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The Smoking Diaries 3: A Journey To Quitting

Artwork by Anna Jay
I recall a couple of years ago reading about a big study into the effects that smoking had on your appearance. I forget where I saw it, but I’m pretty sure it was the Daily Mail which loves nothing more than to encourage women to feel bad about their life choices.

It ran photographs of twins, side by side. One twin had smoked for most of her life while the other hadn’t touched cigarettes. ‘Look at the lines around the smoker’s mouth!', it pointed. ‘Beware the sagging eye area!’, it warned.

Of course, it was rather arresting to have such a visual on the damage that fags could do to you. The build up of tar in your lungs might be an invisible danger but those wrinkles couldn’t fool anyone.

I often wonder about my fictional non-smoking twin and what sort of life she would have led. Did she have as many good times? Did she make the same friends? Can you see her noble choices on her face?

I especially started thinking about this study when I didn’t smoke for a full 4 days, 21 hours and 58 minutes last week, one of the longest stretches of time during which a cigarette hasn’t touched my lips in about a decade. Seriously.

I had such an accurate time frame because I downloaded My Last Cigarette, a free app that shows you how long it’s been since you had a puff, as well as giving you updates about your circulation and nicotine levels. It also tells you how much money you’ve saved. Then, if you’re really struggling, you can even look up their graphic motivational ‘Daily Pic’ which makes the warning images found on cigarette packets look like children’s illustrations.
'My Last Cigarette' app
The app was great. Every time I felt weak, I merely glanced at it and as I saw the marker on ‘cravings’ slowly, slowly creep down, and the carbon monoxide levels fade away, I felt I would be mad to undo all my hard work. Well, that was until I went to a friend’s surprise birthday dinner on Friday night and eight of the nine guests smoked and, frankly, I hopped into the cigarettes faster than Katie Ledecky does a flip turn.
Still, it got me thinking. Using data about how long and how often you've smoked, the app also works out your risk of a heart attack compared to your risk before you quit, the same with lung cancer. I once again thought about my non-smoking twin. What were her chances of developing all those terrible diseases?

Because the thing about trying to quit smoking, especially with this app, is that it forces you to come to terms with the irreversible damage that you’ve done. You will never be the non-smoking twin, it’s too late. It’s a sobering exercise and, ultimately, one I have found helpful.

I’m pleased to report that I’ve completely stopped smoking during the day and any evening in which I don’t find myself with a glass of wine in hand. Unfortunately, as soon as I have a drink that comes with an ABV then I have a very real problem in keeping away from the cigs.

I’ve had to reset my smoking countdown clock on the app back to zero but I’m sticking with it. My non-smoking twin told me to.

Read the previous instalments of The Smoking Diaries:
Chapter One: Introduction
Chapter Two: Failure