DISCLAIMER: This writeup is entirely in jest. I smoke 0.429 packs a day and hate evangelical anti-smokers. Please don't take offense at the tone.

How To Quit Smoking: A Practical Guide

Ladies and gentlemen, there comes a time in our lives when we realize that the pleasure of driving a Buick around Miami for the last twenty years of life far outweighs that of living a hedonistic, vice-filled lifestyle. Our reckless youths give way to the comfort of social security checks flowing like incontinent urine down a catheter tube into our bank accounts. How might we prolong this comfortable complacence? Recently, many have turned to a high-fat diet low in vitamins and fiber. Others feel that a sound body is not enough, and have preoccupied themselves with reducing stress through the infinite wisdom available in the Barnes & Noble self-help section. However, Atkins’s cholesterolfest and heartwarming tales of relocated dairy products can only go far. Those who truly want to enjoy their old age (or “second youth” as many great thinkers call it) have all come to the same conclusion. We must give up the ghost. For a long and fruitful retirement, the only action of any real consequence is to quit smoking.

First, a bit of information for those who may have been distracted the past half-century: medical professionals agree that frequent, prolonged use of tobacco products may lead to a host of health problems. These include yellowing fingers and teeth, terrible breath, small but oh-so-painful burns, and the small matter of cancer in the lungs and throat. Even more terrifying are the momentary risks, such as rear-ending a truck while glancing down to activate a car lighter, or massive head trauma from a New York barkeep throwing the deviant smoker out of his establishment. The list never ends.

There will still be some addicts to whom the prospect of a longer life—as much as five extra years for every cigarette you don’t smoke—is not persuasive enough. Consider then the economic benefits. A pack of cigarettes costs around three dollars in North Carolina, and the taxes here are among the nation’s lowest. John Doe, smoking a pack a day, will spend $1,095 for a year’s worth of cigarettes. Twenty-five years of this habit total up to a whopping $27,375: plenty of money to buy a nicely equipped LeSabre for those blissful days in Florida, or enough Lean Cuisine Low-Carb Frozen Dinners to last nearly three decades.

If you haven’t realized that quitting is a must by now, go ahead and light up another death stick. You’re an idiot and the world will be better off without you anyway.

So you've decided that this habit-- often called "nasty", "disgusting", or "revolting" by former addicts, has to go. Congratulations! You've taken the first baby step on a journey of a thousand miles through locust swarms and quicksand. Reward yourself with a well-deserved smoke.

You now must decide whether to taper off your addiction gradually, or to quit "cold turkey". The first option is undoubtedly easier, but many smokers find that after approximately two hours at the reduced pace of a half pack per day, they cannot overcome the urge to slide back into the routine. There are also some serious side effects. With longer gaps in between nicotine intake, the smoker will find him or herself irritable. Your home answering machine may be deluged with anxious messages from local gas station attendants, worried that you may have died after failing to show up for your daily pack. Still worse, you may slip and fracture major bone groups while tearing through your workplace halls when break time finally comes around.

Quitting "cold turkey", on the other hand, has advantages. If the smoker has enough will power, he or she will not slip backwards as we discussed in the previous paragraph. Folklorists speak in hushed whispers about the one man who possessed this level of will power. His name was Jesus Christ. Mere mortals find that their turkey is at least room temperature.

This method, though, is fraught with many obstacles. During the first few days you will suffer from acute nicotine withdrawal, also known as "utter hell" to those who have tried quitting cold turkey before. This could lead to exhaustion, crankiness, cold sweat, inability to focus on tasks, unprovoked anger, body tremors, road rage, random acts of violence, and divorce. Horrific accounts have surfaced about smokers giving up on quitting cold turkey. A Duluth man died from lack of oxygen to the brain when attempting to inhale an entire cigarette in one breath-- his first smoke in three days.

After many failed attempts at quitting, the determined smoker should consider some of the tools available to help. Most of us are unenthusiastic about the traditional methods of hand amputation or the sweatbox. Modern science has given us several more humane paths. Nicotine gum is popular at the moment. It satisfies cravings without introducing more carcinogens to the lungs' sensitive tissue. It is, however, expensive, and tastes worse than chewing on a cigarette filter. Heavy smokers may chew entire packs of gum at once, constantly, until their jaw muscles wear out and they are unable to eat solid food.

The nicotine patch is also available. It introduces a controlled level of the addictive elixir into the bloodstream, keeping cravings to a minimum. Patches do their job well. Smokers will soon find they prefer a constant influx of the drug to cigarettes' sporadic relief. Problems only surface when the user runs out of skin area on which to affix more patches. Prolonged patch use may also result in a nasty, square-ish spot of skin cancer.

As you can see, the road to a cigarette-free life is fraught with peril. Whatever method you choose to quit, be aware of the health risks involved. The uninformed quitter may be putting not only his or her own life at risk, but also jeopardizing friendships through erratic behavior. Quitting smoking is not for the faint of heart-- it requires strenuous mental and physical preparation. Remember to always consult a physician before changing your smoking practices.

If it seems like a monumental task, that's because it is. It is suggested by classical scholars that Heracles's unaccomplished Thirteenth Labor was giving up his two-pack-a-day Marlboro Reds habit. In fact, you probably aren't up to the challenge. Spark up another little cylinder of joy. I hear Buicks aren't built that well these days anyway.

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