I've been a heavy smoker since I was thirteen years old. I'm twenty-two now, and though I've tried to quit several times during my nine year smoking stint, it's only just become something that feels within my reach.
I honestly don't remember how I picked up smoking at such a young age, but I do remember that it wasn't peer pressure. Though everyone in my friend group was already partial to an L&B silver on their lunch break when I got to high school, I had no problem "just saying no," (and doing it with an air of smugness, no less). It wasn't until I started being bullied that I even contemplated it as a stress reliever, though I'm not sure what had led me to believe it was a stress reliever because none of my peers openly used it for that.
I was sheltered from smoking culture when I was younger, even though my mum was a smoker for a lot of my childhood I never saw her smoke, and if she happened to be asking someone to pick up tobacco for her in front of me she wouldn't say that, she'd ask them to "pick up some bits." It wasn't until I pestered her relentlessly that she revealed what that was code for, and even then it was simply innocent curiosity, out of my mind as soon as I had the answer.
No, as much as governing bodies would like you to think that it's peer pressure, advertising, or fancy looking packets that attract children to smoking, in my opinion it's sheer curiosity and occasionally, a shitty school life that bring it to kids attention.
The first time I "quit," I was about fifteen and going on a family holiday to Orlando. Of course my family knew I smoked, and there was no way they were going to risk buying me the things in a foreign country, so for two weeks I was smoke free... then on the day I got back, despite my horrendous jet lag, I somehow got myself up and out and got a pack.
Obviously, being the age I was, there was a lot of pressure from my family to at least cut down (I was smoking about forty a day), but it's not something that can be done with any success unless you choose to do it yourself.
When I was sixteen, I came to the decision on my own that it was time to quit, and I managed it for three months with the support of people close to me and nicotine patches... but then a traumatic break-up happened, and the cancer sticks came back to comfort me.
I don't think I made any genuine attempts to cut down between the ages of seventeen and twenty, and any attempts I did make were simply to pacify my family's worries. My partner at the time had picked up smoking from me, (something I still feel bad about now), but he was more determined than me to axe the fags and one day he appeared with a vape.
Vapes, or vapourisers, are electric devices that you fill with flavoured liquid that contains varying levels of nicotine. He wasn't a particularly heavy smoker so he was on twelve milligrams of nicotine which wasn't enough for me, but trying his at least gave me an idea of whether or not it would suit me, and it did.
About a week later I had my own vape and was trying different flavours of liquid every day. I managed to cut down a little, alternating between the "real thing" and my vape, but it simply wasn't the right time and I inevitably returned to puffing on cigarettes like I needed them to live.
It's funny, because my mum would still occasionally bring up the idea of quitting, and my reply would usually be alone the lines of, "It's just not the right time, I'm too stressed, I couldn't take the extra stress." She would humour me and agree, and the subject would be dropped for another month or so.
The funny part, is that the last few months have been some of the most stressful of my life, but so far it's been the most successful cutting down attempt I've ever made. I barely reach for a cig and lighter during the day, and usually when I do it's because my mum's having one (yeah mum, I'm giving you that eyebrows-raised smug look I specialise in right now).
But honestly, despite the fact I know at my core that I'm doing what's right for me, because I've been doing the wrong thing (smoking) for so long, it feels pretty alien to not be doing it, like I'm doing something forbidden or naughty.
At the minute it's that alien feeling of not having a cigarette in my hand when I usually would that's stopping me from quitting completely, but having gone down from thirty+ a day to less than fifteen, I'm not gonna put too much pressure on myself to go the whole hog just yet.
Cutting down has improved my breathing (I have asthma and rhinitis), lessened my headaches, and I feel better all-around. So if you're thinking about quitting but it feels like too big a hurdle right now, try just cutting down. Once you start feeling the effects just smoking a bit less has on you, you'll realise that quitting isn't such a tall order, and it'll motivate you even more.
I know I'm going to quit eventually, but it's not gonna happen until I've psychologically got over the feeling that a cig should be in my hand at certain times completely. Like right now, I usually smoke like a damn chimney when I write, and I've just written a whole article about cigarettes without having one, but it feels weird. I'm not going to make myself cut it out completely until it feels normal, and neither should you, because the stress you'll end up with if you try at the wrong time for you is just going to make those addictive little sticks of sickness seem all the more appealing.
So chill out, try a vape, get a patch (or some of that foul tasting gum if that's your thing), and just do it when you're ready.