Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Stopping smoking

For those whose New Year Resolution is to stop smoking I would not call the following advice, because all our psychologies and physiologies are different, and what works for one does not necessarily work for another.  But for what it’s worth, here’s how I did it.  If it works for you it may save considerable expenditure on Nicorette or other expansive aid flogged by Bigpharma.  It may also give you an excuse to postpone the big moment for a couple of months!

First the background.

Towards the end of 1983 I read a short paragraph in the paper (Guardian of course) saying that somebody had designated 29th February in the following year, a Leap Year, as Stop Smoking Day.  I noted it and passed on.  But something in my mind wouldn’t let me forget it, and as the days went by my brain was registering the niggling message: “This means you Peter, This means you Peter.”   

 By the time Christmas had come and gone, I accepted that it really did mean me and I would try to stop smoking at the end of February.

The motivation was I think important.  I had spent most of the 1970s in Papua New Guinea.  When I came back people often asked me what, if anything, in Britain had changed.  The answer was “Not much (except that potted meat was now called Belgian paté).”  But one thing that had changed significantly was people’s attitude towards smoking. Whereas in the 60s and before it was perfectly normal to enter someone’s house, light up, and they would rush to find you an ash tray, this was no longer the case.  Some would politely ask you not to smoke, others would signal their displeasure by taking ages to find the ash tray.  It became clear that smoking in other people’s houses, or even in some meetings, was no longer acceptable.

So I found myself looking forward to the end of social visits or meetings so that I could get out and have a drag.

So I realised this craving was ruining my enjoyment of other parts of my life.

I believe successful stoppers need a strong motivation.  It could be health, saving money, social (those pathetic groups outside the pubs and some offices), protecting your children.  But if all you have is a vague idea that kicking the habit would be “rather nice” then I suspect you will probably fail.

Some people argue that telling lots of others of your resolve helps you to stick to it.  I did tell others, and persuaded several colleagues (and one or two pupils) to sign up with me.  I think this didn’t make much difference.  I was the only one to see it through.

I believe to this day that my success was due to having suitable substitute.  There are several sophisticated ones available today: patches, E-cigarettes, all I suspect, rather costly.  In my day the choice was more limited, chewing-gum or mints being the most popular.  In spite of my name (Wrigley) I’m not keep on chewing gum, and, having a tendency to put on weight, I wanted to steer clear of mints or other sweets.

So I chose carrots.

On the 28th February, 1984 I bought a pound of carrots, scrubbed them, and from then on repeated the purchase as necessary and carried a few around in my pocket.

On the evening of the 28th I drove a party of pupils up to Newcastle to watch a Shakespeare play at their Theatre Royal, drove them back through the night, smoking furiously up until the dot of midnight, then put my pipe, still lit, in my pocket (this is not as dangerous as you might think: I’d been doing it for almost 30 years without setting myself on fire)) and told myself: That’s it, no more. . . 

From the 29th onwards, at every point in the day when I would normally smoke – first thing with my morning cup of tea, straight after breakfast and every other meal,  on arriving at school,  morning break etc, instead of lighting up I took out a carrot and chewed it.  In public areas such as the school staff–room this produced a certain amount of ridicule, but that didn’t worry me too much.  
The first few days, weeks. even perhaps months, (I can’t remember now) were difficult, but in time the carrots became less and less important, and I eventually found I didn’t need them.  It was several years, however, before I took the irrevocable step of burning all my pipes.

But I am still a smoker. 

I know that one drag and I’d be back on it again.  I’m keen on amateur dramatics but would turn down any part that that required me to smoke.  I still get a minor kick when a smoker walks past me in the street and I get a chance to inhale their smoke.

In summary, to those who plan to stop smoking:

  • 1.        Take a period to psych yourself up for it.

  • 2.       Have a strong motive.

  • 3.       Find a substitute.  Carrots are cheap, effective and highly recommended.
Good luck


  1. Smoking is very hard to quit without getting or using a safer alternative. I prefer Nicotine Free Electronic Cigarettes most than all other alternatives of smoking.

  2. Thanks for your comment John. Do you sell them? I've followed up your link and see that to smoke E-cigarettes you need a starter kit which costs $100, and that each additional cigarette costs $3. Probably cheaper than tobacco and certainly less harmful, but not as cheap as carrots. What I didn't mention in my post was that the greengrocer from whom I bought the carrots was so impressed by their purpose that he adopted the idea himself and also stopped smoking.. A double whammy