Healthy Smoker

I’m a smoker who hasn’t touched a cigarette in more than seven years


Healthy Smoker
by Ghahremani

This article is inspired by Jahanshah Javid’s recent essay, “Think Tank.

I grew up in an era when smoking was cool. Movie stars looked so much better holding a cigarette between their fingers, not to mention James Dean, placing one loosely in the corner of his mouth. Office employees smoked at their desks and even stores didn’t mind smoking customers. At parties and pubs, the air was so thick with smoke that it was hard to see who was there. Etiquette dictated that a gentleman first offer you a cigarette and light it for you. Which would explain the array of lighters -not just the cheap Bic, but Dunhill and later gold DuPont that cost a fortune.

Public places not only welcomed smokers, they catered to them. Hotels started to hire people to swipe their logo on the fine sand that would be the cigarette butt receptacles. Good restaurants changed your ashtrays practically after each one you smoked and toilets were equipped with a built-in ashtray next to the roll of toilet paper. Airlines, trains and taxis had a tiny ashtray next to each passenger. People actually paid attention to the no-smoking sign during takeoff and the smoke-free section was but a few seats. You could even enjoy your cigarette in theaters - save multi-level ones like the Opera in Paris, where you had to take your smoking down to the mezzanine level. In the cinemas, cigarette vendors passed by the aisles in case you ran out, and the smoky air made the column of light from the projector even more impressive.

In winter, with car windows shut tight, adults smoked while kids coughed because back then, ‘second hand’ was a word saved for used cars. As parents, we practiced the same – that is, until our kids formed their own coalition and stopped us!

I went from brand to brand, starting with the cheap ‘Homa’ and ‘Oshno’ in Iran before being upgraded to Winston. During London’s gloomy days, Players No.6 fit my student budget perfectly-- though I did splurge on a pack of Dunhill now and then, just to look good at parties. And finally, I made my way to America where the good old Virginia Slims topped them all. “You’ve come a long way, baby,” said the commercials. I must say, through all the change, I managed to resist any and all menthols as that seemed like an oxymoron.

I remember in 1978 at a Dental convention in Colorado Springs, I was shocked to learn that I could not smoke anywhere in that city. I returned to Chicago with stories about this and while my colleagues and I enjoyed a puff in our shared office at Northwestern Dental School, it was clear why some of us would skip the next Colorado meeting! Over the past thirty years the anti smoking laws have done wonders. However, the country that remains the main manufacturer of tobacco did nothing to prevent its use until it was too late for some of us.

When anti smoking ads came to television, my first reaction was to light one and switch channels. But gradually, the message sank in. The most effective message for me was the doctor who showed an X-rays of a lung cancer patient and said, “This patient has a month to live, but if he stops smoking, he may have a year.” Then he looked right at the camera adding, “If I said this to you, you’d stop immediately. So why not do it before I have to say that?”

Then again, those are commercials and I don’t pay much attention to any of them. Maybe it was the way my kids grunted as I lit up during carpools, or maybe it began years later with my daughter’s smoke-free apartment, sending me to the street on cold Rhode Island mornings. Whatever it was, at some point, I just knew that none of my excuses justified the habit. In a matter of months, all the “I’m stressed-I don’t want to gain weight- I need to relax” turned unacceptable. No one, except for other smokers, understood me and they soon seemed to be the only ones who loved me!

Finally my husband and I made an appointment at a clinic that promised to make us quit through hypnosis. That proved to be a total disaster. Five minutes into the session, my husband was so tired that he actually fell asleep and as he started to snore, I was laughing too hard it was impossible to send me into any kind of trans! On the following visit, the doctor studied my answers to his questionnaire and honestly told me I’d fail. “People have several reasons for being smokers. Medicine has listed ten of them,” he said sadly. “Here you have presented eleven!”

Next we tried the gum and believe me, nothing tastes worse. The patch seemed better, except it gave me a surge of nicotine while taking away the social pleasure of smoking. I missed the elegance of it, the ritual, the company of others. Above all, when I found myself amid a new crowd, without my cigarette I had nothing to hide behind. Each time I gave it up for a few months, something else made me sad/stressed/tired/angry enough to go back and oh, the freedom in that first puff!

