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It takes more than pictures to make smokers quit

June 23, 2011 - Kevin Sweeney
As an ex-smoker (had my last cigarette in 1976 — more about that later) I know how hard it is to quit smoking. Mark Twain once said, “Giving up smoking is the easiest thing in the world. I know because I've done it thousands of times.” When Michael Corleone said in Godfather III, “Just when I thought I was out... they pull me back in,” he could have been talking about cigarettes.

So while I applaud the spirit behind the Food and Drug Administration’s new warning labels on cigarette packs, which feature graphic photos of the effects of smoking, I don’t think they will work any better than the current warning labels.

When you are hooked on cigarettes, you may know the dangers, you may feel the shortness of breath and the coughing they cause, but you keep smoking anyway. Cigarettes just make you feel good, or they make you think you feel good.

So how did I finally quit? I had an experience where cigarettes made me feel bad. REALLY bad.

I attended a rugby party back in July of 1976. I didn’t play rugby, but it is a fun game to watch, and the after-game parties at tournaments are even better. At this party I drank much beer, sang many ribald songs and smoked many cigarettes. I woke up the next morning with a hangover that was compounded by the worst taste in my mouth I have ever had. I can only describe it as a brown, fuzzy taste, and not brown like in chocolate pudding. My tongue tasted and felt like old coconut fiber carpet padding that had been used to rub down a herd of sweaty camels. I knew that taste came from the cigarettes.

I never smoked another cigarette after that. The smell of cigarette smoke just conjured up that brown taste in my mind.

If the FDA really wants people to quit smoking, it should force tobacco companies to add ground up carpet fibers and essence of camel sweat to their product. I guarantee that will make people think twice about smoking.


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