If I believed in the concept of evil then tobacco companies would be the embodiment of Satan on earth. When it comes to headcount, cigarette manufacturers outrank the likes of Ted Bundy, Jack the Ripper, Jeffrey Dahmer, Harold Shipman and Ukraineís very own Andrei Chikatilo (known as the Butcher of Rostov, or The Red Ripper) and every other serial killer you could think of, put together! However, unlike the aforementioned multiple murderers, tobacco companies are not deeply deranged psychotics, they do it all in the name of profit and greed. And they do it legally. You may gather from this opening paragraph that I donít like tobacco companies. I donít care how much they spend on Corporate Social Responsibility, they profit from killing people, and thatís just plain bad. And yet Iíve contributed to their profits every single day of my life since the age of fifteen. Yes, I am addicted to nicotine and despite many attempts to quit, including trying all types of remedies and products supposed to assist in the process, I smoke somewhere between twenty and forty cancer sticks a day. On a good day, my count will be as low as fifteen, but put a beer in my hand (which happens all too often) and I pretty much chain smoke until my lungs bleed. Now, Iíve always been a healthy chap. I ran marathons when I was younger, and even though I canít run anymore due to bad knees, Iíve pretty much managed to keep myself fit by hiking and other activities, but these days my health has gone. I canít make it up the stairs to my fifth floor apartment without the assistance of an oxygen mask. The ironic thing is that, while I love living and working in Kyiv (being the editor of Whatís On has its perks), and Iíve no intention of leaving anytime soon, being here contributes greatly to my habit. Last time I was back in Scotland for a few months, before coming here, I was on the verge of quitting. There, cigarettes cost 6 quid a pack, more than ten times what they cost here, and about 75% of that is tax. While I resent paying the tobacco companies a penny, I also strongly resent paying
I donít see any reason why the Ukrainian government canít bring in a blanket ban on smoking like so many governments throughout the world have already done.
another four-pounds-fifty (at least) every day in tax. That, on top of income tax, road tax, council tax, fuel duties, water charges, and all the other ways the government eats into your wages, was just too much for me and strongly fuelled my desire to quit. The Scottish parliament made it a whole lot easier for me by doing a brilliant thing: following the example set by Ireland, it passed a law banning smoking in all public places. As I said, my habit increases tenfold when Iím out having a beer with friends, but all of a sudden I couldnít spark up while supping my pint anymore: I had to go outside every time I wanted a fag. In Scotland, especially during the winter, thatís not something you want to do too often. So I didnít. Instead of going through a whole pack on a night out with friends, I would barely smoke 4 or 5, and that was usually on my way from one hostelry to another. The effect it had was amazing Ė no longer did I wake the next day with an aching throat and a wheeze, I could also physically feel myself getting fitter, food tasted better, the flowers smelled sweeter, and, most importantly of all, the psychological barrier to quitting Ė what-will-I-do-when-Iím-having- a-beer Ė was gone! Life was good. I was down to only a few smokes a day. I was no longer lining the pockets of the evil people who make the things. I was no longer paying an astronomical 2,340 quid a year in additional taxes to the British government (my average was about ten packs a week), and I was greatly reducing my chances of dropping dead from a heart attack or suffering the slow and tortuous death of lung cancer. Then I came to Kyiv, where cigarettes are the equivalent of 50p a pack, and you can smoke almost anywhere. This was not good. This was bad. Quickly my habit returned to full strength and even more.
How To Stop
Thatís the big question, especially if you are as weak-willed as I am in this regard. Personally, I am working hard again at building up my resentment to the tobacco companies: fuelling my hate for them works well for me. There are of course numerous treatments on offer that will assist in the process. The misleadingly named nicotine replacement therapies such as gum and patches are very popular, but donít be fooled, they donít offer a replacement to nicotine; they continue to supply you with the harmful and highly addictive drug. My personal experience with such devices is they worked well while I was using them, but as soon as I stopped I would find myself suddenly gasping for a cigarette. New Age treatments like acupuncture and hypnotism are also on offer in Kyiv, and while I have never tried these myself, I do know a lot of people who have. Once, some time ago, a crowd of smokers I worked with went to see a hypnotist who guaranteed his service by offering a refund if it didnít work. They all came back asserting they were now nonsmokers and would remain so for life. The following day, every one of them was smoking again, and the promised refund never materialised. Such treatments may work, but only with numerous sessions and a significant financial outlay. An interesting treatment that has appeared on the market in recent years is the drug Zyban. This was initially developed as an anti-depressant, but turned out not to be too successful in that area. It was, however, noted in clinical trials that 30% of those taking part stopped smoking while using the drug. No one knows quite why it works, but the idea is to take the drug and continue smoking for about ten days. On the tenth day your desire to smoke will be greatly reduced, and in some cases nonexistent. Iíve known several people who have quit successfully using the drug, including a good friend of mine here in Kyiv (although he still sometimes has a sneaky one when weíre having curry and beer), but unfortunately, it didnít work for me. It is recommended that self-help information also be used in conjunction with the drug. Talking about self-help, there are now loads of books on the market that claim to make quitting easy. Probably the most successful is Alan Carrís ĎThe Easy Way to Stop Smokingí. Youíve guessed it, I read it, and I still smoke. It is basically, as are many of the other titles, a long-winded way of saying you smoke because youíre addicted to nicotine, and that once you realise it and decide not to be, you can stop. Well, duh! Honestly though, it does have some useful Ďdeprogrammingí information in it which is well worth knowing. Often, for most people, the only way to quit is to set your mind to it and go cold turkey (and a large amount of cold turkeys are needed in conjunction with any of the above-named methods in my experience). The physical addiction to nicotine is, after all, very small, and it
All of a sudden I couldnít spark up while supping my pint anymore: I had to go outside every time I wanted a fag.
is the mental addiction one really has to battle with. And who among us doesnít have the will power for that? Well, me for one by the looks of things. The main problem for me and those around me, is that Iím a grumpy bugger at the best of times, and my experience of coming off cigarettes cold turkey is that my grumpiness increases tenfold, and I wouldnít subject anyone to that. The truth is, the government can help here. I was totally against the vast increases in taxes the British government imposed on cigarettes when it was happening, but now I canít help but think it encourages people to quit. More importantly, I donít see any reason why the Ukrainian government canít bring in a blanket ban on smoking like so many governments throughout the world have already done. It will save lives. Last weekend I was at a birthday party in a shashlyk restaurant in Hydropark. You couldnít smoke in the place. You had to go outside for a puff. It was great!