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Stoptober Special: Don't be a Sucker for Smoking Substitutes

30/09/2013 10:23 BST | Updated 29/11/2013 10:12 GMT

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No one likes a quitter. Especially the type that wears past vices like a badge of dishonour. You know the one. I don't touch drugs, but back in the daze, these nostrils saw more marching action than the Bolivia-Chile border, weren't I so cool and interesting once?

It's hard to say what's more heinous: the 'been there, done it' smugness, or the breathtaking audacity of demonising something while glamorising oneself in the same breath. If you give up something you know is bad and you're glad you gave it up, congratulations on trying to become a better human being. If, on the other hand, you've given up something but keep going misty-eyed about how great it was and oh to relive it again, then, well, you're an idiot.

It's Stoptober. You want to quit smoking for good? Good. But if you know in your irresolute heart that you don't think you can, then do yourself a favour, keep the hell smoking, spare yourself the misery of having to give yourself yet another acceptance speech at the Failure Awards.

Now, smokers only pay heed to proper smokers, you don't have time for all that namby pamby 'I have the occasional Silk Cut on shrove Tuesday' bollocks, so at the risk of sounding like the 'been there, done that' twat, let's just say I used to regularly cut short sex just so I could have the post coital smoke. It doesn't get more pathetic than that.

Six months ago, I just stopped. One day, I'm fielding off the usual queries about how many cigarettes I smoke a day with the stock answer 'all of them', then suddenly overnight, boom, never again. No pain, no irritation, no frustration, no stress. I know I sound like I'm selling something. But I'm actually here to do the opposite: to try put you off the idea of buying something.

Sign up for anything with the word 'replacement' or 'substitute' and you've failed already. It's madness to go into this thinking you're losing something you love and that only way to cope with it is by replacing it with something you don't love at all, but sigh, it does so remind you of what you're missing. Because the moment the rush and novelty wears off, no one is saying 'well done' anymore, and you're having a shit day, nothing will stop you from ripping open a packet of the real thing to suck in all that heavenly glory you've been denying yourself.

Don't believe any idiot who tells you electronic cigarettes are the answer. Make no mistake: they are evil.

But let's put aside for a minute the health hazards, the re-glamorisation of smoking or the fact that having a crutch is a constant reminder that you're crippled in some way. The problem with substitution of any kind is that it only ever works is if the thing you're replacing is gone, no more, dead - an ex-partner, a pair of jeans ripped at the crotch, your kid's hamster. It doesn't work if you can just go and buy the thing you're yearning for in the shop down the road.

Patches, gums, e-cigs, those weird plastic tampon things the nurse at the NHS Stop Smoking Service peddles you when you go to her begging for help, they all do the trick - stick to them and sure, you may well be able to give up (or, pointlessly, cut down), but there's no guarantee for how long. Because all of these do nothing to change your mind about this one simple, dangerous belief: nicotine is awesome.

It's genius really. They lied to us about tobacco, and now that it's become the enemy, suddenly nicotine has got into everyone's good books, a little bit of David helping you defeat the Goliath tobacco. The brainwashing cycle continues.

This whole idea that you have to work backwards to be free of addiction is nonsense. It's like telling a university student on the wrong course that the only way to unlearn the bad lessons is to graduate back into college, then as long as you keep buying the right books to replace the old ones, you can make it back to pre-school one day to finally become innocent and free again.

And how do university kids free themselves from being brainwashed by the system?

They drop out.

Up yours. Done with this crap. I'm out.

Now that's the kind of quitter we can respect.