The doctor who told me I’d be a smoker for life knew what he was talking about. I am. I’m a smoker who loves the smell of cigarettes, loves to sit with friends who smoke, misses the ritual and enjoys that first puff. But maybe somebody out there needs to hear this: The temptation will always be there, but luckily, it passes as quickly as it comes. Parties end, other smokers disperse and soon you will be in control again. All you need is a little patience and a reminder that the moment shall soon pass. When the temptation is too much, be the smoker who decides to skip this one! I should know, because I’m a smoker who hasn’t touched a cigarette in more than seven years.

Zohreh Ghahremani is the author of Sky of Red Poppies, available now on Amazon & most bookstores.


Recently by GhahremaniCommentsDate
The End of An Era
Nov 18, 2012
Walking Home
Oct 24, 2012
Eating Rice with a Spoon
Aug 25, 2012
more from Ghahremani

healthy smoker-new cigarette warning graphic

by joshuaclark on

For twenty five years smokers have been disregarding the health alerts on cigarette packs. The Food and drug administration is proposing brand new, larger cigarette warning labels that use graphic shock tactics to discourage individuals from smoking cigarettes. The FDA is asserting itself more forcefully on smoking makers due to authority granted the agency by Congress to regulate tobacco as a drug. Smokers are constantly taking out a <a title="A payday cash loan can be such a relief" href="//">payday cash loans</a> just to buy their "cancer sticks"


VPK, I totally agree

by Monda on

Like you, I don't care to judge people's reason's for any type of addiction, nor do I undermine positive aspects of addictions  - unless they kill you. [That is why I sent Anahid those links about the substance - research findings on the Positive impact of nicotine on CF/ Negative upon withdrawal or abuse. (Aside the fact that nicotine is only 1 of the over 4000 substances in tobacco, and overuse of any substance, specially smoked is indeed dangerous, etc.)]

I also agree with you about the unattractiveness of the "holier than thou" attitude about cigarettes in the US. However, the fact remains that Smoking is the #1 killer in the US.

To clarify, what I shared earlier about My experiences/ conflicts regarding smoking, were my true experiences. I didn't write them to gain brownie points, for not liking cigarettes (in fact I do smoke/ I said that, didn't I?). Political correctness was not my intention.

I appreciate your comment on my comment, plus your info on smokeless nicotine. I hope Anahid reads this exchange as well. The more info, the merrier in making choices, right?


Gold Dunhill Lighter

by shirazi73 on

I am also an ex-smoker. You mentioned the Dunhill lighter and it brought back some deep memories. In the summer of 1976 I visited Iran for the last time. Because of a family reason, I ended up in Iranshar in the middle of the southeastern desert. Iranshar at that time was a small town and in the month of July was as close to hell as you could get on earth. There was a flash flood a few days before I got there and all the desert people who had lost most of their possessions were in the city camped out in the main square and along the avenues. My father was exiled to Iranshar by the order of savak and had to go to the police department every evening to sign his presence in the city. On the first day I arrived I walked with him to the police station but stayed outside while he went inside to sign. The station was an old brick building that looked like an old mosque or Karvansarah and there were people all over sitting by the side of the street. I sat on a stone pedestal at the door and got my cigarettes out to smoke one. At that time Winston had just come out with a new brand, Winston light, in a gold color package. Just as I sat down I noticed a tall man with akhond attire and black beard and thick large glasses come out of the police station and walked to where I was sitting. He pointed to the cigarette package in my hand and commented that I did not look like the others in the street. He used the Iranian word "tu" instead of "shoma". He then asked what those cigarettes were. I told him it is from the United States and offered him one. As he reached over to take a cigarette he took his lighter out of his inside pocket. I noticed he had a gold Dunhill lighter. I looked at his not so clean attire and thought the guy carries a gold lighter but doesnt have the courtesy to say thank you. He lit up his cigarette and commented how much he likes the taste of American cigarette. I told him it was mostly because it was fresh tobacco. We had some small talk about the poor people in the street and he told me he was also exiled to this hell on earth. At that moment my father came out of the police station and I got up to leave with him. I turned to the Akhond to say good-bye he asked for one more cigarette. So I reached into my shirt pocket and got the pack out and gave the whole pack to him. He took the cigarettes and put it in his inside pocket with his gold Dunhill lighter and turned around and walked away without a word. The Akhond that day was Ali Khamani.   

