I started smoking around 13, 14 years old, by stealing cigarettes off my dad. He’d have a packet and if he’d already had 3 or 4, and I took just 1, he wouldn’t notice. I was very onto it with what I could get away with. If it was his last 1, I’d never take that. I would never have stolen them off anyone apart from my dad. In my mind, it’s not stealing if it’s off your parents. It was just an opportunistic thing.
Mum didn’t smoke. She could always smell the smoke on me, but Dad couldn’t because he smoked roughly a pack a day. When I eventually told him, he sort of shrugged his shoulders as if, well yeah, I suspected you probably were.
Once I had my own pocket money and I could buy, actually it was packets of 10 then and it was a lot cheaper. It was just more accessible 30 years ago. It was like a weird special treat that I would buy for myself.
It was intermittent because I never really had money and it was more of a social thing until I started university. Once I could afford it, on a heavy day I smoked maybe 12 to 15. I hovered around 10 a day and I was definitely on rollies by the time I got to university ’cause of the cost effectiveness.
At university, I had a lot of downtime. I didn’t go to all my lectures consistently. Smoking helped fill the day and it was a social thing still. The only time my smoking increased was if I smoked cannabis. I always smoked a lot more if I smoked weed.
I’m very proud of my smoking these days. I’ve got it down to about 2 cigarettes on average per day. I only smoke later in the day. On an average day, especially a workday, I would probably just have 1 before bed. And, every now and then I skip a day.
I’ve always had the attitude, similar to what we’re told about alcohol – “It’s not the drinking, it’s how you’re drinking.” I’ve always thought smoking can be the same. Although, the message we get with tobacco is it’s either all or nothing, you’re either a smoker or you’re not. I’ve never completely agreed with that.
I’ve always thought, as long as I’m enjoying the majority of cigarettes that I have, I’m not gonna give it up. I do still enjoy the majority of cigarettes that I have. It has its time and its place and it actually has positive aspects to it. So, as long as I don’t go over the top, I think it’s something that can be managed. If I do take it too far, I get feedback from the body saying you know this is too much now. So, that’s my approach these days.
The first motivation I had to get this under control was when I was 30 and my daughter was born. Suddenly, it wasn’t just all about me. I wanted to set the right kinda example for my kids. And there were practical reasons: not just the dollars, but more the health thing. I used to have issues with asthma back in the day and I felt like a bit of an idiot puffing on my Ventolin and then a couple of minutes later smoking a cigarette. But, I don’t use the Ventolin anymore.
I kinda had my ambition where I wanted to be with it and I’d been working towards it for a long time, but doing it is another thing entirely.
Lately, it’s been hard with just life circumstances and all the rest. I’ve got a 12-year-old son and me and his mum are 50/50 looking after him. Often, my son and I struggle to see eye-to-eye on things.
If I’m ever to say something about tobacco that I think’s quite positive, it’s similar to the age-old American Indian peace pipe take on it. If I’m really angry at my son, and I notice myself yelling and it’s escalating and I’m losing my shit, there is nothing better for me to do at that moment than go outside and have a cigarette. I can come back in and he can be exhibiting the same behaviour, but immediately following my cigarette for the next 5, 10, minutes I’m just in this very chilled kind of space.
So, my tobacco consumption increases the weeks that my son is with me. It’s the stress. Smoking helps me to get some sleep too – I fall asleep faster if I have a cigarette.
I stopped for nearly 3 years once. I was determined to not be out of control with it and I had to prove to myself that if I wanted to stop smoking, I could.
It was just mind over matter. I never believed that out of all the chemicals in tobacco smoke, they could isolate 1 that supposedly makes it addictive physically. I’m not saying there’s not a physically addictive aspect to it, but to me the psychology is by far and away the biggest factor in my cravings for cigarettes.
My attitude was if I can understand why I smoke, then I can control it. The mentality behind believing it’s something I can’t control just seemed to put me in this victim space. So, I believe nicotine is something I can control. Tobacco is a plant that has its uses. I just need to use it as wisely as possible, if there is such a thing. Respect the plant itself, then the plant will respect me, which sounds quite out there I suppose. I’ve never believed in using nicotine gums and all those things. I tried 1 patch once, and it just didn’t do anything for me.
When I started again, I was visiting a friend in Beijing, China. As soon as I got there I had this craving to smoke, not just 1 before bed but like a lot of the time. After 2 to 3 days in China I started smoking again and went straight back up to 10 a day on average. My take on it is that I was living in this quite polluted city. Smoking among men in China is high and a part of me believes it was just in the air, so I was inhaling it anyway. Also being overseas, not knowing anyone, and having anxiety about being in a foreign place. Smoking gave me some mental security, calmed me down.
