Yes, I Am a Smoker

For the last several months, I've been giving you facts, figures, ideas, and arguments about various ailments and health-improvement techniques. This time I want to get up-close and personal. I want to come out of the closet. I want to tell you this: I am a smoker. That's right, I'm a wellness writer who smokes.

I have several motivations for this confession. One is simply to avoid appearing a fraud if you happen to run into me with a cigarette hanging out of my mouth. One would assume that a writer who expounds on healthy organic diets, alternative health remedies and exercise would actually practice what she preaches. Well, for what it's worth, I don't write any column I don't believe, and I do practice what I write. Shouldn't a smoker try harder to at least do some things right?

My primary motivation for confession, though, is to address young, newbie smokers. I'm currently spending lots of time on college campuses, one in particular, and in spite of all the statistics I'm hearing, I see lots of young people smoking.

I've been thinking about when I started, which fortunately (and stupidly) was late in life. I was in the middle of a divorce (i.e. stressed to the max), my soon-to-be ex-husband abhorred the sight of a cigarette, much less the smell, I had a close friend who smoked, and it looked so r-e-l-a-x-i-n-g. Also, my father smoked when I was a child, as did some of my other favorite relatives. I've read since that the smell of cigarette smoke is like any other smell and can evoke feelings of love and security. Makes sense.

If you're so new to smoking that you are still fiddling with the cigarette to see which way you want to hold it to look cool, or if you only smoke when you're out with other smokers—there's still hope. It's much easier to stop now, when you're young and resilient and not already in too deep.

Picture this. You're out of college and in your dream job. Your boss selects you to go out of town to make a presentation to the head honchos on the new widget design. You pack up and head for the airport where you find that tight security is only part of your problem. Once you get through it there will be NO SMOKING until you reach your destination. Could be hours and hours. In most airports, there are few, if any, smoking facilities. And, if you do find one, yuck. Talk about feeling like a leper! Try sitting in a room with walls the color of a used filter, smoke so thick you can hardly see, squished together with 30 other idiots, puffing away. You might laugh now, but once you're addicted it's a different deal. Those rooms begin to look really good.

So you check into the hotel (a smoking room, of course) and settle in for the night. The next morning you have several smokes before grabbing a shuttle to the office building where you meet your co-workers and head up to the 33rd floor conference room for the meeting. The agenda is long, and you notice your presentation is not until late afternoon. It's mid-morning, and you're doing pretty well at staving off nicotine cravings—eating the pastries, muffins and fruit from the continental breakfast. No problem, you think, I'll have a smoke at lunch. Around noon, someone enters the room with a loaded sandwich cart. "It's a working lunch," your host announces. Oops. Thirty-three floors down, no time to catch an elevator and get outside. By 2 p.m., your palms are sweating, your head is spinning, and it's time for your presentation. Good luck.

It's called withdrawal, and it's real. In addition to the health implications associated with cigarettes, there are distinctly uncomfortable and inconvenient lifestyle issues as well. A choice to become dependent on the silly things will eventually make you miserable, mentally as well as physically.

Please take a minute to stop and think about why you are really doing this. If you're doing it to impress somebody, they're not worth it. If you just want to hack somebody off, try another tack. Wear their most hated color. Get some of that perfume that smells like bug spray. There are a million ways to express yourself. Find one that doesn't ruin your health.

There you have it. I'm a wellness writer who smokes. Go figure. I may not have all the answers, but I do know a lot of the questions—and whether to smoke is not one of them.

Previous Comments


Deborah, Been there and done that. I had smoked for 17 years, liked it, didn't think I could quit. I even played those games... I would run or workout pretty regularly and right after... I mean right after my lungs would allow me to smoke I would light up, but the reality is, whether it's running, eating well, yoga, or all of the above there is no single thing you could do to improve your health immediately, with in hours is to quit smoking. Oh and yes I am one of those angry ex smokers, why, because smoking is an insidious habit, I tried to quit for 6 years before I was able to break the habit and even now it's still day to day. I have seen so many others try to quit and fail, again and again. My wife had a colleague that finally quit, she was in her mid 50's, she finally quit after all the years of smoking and cancer killed her 8 weeks later. Deborah why not quit and chronicle that journey in your wellness column. If your journey encourages others to quit then that is the greatest gift of wellness you can give. It is easier then it seems and you will find lots of support out there to help.

Bryan Grundon

Dear Ms. Noel, Please relax; frankly, I would be far more disturbed to discover that you were overweight and writing a wellness column than I was to discover that you are a smoker. While smoking is responsible for many hundreds of thousands of deaths every year, obesity remains the single most preventable health hazard in this country for both men and women. So if you're within your ideal BMI, chill out and enjoy your occasional cigarette. If you're not within your BMI, then, well, you have another admission to make don't you? Simon


I give you all the encouragement in the world to quit. My dad stopped smoking two years ago after going at it like a smokestack for over 30 years. And he did it by not having any money in his pocket the day he ran out his last pack of cigarrettes--he says now it was "financial embarassement" that made him quit :). So it can be done--and I wish you the best of luck if you undertake to quit.



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