Veiled Prophet of Khorasan


by Veiled Prophet of Khorasan on


I am not here to defend nicotine. However there are some points I want to make:

  • It is not smoking. Inhaling water vapor with nicotine is not smoking. It does not contain the harmful elements of tar and other hundreds of things in smoke.
  • It is possible to live perfectly happily while addicted. There is a very puritan attitude in America on addiction. However from my point of view. If someone is using a substance that makes them happy; does not make them violent; does not make them useless; then it is not my business to judge them. In fact as you pointed out Nicotine has some very desirable effects on human mind.
  • From what I am able to find Nicotine is not carcinogenic. It is smoke that it. Therefore some of the greatest dangers of tobacco are avoided by smokeless cigarettes.

I think they are more in line with "nicotine gum".  Again, I am not promoting it. However I don't like all these "holier than thou" puritans going around trying to save us from ourselves. Next thing you know they want to cover women to save us from too much stimulation :-)

Anahid Hojjati

Monda jan, thanks for the information

by Anahid Hojjati on

Monda jan, thanks. Interesting. I should check the links that you note in your comment.


Anahid jan, on nicotine & CF

by Monda on

Very briefly, nicotine significantly enhances reaction time, attention, memory and overall executive functioning. So, when a substance enhances CF, its removal is problematic.   Check out the ones below for now:   gradworks.umicom/33/18/3318242.html // //

Anahid Hojjati

Monda jan, this is the first I hear or read something like this

by Anahid Hojjati on

Monda jan, can you explain what you wrote in your comment? this is the first time I read that Nicotine has effect on cognitive functions. I have to say that in US the attitude about smoking is sometimes weird. they treat it worst than using drugs. So when I read claims like this, i become skeptical. I feel like big business knows that smoking is bad for them since it affects health of workers, so sometimes they add to their claims against it. About more serious drugs, you don't see same attitude since users of those drugs are mostly out of work force to begin with.


VPK, it's Smoking!

by Monda on

Nicotine is most addictive indeed!

Read on its impacts - physical and psychological. I must say, material published in Europe are more reliable and readable than the ones in the US. And yes of course the additives, helping with consumption, are bad as well. Not as bad as substance itself.

There are even categories of nicotine-related symptoms in the Diagnostic Manuals (DSM III and IV). Implying that on or off the drug, depending on the level of dependance, a person's cognitive functioning varies quite dramatically.

My Name Is Borat

It's like Russian Roulette

by My Name Is Borat on

The best thing to do is to simply not smoke. It can still catch up with and kill you even 20 plus years after you quit.

Plus, at nearly $5 a pack, it's not worth it.


Not2 be an alarmist but Peter Jennings died after smoking again

by Anonymouse on

He had smoked and then quit for years but picked it up again in 2001.  I think if you quit randomly and on and off it is still considered smoking which damages your lungs and body.

It is not that smoking a cigarette a week is ok or not, for some people they can smoke a cartoon a day and live long lives into their 90s and 100s, like some people in Russia or Turkey or Iran or other places that we hear on news.

You just don't know the negative effect of smoking until it hits you.  Even though I have quit I don't know how much damage, if any, I've made that will still harm me.  You just never know.  I think after I quit my doctor once told me I have emphesma for life. He said it won't bother you and the more time passes and you don't smoke it'll get better but it's there.

BTW Ghahremani since you were a dentist, didn't it occur to you that smoking is really bad for oral health for gums and teeth and so on?!  I remember the feeling I got after getting my teeth cleaned, that was one reason to like smoking!  It was like a natural menthol!  The breeze! 

Everything is sacred

Veiled Prophet of Khorasan

The somkeless

by Veiled Prophet of Khorasan on


cigarettes must be regulated. From what I did find out nicotine is not all that dangerous. It is the "other" stuff in cigarettes that is the real danger. I do not know if this claim is true. There needs to be unbiased studies. 

No matter what these devices must be regulated. What I fear is that it will turn into a battle of ideologies and science will be left out. That would be tragic. I really love to see a safe alternative to lighting up.


it was the standing alone outdoors that did it for me too

by Monda on

I enjoy that break from the crowd, being on my own in fresh air, i can't stand big crowds and surely can't stand the restrictive feeling of smoking indoors.

