I smoked cigarettes regularly from 2005 until early 2015. My consumtion was variable, but I’d average about 10 a day. There were some breaks: I quit for a year in Dublin, and I quit again for a while in Avignon, and then again for six months in Montpellier. I’d estimate that during my time as a smoker, I smoked upwards of 30,000 cigarettes.

That is a staggering figure, and it is hard for me to believe that I did that to myself. I’m not sure what the long-term effects of this will be, but I assume that I have a high risk of developing cancer. Naturally, I wish I had never started smoking. This is one of my few true regrets.

As a child I was brain-washed into thinking that smoking was cool. Particularly memorable were the Peter Stuyvesant adverts, showing scenes of jet-set young couples doing exciting things like skiing (wait, don’t watch that!), followed by smoking, and finishing with the catch-phrase: “Your passport to international smoking pleasure”. Ah yes, and I did want to travel, even as a child. Later cigarette adverts were banned on TV and then even in cinemas, but for me the work was done. All I needed was someone to hand me a cigarette.

Mandy did. We were on the terrace of the Alex Forbes building in Sandton. I’d joined her for a smoke break, because it was fun to be outside in the warm fresh air and chat instead of working. Who wouldn’t want to do that all the time? Smokers had a free pass to hang out and slack off, and I wanted in on that.

When I asked for a cigarette she warned me, but I wasn’t going to heed that. I set it alight and drew in deep. It’s a rotten taste of course. The nicotine high can be a little fun, although nothing amazing.

I enjoyed smoking for a time, specifically, I enjoying going out for smoke breaks with my colleagues. Then I stopped enjoying them. I wanted to stop smoking, but I realized I was hooked. I had become a nicotine addict.

I had joked to Mike that I was going to start smoking to see if I could quit, thinking it would be easy. He told me it was the stupidest thing he had ever heard. He was right.

It seems like it should be easy to quit right? Just don’t light another cigarette. Resist the temptation. And it is that easy, in truth. Except the addiction affected my psychology in subtle ways. I would quit smoking for a while, I would feel fine, great even, and then suddenly, out of nowhere, an incredibly powerful desire for nicotine would overtake me. In the blink of an eye, I would find myself bumming drags or cigarettes from others, and then soon enough I’d be back to buying cigarettes from the store.

It would be nice if we could all quit smoking at the same time, destroy all the cigarettes and tobacco plantations, and happily slap each other on the backs for having stamped out a very serious ill. Now I wouldn’t advocate making tobacco illegal, because I think everyone has the right to do what they want to their body. But it is a very dangerous substance, highly addictive and ultimately deadly.

Nicotine is naturally evolved, and is present in tobacco to provide protection from herbivores. Strictly speaking, it is a poisin, and can also be used as an insecticide. It also happens to be a mild stimulant. I don’t really understand how the addiction works, because I know very little neuroscience. I can’t understand how someone first got the idea to pick the leaves of a tobacco plant, dry them out, roll them up, set them alight and then inhale? In any case, people have been doing it for a very long time in the Americas, and from there it has become a global epidemic.

Smoking is a serious problem. Globally, there are now more than 1 billion smokers, and the percentage of smokers continues to rise. I still see lots of young people smoking. We do not have this situation under control.

I’m glad that smoking has been banned in public places, because cigarette smoke stinks. I’m glad tobacco advertising has been banned, because I think tobacco is one of the most dangerous substances known to man, and also because I dislike advertising. However, the myth that smoking is cool still lingers on. I do still see a fair amount of smoking in films, often glamourized or stylized.

Governments make a lot of money from taxing the sale of cigarettes. I’m talking about the excise taxes, above and beyond what we pay in ordinary sales tax for any product bought over the counter. What is this money used for? I believe that it should be used for one purpose alone: to help smokers quit. Pour the money back into treating the problem and nothing else. Otherwise governments might come to rely on that revenue, and thus hestitate in discouraging smoking, as I’m sure they already do.

I wish I had never been exposed to cigarettes, that I had never seen the advertisements, that I had never seen them in films, that I had never been tempted to try one that fateful day. I wish I had better understood the danger: that it would take me 10 years and 30,000 cigarettes in me before I would finally free myself from the yoke of nicotine slavery.

While I regret that I smoked for 10 years, I am at least glad that I didn’t smoke for 33 years, as Allen Carr did. I’m also glad that he decided to write his book The Easy Way to Stop Smoking, and I’m glad a friend mentioned the existence of this book to me. If you are a smoker and you would like to quit, read this book, it might help you. If you know someone who smokes and would like to help them quit, then read this book yourself. The book is an easy read, funny at times, clear, concise, packed full of valuable information. It is the best weapon I have yet seen to combat nicotine addiction.

Nicotine addiction is a nightmare. I’m glad that nightmare is over for me, and I wish the same for every smoker. I hope that others can avoid my mistake, by not giving in to temptation in the first place. Cigarettes are irredeemably bad.