The Evening Class;Mind and body

5th March 1999 at 00:00
GIVING UP SMOKING

A good friend and I share a bottle of wine and a packet of fags most Wednesday evenings. It is the most movable of feasts as we are not restricted by venue or time. But by 10pm we've always got on to our favourite topic of conversation: when are we going to stop smoking. We usually resolve to make it Friday (sometimes it's Thursday, sometimes Monday). Feeling much happier for having decided on a day, we make what we know will go down in our personal histories as our last trip to the cigarette machine.

But of course it isn't. And the following Wednesday we repeat the ritual. Sometimes we throw in a bet to try to light up our enthusiasm for a life free of stained fingers and anti-smokers' scowls. Sometimes one of us actually manages it, but eventually the other's cigarettes prove too much of a draw. Once we both gave up for a year and then started again because we thought we could handle it.

Any smoker could bore you for hours with similar tales. They could probably tell you how much they had spent on fags in total - about pound;20,000 in my case. They could also go on about the patches, the gum, the inhalers, the herbals, the plastic cigarettes, in short the industry that flourishes on the back of all those addicted to the tobacco plant.

Perhaps if I had been given I Quit! as a teenager I might not be in this pitiful state. Supported by Dudley, Southwark, Staffordshire and Sheffield health authorities, I Quit! is a practical, humourous and non-patronising booklet to help young people stop smoking. It doesn't make you feel like a pariah or lay on the dire warnings so thickly that you need a fag to cheer yourself up. Its tips and warnings ring true with anyone who has ever tried to quit, as does the message that stopping isn't that difficult (it's staying stopped that can be tricky).

I might give it a go. After all if it doesn't work I can always tear the pages out and use them to light my fags off the cooker when I've run out of matches.

Stephanie Northen

'I Quit!', from Comic Company, 0181 675 1007. pound;17.50 for 50 copies

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