There was a time when I was committed to it, followed by bouts of self-loathing and guilt because I knew deep down the relationship was toxic.
Now, there is no going back and while I’m capable of looking fondly at that period of my life, I realise that’s just me in denial.
I’m talking menthol cigarettes, the sale of which are now banned since last week.
The purpose of the ban is to ensure that cigarette and tobacco products for sale can no longer include ingredients that would make smoking more palatable or make it easier for someone to start smoking by masking the taste of tobacco.
Apparently, there was a four-year lead-in time to allow smokers of menthol cigarettes adequate time to switch to other products. Thankfully, I took evasive action in advance of D-Day. I quit my daily packet of Consulate when I was in hospital nearly two years ago with two broken vertebrae.
Unable to walk and semi-comatose for a day or two, I didn’t insist on a wheelchair to go outside the hospital building and smoke.
Apart from the fact that an irritating voice-over at CUH tells you that smoking is not allowed in the grounds of the hospital, I was lucky not to experience cravings. Presumably, being knocked out for more than 24 hours helped with the nicotine leaving my system.
I surprised myself, my family and friends. Because I used to be almost an apologist for smoking, defending the indefensible with my comments about freedom of choice and I’ll-do-what-I-want-to-my-body type of declarations.
But the problem with all of this is the passive smoking that others experience from being in the vicinity of smokers.
In this time of pandemic, outdoor smoking areas in pubs and restaurants are threatened when they re-open. As the chairman of the Policy Group on Tobacco at the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland, Professor Des Cox, has said, if outdoor areas are to be used to facilitate social distancing, we will “see non-smokers cohabitating this area with smokers”.
Also, vintners say they intend to supply table service, which means bar staff are going to be working in these areas as well.
Could all this finally sound the death knell for smoking, be it menthol or hardcore tobacco-flavoured fags?
Will there be a lead-in time to allow nicotine addicts to wean themselves off this lethal drug? Or would there be all out war if such a move was announced?
I’ve already suggested kicking booze during Covid-19. Would it be a stretch too far to encourage smokers to kick their habit at this time?
The nerves are at us all and we need our crutches, says you. And there’s always the fear of piling on the weight if you give up cigarettes.
But Covid-19 has made it more important than ever to quit. Smokers are more at risk from the corona-virus and are more likely to become seriously ill once they’re infected, according to a new study.
A survey of 2.4 million Britons found smokers were 14% more likely to develop Covid-19 symptoms than non-smokers. The Imperial College in London survey also found that when smokers do catch the virus, they’re more than twice as likely as non-smokers to need hospitalisation.
Previous studies show that smokers are, in general, more susceptible to catching respiratory viruses since they touch their mouths more and are more likely to have damaged airways.
But giving up cigarettes is hard, regardless of the very sound medical and scientific advice. It is so damned hard that I keep an unopened packet of Consulate in my office. They are the same packet that I took into hospital with me.
A perverse streak in my make-up means that if I am to deny myself something, I must have a way out if things get really bad. So, the unopened pack is a kind of fall-back. Just in case.
I hope never to open it. It’s an ugly- looking packet with images on both sides of smoker’s leg — a severe disease of the leg arteries.
There was a time when Consulate marketed itself with a deceptive phrase printed on the nicely designed white and green packet of old.
The phrase, ‘cool as a mountain stream’ is laughable now, given what we know about cigarettes. But we thought they were ‘cool’ in the fashionable sense of the word.
How did that happen? Marketing was to blame for this former life accessory, like something out of Mad Men.
I sometimes say, longingly, that If I live to 85, I’ll have a fag. Which goes to show what a hold cigarettes have on me. But I know that just one could re-ignite a dastardly habit.