Can’t quit, won’t quit: confessions of a die-hard smoker

He started in his 30s, has asthma, and can go more than a week without a cigarette – so why does this writer still not think it’s time to stop?

I have asthma, and there’s a fairly major respiratory disease going around, as you may have heard, and also I am a smoker. A quick inventory of my coat pockets: inhaler, face mask, Marlboro Gold. I never fell into smoking as a teenager when everyone else seemed to think it was cool, but took it up in my 30s, as others might develop an interest in birdwatching, or CrossFit. Four or five a day, for the best part of a decade, and more at the weekends. This piece is anonymous because my mother cannot know. I don’t have the words to express how unbelievably stupid I feel about all this.

There’s quite a lot going on here, and not all of it is solely of interest to me and my therapist. You might imagine that a continuing and lung-buggering international emergency which a study says is specifically more dangerous for smokers would mean there were fewer idiots like me. But in fact, stress and boredom are more than a match for serious health concerns: research published in August last year suggested that the number of young adults smoking in England went up by about a quarter during the first lockdown. There was a spike in the number of people across all ages giving up smoking in England during that same first lockdown period – but no sign of the plummeting rates you might rationally expect. Then again, nothing about this habit has ever been rational.

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