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Bob: How I Gave Up Smoking

Giving Up Smoking.

Man, how hard is it to give up a packet a day cigarette habit?

Tougher than heroin I've heard. And you can't really say you've given up until it's been as long as you've been smoking.

I was once having a smoke break in a building corridor when a 50-something News legend walked past and said, “Mmm. That smells wonderful,” I replied, "would you like one?". He said, "No, thanks. I gave them up,” I said, 'How long?" He replied, "22 years".

30 years is a long time to smoke. How many times did I try to give up? My father, who never smoked said, just never stop trying, one day you will succeed.

I'll give them up when they hit $5 a packet. I'll give them up when they hit $10 a packet, recently I was buying flowers at the Woolworths tobacco counter and I heard a woman ask for a packet - not sure of the brand - but the checkout girls asked if she wanted 20s or 40s, 40s thanks, that will be $39.

Jeez, maybe she'll give them up when they reach $50 or a $100.

Money, health and weight, the big three excuses for quitting or not quitting. Just like night-clubbing teenage girls, I was as susceptible to weight gain when I gave up smoking, so I would take it up again. In the end it comes down to health, money and death threats.

At a radio station event I ducked around a back street for a quick durrie. A little boy of my acquaintance, about 6 years old appeared, looked me in the eye and said “You're gonna die”.

Like many smokers, I thought I was invincible. I met a man mountain gym junkie and discovered he was a smoker. He said he didn't smoke a couple of hours before going to the gym. How insane, so I tried it. I could do an hour at the gym. Ride a pushbike 50 k, ride a dirt bike 200k. I ran a half marathon and finished a short course triathlon. I swam 20 laps occasionally, all while still smoking 20 a day.

Smoking does not affect my personal fitness level I bragged on the radio and that's when I met Dr Sean Tollhurst from Greenslopes Private Hospital. He called the station and said, "I guarantee that I will find negative effects of tobacco use in Bob. Somewhere, feet, lungs, head or heart". I agreed to attend the clinic and go through the breath and lung tests. The turning point was Dr Tollhurst's detailed explanation of how cells work. How oxygen enters the bloodstream and crosses through the cells via receptors and fine fillaments that nicotine damages. The doctor explained that the wheezing you sometimes hear in smokers is the oxygen trying to find it's way across damaged cells.

After my tests, Sean suggested that I had some early lung damage that could easily develop into emphysema and that I should give up today. May 31 2012 World No Tobacco Day. The same day my wife gave up 25 years earlier. How do so many non-smoking partners put up with a smoker in their life?

The first thing you notice is the money. Holy shit, $20 a day, 7 days a week. Suddenly your wallet still has lobsters in it at week's end. $140 a week. $600 a month. Dr Sean said, "when you've successfully given up for a few months, reward yourself, by buying something good for your health.” I'd always wanted a good off road mountain bike. After three months I had saved $1,800 so I bought a thousand dollar MTB. Brilliant!

After three years I bought a Harley.

The famous nutritionist and motivator Dr John Tickell said “you can't consider yourself smart and smoke”.

You can give it up. One day at a time. As with any habit the first couple of days and weeks are the toughest. Chew some gum. Get some nicabate. Enlist your non-smoking friends for support. You may eat more, you may put on weight but you'll be around to work on that later. Drink lots of water and with the money you save, drink better quality wine.

I don't miss being a pariah. Hustling at the airport for the disgusting 3 x 3 room filled with smokers or standing in the winter rain on the footpath, with the last 2 or 3 hold outs from the office.

I used to duck out for a smoke at 5am so as not to impact my colleagues on the breakfast show. I still duck out around 5am.

I fill my lungs with fresh air. I inhale the day, I welcome the morning sun and I thank the Lord for another beautiful day in paradise...

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