I have quite a few conditions in order to enjoy a cigarette. Which makes me not quite sure which category of smokers I belong to. I can't smoke around children And their mothers (even not breast-feeding ones), I can't smoke in an enclosed space, i.e. doors and car windows shut...), I can't smoke around the elderly, I can't smoke in smoking rooms (including smoke bars, refer back to enclosed space), I can't smoke around my sister or any friends who are ex-smokers -because they always start smoking as soon as I light one up, responsibility is unbearable to me!, can't smoke around good food and around people who are cooking (I have fired quite a few sous-chefs who walked back inside the kitchen smelling like nicotine, serious chefs never smoke during prep or work, if they do I can't eat their food), I still can't smoke in front of my children or their friends (I never smoked during pregnancy, breast-feeding my daughter, her pre-school, ...)

In kindergarten, one day when I was running a circle time in my five year old's class, during "sharing time" my kid announced to all the participants that: her mom used to do drugs! All the 16 pairs of little wide eyes staring at me, I confessed smoking (and inhaling) nicotine in college and before starting a family. One of them said: it's Ok, you're not a bad person, because you were honest and quit doing drugs! Strangely enough, that day I came home and lit a cigarette after 7 years!

Smoked on and off, mostly on, two half cigarettes daily for years... until last year when I picked up again: with all the above-mentioned conditions. Oh and forgot to mention my post-smoking application of perfume habit (can't stand the smell on myself!), until few months ago when our department store no longer dispenses my favorite perfume samples. Now I need to carry in my bag, a giant bottle of facial tonic to clean my face and neck after smoking. That alone will calm my nicotine addiction, I know.

Dear Ghahremani your writing brought back many memories about how conflicted of a relationship I have always had with smoking cigarettes. My dad being a chain-smoker, never gave me the idea that car windows could be opened in freezing winter weather.. I never questioned it either. Or my aunt's smoking at lunch or dinner table. Smoking was considered as "natural" as coloring your hair! How ignorance killed! 

I know the day when I no longer enjoy the second puff of that cigarette, no matter how much fresh air, or solitary time in a party are offered to me- I will only light it for other friends (only those I truly trust and like, that is). 

hamsade ghadimi

electronic cigarettes

by hamsade ghadimi on

as vpk mentioned, a new fad (or at least a new product) that is out there is the electronic cigarettes.  however, one should be wary of claims made by manufacturers of e-cigarettes.  what e-cigarettes manufacturers did not see coming is that tobacco and smoking has become a new responsibility for the fda (2009) and fda will be actually regulating these outfits.  here's a warning from fda on e-cigarettes: //

Jahanshah Javid

Time to stop

by Jahanshah Javid on

I'm not a big cigarette smoker. I usually smoke when I travel and I've been doing a lot of that lately. Stress does not help either.

Usually my lungs quit before my mind does. I just lose interest for months, until I get tempted at a party start smoking again. I can feel it... it's getting time to quit again.

Veiled Prophet of Khorasan

The new

by Veiled Prophet of Khorasan on


fad is the smokeless cigarettes. They do not have a flame; use a heating element to heat up a liquid with nicotine in it. They you inhale the vapor. No smoke; no smell; no fire. I have read it does not have the same damaging effects. 

I tried one and it is not bad! The jury is out whether they are safe but ...


It was the standing alone outdoors that did it for me.

by Anonymouse on

I quit about 12 years ago using patch for 2 weeks.  I was getting tired of being an outcast and having to go outside all the time to smoke.  I started with Zar in Iran and occasional oshnoo and the eclipse oshnoo or Homa when I was a teen and only smoked a cigarette or two to look older and cool!  In America I smoked Marlboro and Kent but like you never menthol.

I remember the last night that I smoked sooo much!  I smoked a few cigarettes while laying down in bed trying to sleep but the anxiety of knowing tomorrow will be my first day of no smoke kept me awake and I kept lighting another one.  It was also a Sunday because I thought it'd be easier to quit while working because I won't have as much "fun" time during the weekend!

After that night I never smoked again but still love the smell and if anyone lights one next to me I'll enjoy it and on occasions I encourage others to light one ;-)

For a complete story of how the tobacco companies made their way into making us all addicted watch The Insider (1999) played by Al Pacino and Russell Crowe. The movie was nominated for seven Oscars and it based on true story.  A fascinating story.

You can watch a trailer here.

Everything is sacred