As of this writing (as they say in the US of A, where they probably don't say 'US of A'), I haven't had a cigarette for four weeks. Woo-hoo! Hold that front page, clear Oxford Street for the ticker-tape parade...
It had come to the point, what with the gum disease, the not being able to breathe - and the breath I was breathing being, presumably, fairly bad - and having to have a little lie-down every time I ascended one lousy flight of stairs, all the while suspecting I wouldn't live long enough to see my sons make it into double figures... what with all of that, not to mention the goddamn price of the satanic things, the sheer wanton pleasure of raising my heart rate while clogging my lungs with icky yuck in order to satisfy some sort of inexplicably random oral fixation/addiction had finally palled.
So I made a call. Hypnotherapy had worked on the several previous occasions when I had given up smoking, and so it has worked this time, too. I couldn't recommend it highly enough.
And this has to be the last time. Quite apart from the fact that the only fortysomethings in this, or indeed any parallel universes, who still smoke are, basically, morons (apart from my friends, obviously, who are just a bunch of edgy, risk-taking creatives), it behoves me to move on, gaspingly, into a brave new world of cleaner lungs and, presumably, infinite longevity. I only hope I'm not tragically mown down on a pelican crossing while distracted, Bisto kid style, by a passing waft of fragrant fag smoke.
Call me stubborn - nay idiotic - but I waited nearly a year after the smoking ban before deciding to stop, because what kind of ovine saddo gives up anything when a government tells them to do it? And, anyway, last summer I was preoccupied by the distracting business of moving house, so my heart wasn't really going to be in it. Indeed, having bought a house with a verandah for the express purpose of alfresco midwinter smoking, it would be a waste if I didn't now sit outside of a summer's evening accompanied only by a good book, a nice glass of wine and a crack pipe.
But much as I loathe nannying governments, there's no denying that the combination of a smoking ban and a packet of cigarettes costing the same price as a barrel of crude has paid off. There were 1,384 fewer heart attacks in the nine months after the legislation was introduced than in the same period a year earlier, with some NHS Trusts reporting a decline of as much as 41 per cent in heart-attack related admissions since last July. Indeed the British Heart Foundation has described the smoking ban as 'the most significant public health initiative this century'. And no, I can't think of any other public health initiatives in the past eight years either, but there's no need to be pedantic. However, I can guess at another one which may need to be implemented in the next few years. Or, in my case, weeks.
It's not like I hadn't planned ahead, asking the hypnotherapist to build in a subcutaneous layer of hypno-suggestion in order to undermine my predisposition to adiposity. Or, in other words, I'd asked her to make sure she told me, over and over again, not to replace the cancer sticks with guacamole-flavoured Pringles, emergency packets of Maynards Sours and melted bars of butterscotch Green & Black's (so that I can eat it warm with my forefinger from the bowl... Look, I live alone with two small boys, and we think cutlery is for wimps... What do you mean feral?). And it worked brilliantly. Unfortunately it also left about 3,962,000 other evilly processed, sugar-infested alleged 'food' stuffs to enjoy alfresco on the verandah while waiting for the crack dealer to pop by.
After having been spun a highly plausible line about the fairies needing to give his dummy to some crying babies elsewhere (thanks for that, Sophie and Jo) a week ago, my youngest son, just turned two, traded it for his thumb with barely a shrug. I envied him, not least because being a heavy thumb-user clearly won't turn him into another statistic in the fight against obesity. God, giving up smoking is so depressing.