0 milligrams of nicotine.

The walk down to the beach was more menacing than usual - a fine mist of rain created a fog under car headlights and street lamps. Somewhere in the distance - he couldn't see where - were voices. Children's voices, admittedly, but they had an unsettling edge to them.

Once on the sand, he let his dog off the lead and kicked the ball into the distance, then fumbled in his pocket for his smokes. He lit up in the usual way, cradling the death stick to protect it from the wind and rain, then taking a quick drag on it to stop it going out straight away. Once again, the taste of the first drag caught him off guard - like Corn Flakes without milk or sugar.

0.1 milligrams of nicotine.

He walked along the beach, holding his cigarette lightly between two fingers, feeling its deathly warmth spread over his whole hand - an ample substitute for a glove on a cold night like this. The dog slipped in and out of sight, most of the time a mere silhouette 10 yards ahead, beating its ball into submission.

0.3 milligrams.

He liked to watch the smoke as he inhaled it - the thick wisps from the end of the cigarette, the large conical cloud that hung in the air after he breathed out.

'The amount of tar and nicotine you inhale will depend on how you smoke the cigarette.'

Even now, he still wondered from time to time if he was smoking the right way. Was there even a 'right' way to smoke it? As long as he was inhaling, he didn't care.

0.5 milligrams.

He thought about his choice of brand - the mythos surrounding a possible Ku Klux Klan connection, the red colouring, the Cigarette Smoking Man. Somehow, not so deep inside him, this evoked an erotic fascination.

Smoking 20 Marlboro Reds in one session makes your lungs bleed. Depending on how you smoke the cigarette.

0.7 milligrams.

Further along the beach, someone had scratched in a message, Merry Christmas with a stick. He added in a Fucking with his foot. The tide was coming in. No one else would see this message ever again.

After a cigarette, that didn't seem to matter.

1 milligram.

He put out the fag in the middle of his 'G' and walked around dizzy and aimless for a while, before his thoughts inevitably turned to another. He argued it out for a while before fumbling in his pocket a second time. He took a suspicious look around - force of habit - before lighting up again.

He turned round and saw a hooded jogger - or was it a powerwalker? They all looked the same after a mile or two. He shook his head and carried on down the beach, leaving a trail of little grey clouds behind him.

1.3 milligrams.

In each of those little clouds was another of the day's worries, another little niggling doubt.

They say that we dream to sort out our worries, doubts and fears. He couldn't remember dreaming for ages.

1.5 milligrams.

By now he was too relaxed to walk, so he stood for a while, enjoying his secret hobby. He looked up at the retirement flats on the seashore and wondered how many of their residents ever saw the sea from the other side of their windows.

1.9 milligrams.

He enjoyed his last drag and got his full dosage of tar and nicotine - depending on how you smoke the cigarette - before dropping the end in a shallow puddle, listening to the satisfying sizzle of another piece of his death.

2.0 milligrams.

On the way back, the voices and noises were still there, but more distant, less menacing. At any moment, 40% of smokers are thinking about quitting. It had never even crossed his mind. Smoking was something he derived a rare pleasure and peace from, and no amount of health warnings could change that.

For the first time in ages, he remembered to feed the dog as soon as he got back.