I believe that stopping from time to time is a good thing. But smoking has more benefits than drawbacks for me. I enjoy it. It’s also a libertarian kinda issue for me in terms of that personal autonomy thing. But it is changing. The first cigarette’s always the most enjoyable, then the second’s not too enjoyable, the third, I could leave. I’ll probably smoke until that day when I have a cigarette and it’s just like, actually this isn’t very nice.
I’m very cynical and sceptical about the stop-smoking things. The last time I saw a stop-smoking promotion, they came into town and just had a big sausage sizzle. They were just going around places saying, “Stop smoking, stop smoking”, but we’ll have a sausage sizzle. There’s real hypocrisy there. A chargrilled sausage is 10 times as bad in terms of the carcinogenic quality. You can kill yourself slowly with a blackened sausage, but just don’t do it with tobacco anymore. I can’t respect that.
My attitude to vaping’s terrible. I don’t trust that stuff at all. I’d rather trust a plant than a chemical that’s been manufactured by human beings. It’s not that I believe it’s more harmful, it’s the whole energy behind vaping. It seems to be about hitting an arbitrary political target than anything else. It’s not defined as smoking if you’re vaping, because it’s vape and not smoke. The Government could achieve its non-smoking targets by switching everyone over to that. But, it just seems to be a very peculiar motivation. I’m open to trying things, but I don’t have the best attitude towards anything synthetic – like, synthetic cannabis just did not appeal to me. Vaping seems to be a variation on that theme – like, it’s synthetic tobacco but it’s liquid. So, nah, never tried the vaping.
If I’m feeling very lazy, I smoke inside at home. If people are visiting who aren’t so fussed about a little bit of smoke, I smoke out the window, for example, in my lounge. Most of the time I go out on the balcony. If it’s just me in my car, I have the occasional cigarette but I certainly wouldn’t smoke with my son in the car, or anyone else unless they’re a smoker.
I don’t have a problem with that law banning smoking in the car when minors are there. I remember as a kid, Dad smoking in the car and I never thought that was a good idea. Dad would at least always wind the window down.
Back in those days, my grandparents had a little metal cigarette case. When they were socialising, they’d offer every guest who came into the house, “Oh would you like a cigarette?” It was just one of those social things that was totally acceptable. These days it’s the opposite.
I don’t think tax is the best mechanism. I know the reasons for the need to get more tax dollars in because of our financial system. But why not fix the financial system, because that’s the root cause of the problem. Instead, because smokers are an outcast minority now, they pick on them and can get away with anything. That’s such a bad thing. I really resent it. It’s the wrong way to go about doing it. But it is effective because you’ve got to be more careful and smoke less.
The majority of people smoke where I live, which is in one of the poorer parts around here. I know how much solace it gives me. When used intelligently, it’s not the demon that a lot of people believe it to be. But it has been stigmatised, demonised, and I think that’s not fair on the poorer people in New Zealand.
For the wealthier people, price is not a factor in whether they smoke or not. If you’re a smoker earning over 100k a year, especially prior to Covid, you could travel to Australia and get duty-free cigarettes. If they were so concerned about smoking, then cigarettes wouldn’t be available duty-free. Why is it that the poor people must get punished? I don’t like the double standards. That’s a huge problem with a lot of laws.
I’m not a fan of the government approach to tobacco – it’s purely about hitting political targets. They’re not concerned about health, necessarily.
The attitude of people who don’t smoke is, you guys are crazy, why do you do that? It’s terrible for you, you’re gonna give yourself cancer, yada yada yada. Smoking is something that is demonised, stigmatised, by most people. Part of my response to that has actually been to start taking pride in the way that I smoke. Maybe that’s defective, I’m not sure. I am certainly aware of how attitudes have changed from 40 years ago and I kinda half resent that, but look, people are gonna make weird judgements no matter what.
I’m a big believer in that libertarian aspect – if you wanna do something for yourself then really, who is anyone else to tell you that you can’t?
I’ve smoked cannabis intermittently, and these days as well, although edibles are my preference these days. My first couple of years at university, it was out of control. I was very open to stuff like that. So, I was always gonna try it. It’s been my drug of choice I would say, even more than alcohol. They both have their time and place but, overall, I would be more inclined to head towards cannabis. If I was going to vote, I’d more likely vote yes than no.
For over a year I was keeping detailed statistics of how many cigarettes I had in a day. I had it down to about just over 1 on average per day. During lockdown, it started creeping up around the 2 mark. The longer it went on, I smoked more. I’d just get really angry and stressed out and pissed off about things and it helped to escape outside and have a cigarette. It was a psychological medicinal help that made coping with the whole lockdown thing a lot easier.
I work in the education sector, and we were all teaching online. It was minimal kind of work requirements, but it was cool to be doing something, even though it was pretty token. I found that really helpful – maintaining those social connections. I think the worst part of it, for me, was just not knowing how long it would go on for.