As an ex-smoker I know how tough it can be to quit even when we are aware of the health risks. If I’m honest the reason I went from 60 cigarettes to zero in my thirties wasn’t because I was afraid of getting lung cancer but rather because I was vacuously vain. I quit because I had started to look older than my peers.
Actually quitting wasn’t that difficult. My previous attempts had failed because I told myself and other people that I was ‘off the smokes’ so my brain was waiting for the moment when I went back on them and I duly obliged. Success came when I firmly told myself and my brain that I don’t smoke, that I hated smoking and that I would never smoke again.
Simply refusing to allow myself to think about or romaticise smoking made it relatively easy to break my 20-year habit.
I hated the weight gain, but I managed to deal with that in time with exercise and diet. I disliked feeling less cool and I missed the ‘boldness’ of smoking but I loved the time gain.
Once smoking was out of my life I not only had more energy but I had more focus and genuinely had more available time. I have definitely achieved much more in the years since I quit smoking than I did in the years during which I smoked.
Its been nearly two decades since I quit so why am I writing about it now? Well strangely I am writing because I went to see Conor Horgan‘s film The Queen of Ireland last night. The link between a film about Ireland’s premier drag queen Pant Bliss and quitting smoking is not immediately obvious so I will explain.
There is a moment in the film where Rory O’Neill reveals that he was a non-smoker at the time of his Pantigate interview but became a smoker again in the immediate aftermath as a consequence of the stress associated with being sued for what he said in that interview.
Hearing that Rory started smoking again bothered me because it seemed a double injustice that his health should suffer as a consequence of calling out homophobia. I am acutely aware that Rory’s health and what he does with his life is none of my business so I hope that he will forgive me for mentioning it given that his revelation promoted me to write this blog post about quitting smoking.
One of the things that I did with the extra time and headspace that I gained from giving up smoking was to go to university and as a consequence I am now a bit of a pain in the ass about telling people about modifiable factors that increase our risk of developing dementia.
Smoking is one of those risk factors.
Current smokers have a 45% higher risk of developing all types of dementia than non-smokers. The more they smoke the higher their risk of developing dementia. It is estimated that approximately 14% of Alzheimer’s Disease cases are potentially attributable to smoking.
The good news is that former smokers are not at increased risk when compared to non-smokers. As a former smoker with a mum currently living with dementia I sincerely hope that is the case.
I also hope that anyone who is currently a smoker values their brain enough to quit.
For more information about brain health visit www.hellobrain.eu
I will be giving a Free talk on Brain Health November 26th in Dublin you can reserve your place here
You can watch Panti’s wonderful Nobel Call speech here