I am an ex-smoker. I smoked cigarettes for about 14 years over a span of 20 years. I quit a couple of times before I finally stopped. One time I even quit for four years. And I chose to start again, under the same rubric that Paul reports led him to not stop: self-indulgence.

The fact of the matter is that nicotine is a very tough addiction. However, the addiction part is mostly over after the first week and pretty much gone by the end of the first month. What remains, however, are habits and thoughts that have become habits.

Those are harder to break. They are cues to smoke. For example, Paul has his wife, who in a multitude of ways is a cue for him to smoke.

Paul, like every other smoker, also has innumerable associations of thinking, feeling, and behaving that occur prior to, during, and after smoking that function as cues, reminding him of smoking and all of smoking’s associations.

The longer one smokes, the larger are the number of incidents, places, situations, and personal reactions that become associated with smoking, and hence, serve as reminders or cues.

Unfortunately, Paul does himself a disservice, using his considerable language skills to write himself into a trap. He says he really means to quit, except that his definition of “really” is a lie.

Contrary to the lie he tells himself about smoking is the truth that he told himself about writing the article, “Blowing Smoke.” That truth differs from the smoking lie, because that truth produced his desired outcome. He got his article published. If he were to apply the same problem-solving techniques to smoking that he used to write and have his article published, then he would be an ex-smoker, not someone who has tried to quit.

Richard Katz

N. Lakewood