“Giving up smoking is the easiest thing in the world. I know because I’ve done it thousands of times.”

Mark Twain had it right. It is easy to stop. The hard part is not to start again. I’ve decided to try again. But this time I’m better informed. According to Malcolm Gladwell in The Tipping Point, when it comes to tobacco there are three kinds of people. Those who can’t stand the stuff, never have, never will. Those who are heavily addicted. They may hate it, but they reach for one early in the day. And the rest of us.

We’re chippers. Take it or leave it smokers, who can do half a pack one night, none the next day.

The word seems to be smack slang, for a non-addicted casual drug user. And according to an entertaining column on the subject by Kris Frieswick, “addicts hate it when someone else can enjoy, but not become addicted to, the very substance that enslaves them”.

I recognized myself in Gladwell’s description. And I know my triggers; some kinds of work stress and a good meal. While away for a week, as so often, I didn’t smoke once. Easiest thing in the world. So I thought, why not just keep it up?

Well, within 15 minutes of getting back to the office my resolve was already being tested, but it held. The thing about office smokes is that they are a complete break from the job at hand, and a reward. You have to get up, go outside, find the bit of plastic that keeps the emergency door from closing on your arse, and light the bloody thing in the swirling winds of the stairwell. But what a treaty! (I can't believe I wrote that typo. Muscular memory. Those who know will know why.) Three times, max, a day. Still, I held up, despite severe provocation.

That was Monday. Wednesday, another severe test, playing cards between two serious smokers, both of whom are generous to a fault. Maybe just one little cigarillo? But again, I held up.

Then last night, a super blow-out meal, from affettati to tiramisu, the kind that definitely calls for some smoke to help it settle and crown the enjoyment. And that, too, I resisted.

So far, so good. But I wish I had a better sense of how smoking five or fewer, and then not every day, was bad for me. It doesn’t feel bad. It feels good. I know if I were doing more aerobic activity each day it would feel bad. That, truly, is the easiest way for me to give up, to be exercising. But there are other reasons why that’s not happening at the moment. Lurking in the back of my mind, and at the bottom of a drawer, are a couple of nice fat Cohibas. I think I know when I will do one of them. And I think I can do that without backsliding. We shall see.

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