the vending machine. However, when I bought them I knew I was forgoing gas for the car, jewelry, a new CD (yup, I just hinted at my age there), or a trip to the movies. I didn't see it at the time, but I got to treat myself in a different way when I cut back and eventually quit.
Benefit #5: More time.
Smoke breaks eat into time for a snack or a healthy walk. My friend shared, "I feel free, I don't have to sneak away for a smoke every couple of hours!" If you are currently smoking, take one day and use the stopwatch feature on your phone to count the time you spend smoking that you could be doing something else. Now, multiply that time across a week, a month, or even a year. How much time do you get back?
Benefit #6: Better health.
This is the part the anti-smoking people talk up and, although its true and a great point, its not the only reason to cut back and quit - your health. When I smoked, I did not care about my long term health. I cared that a cigarette relieved my stress. I cared that I ate less when I smoked. I cared that everyone in my social circle was smoking and it's how we hung out. All of these things were more important to me, at the time, than health. Hell, I was 17 not 70. My friend described what better health has already done for her. "It's too early to say now but I know my health and my body will appreciate it! I noticed when I was hiking with my kids in the mountains how winded I would get and I did not like it." This statement leads me to the next benefit.
Benefit #7: More activities.
Ever wanted to do something physical but your body just wouldn't keep up? When I smoked, I noticed that it was a little harder to breathe deeply. In fact, I couldn't imagine doing yoga and smoking even one cigarette. I can barely do it without smoking! If I do anything that limits my physical ability, my quality of life will eventually take a hit. Even cutting back, I could see a difference in how much longer I could dance and that motivated me to take it the rest of the way.
Benefit #8: Age slower.
Ever seen that photo series about meth? No, aging while smoking is not as drastic as that. But smoking does increase the visibility of fine lines and wrinkles. Also, if I would have continued smoking, I would have gotten that lovely circle of wrinkles around my mouth so lovingly dubbed "smoker's lines." It may not show up in your 20s, or even 30s, but later the tell-tale signs of your affinity for Marlboro Light 100s will show up where you can't hide it. On your face. Spend less on cigarettes now or more Botox or wrinkle cream later.
Benefit #9: Committing to and achieving a goal.
Finally, my friend drove the point home by telling me, "I also am proud that I can show my kids how I make a decision to better myself and stick to it no matter what!" How many times have I doubted my ability to stick with something? Plenty! But I did achieve one thing. I cut back on and then quit smoking. I did it for me - no one else. I did it originally because I just flat out couldn't afford it on a Blockbuster Video (ooops, there I go revealing my age again) pay check.
Ultimately, if I look back on that one success I think to myself - 'Damn, if I can do that, I can do anything!'
Have you quit smoking? What benefits have you seen?