quit smoking cold turkey Japan sign

Giving up smoking using your willpower. This article discusses how to quit smoking the cold turkey method. I will also discuss some of the differences in attitudes towards smokers in the West and in Japan. 

Currently I don’t smoke, but I have done so several times in the past. I’ve had to learn for myself the best way to quit.  The ‘quit smoking cold turkey way’ has been the most effective method for me.

The Cold Turkey method means that you give up smoking completely and abruptly. It may also mean you give up without the aids of nicotine patches, gum, or other drugs and simply use willpower. It is the hardest way to give up smoking, but can be the quickest method.

Risks of quitting smoking cold turkey

There are some risks attached to the cold turkey method and it is up to the reader to acknowledge and assess whether the risks are worth it for them.

Firstly, the cold turkey methods comes with a higher risk of failure. The adjustment phase can be very challenging and the withdrawal symptoms intense, especially if you are a long-term smoker.

Irritability

Another factor is that the withdrawal symptoms can be more intense making you more edgy, prone to irritability and generally an asshole all round.

I remember one time, in my early 20s, I was doing a van driving job at the time that I was quitting cold turkey. The job already had a small degree of stress, which combined with quitting smoking, made me much more short-tempered towards my co-workers. I actually flipped one of them off. Not good.

If you need to be ‘on your game’, or focused. Or if you have some responsibilities or important deadlines, then quitting smoking may be too hard and the likelihood of failure greater. It helps to find a time when life is relatively stable when you do it. For example, one of the best times is actually around the New Year during holiday time, when work is usually quieter for many people.

Prepare yourself mentally

In order to make the cold turkey approach work, it requires some mental preparation before you commence. If you use the ‘News Years resolution’ approach – i.e. you decide on New Years day that you’re going to quit smoking, but without any other preparation. It is more of a whim and will pretty much fail.

Usually, when I embark on the cold turkey stage, I have already been building up to it for weeks prior and usually I reach the peak moment, when I have had enough and I want a better life for myself. Then I can begin.

Essentially, I need to reach a peak mental-motivation stage before I begin. It helps to spend the days and weeks preceding the commencement of your ‘quitting smoking cold turkey’, contemplating and considering just why you need to quit smoking. This will help you succeed.

Exacerbation of pre-existing illnesses

This is a risk, and I would advise anyone going cold turkey to consider this carefully. Some illnesses can be exacerbated with quitting smoking. Perhaps it is due to the stress that qutting smoking puts on your system.

Colitis and Smoking

For example, ulcerative colitis is a disease that curiously, has been observed to suppress colitis. Yet, when sufferers quit, it can bring on a relapse. It is unclear why, but it could be that the stress that the body goes under after quitting smoking can be enough to create a relapse.

In this case, I may consider advising a sufferer not to quit cold turkey and instead to cut down gradually or moderate their smoking over a longer period of time. It does no good to shock the body if it is overly-sensitive.

Quitting smoking and colitis relapses

Just to add, I suffer from this illness. When I was in my early twenties, I did have one relapse that coincided with quitting smoking. However, throughout my 30s, I smoked and quit and smoked and quit a few times, utilizing the cold turkey approach and have not had a relapse when I did so.

With a disease like colitis, it really is different for everyone, so I would suggest a gentle approach to quit smoking. And I know that this may sound crazy, in some cases, if you believe that smoking protects you from a relapse, that it may even be an idea to keep smoking! However, I would suggest switching to natural tobacco (rolls ups) and avoiding the processed chemicals in normal cigarettes. Also to smoke moderately.

Quitting smoking cold turkey when your health is not optimal

If you are not in the best of conditions e.g you are overweight, never exercise, or you have other illnesses, I would have to say, don’t do the cold turkey approach. It can be a hard shock on the body and if you are not very robust, it can exacerbate any health conditions you may have.

Alternatively it is best to take a moderate and gradual cutting-down approach. Gradually start to increase the amount of exercise you do. Improve your diet and gradually cut down on smoking and drinking. It may also help to use aids like nicotine patches.

Whilst doing this, it is a good time to incorporate new healthy habits and working on yourself mentally. Eventually, after a few weeks or months of doing this, you body will be in a stronger and healthier condition. And then you may be in a good position to try the ‘cold turkey approach’

End of Risks

I felt it was important to discuss these risk of going cold turkey first. Next, I’ll look at some differences in how smokers are perceived in the West compared to Japan. In short, if you smoke in the West, you are evil scum. In Japan, you are a heavenly saint. And just to think, people in the West see Japan as a peculiar country. Where’s that mirror?


Who’s a bad dog?

There’s this big trend against smoking in Western countries. In a nutshell – if you smoke, you are the devil. You are worse than a certain notorious moustached gentleman from the 1930s.

If you smoke you’re poisoning the air of the people around you. You are a murderer.

No more can you smoke inside. You must go outside in the cold biting winter and smoke outside. You are put on display to all passers-by, like a dog kicked out of the house for soiling the floor. That is what you have become – a filthy dog. Get out on the street, you filthy dog!

East versus West attitudes to smokers

It’s different in Japan. Smokers are treated like Gods. Perhaps that’s an exaggeration, but compared to the West, they are not seen as evil. In fact, smokers are accommodated to fulfil their habit, which is quite the opposite to dogs. And as we all know – ‘dog’ spelt backwards is ‘God’. In the West you are a dirty dog. In comparison, smokers in Japan are seen as Gods.

Japan loves smokers

It’s actually not allowed to smoke outside, except in special designated areas. In large areas like Shibuya, you can see the smoking zones – where crowds of smoking brethren enjoy each other’s exhalations, sharing in unity their blissful camaraderie. A smoky, stinky patch of ground.

Also, a lot of cafes will have smoking sections. I have been in some coffee shops where the smoking areas are bigger than the non-smoking areas. And they are encased in special glass to protect them from those hideous non-smokers.

However, these smoking areas are pretty smoky. Even for me when I was a smoker, I found the air just too smokey for me to sit in. It’s one thing to smoke. But I don’t want all my clothes and hair to stink of it. I suppose, I’m still a soft-core smoker at heart.

Smoking cubicles

In one Japanese hotel I stayed at, they had a smoking cubical inside. It had glass windows so there was an element of looking like a zoo animal on display. On the other hand, no expense was spared on it. It was manufactured with some kind of air filter system which immediately sucked all the noxious tobacco gases away and dispelled it to – who knows where? Perhaps it was ventilated outside to poison all those non-smokers walking around as punishment for their healthy living practices. Serves them right.

I wrote about a Japanese person I observed in one of these cubicles. He was probably one of the most charismatic people I had encountered. And he was a smoker.

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I’m probably not selling the idea of quitting smoking too well here… Oh well.

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In Japan, they haven’t gone the way of Western countries yet, but they are fairly respectful of other people. Smokers are mindful of upsetting people around them with their smoke.

For example, I saw a sign aimed at smokers to be considerate about holding their cigarettes at waist height as they may risk burning children as they walked around. Basically hold your cigarettes up high with pride. And nowhere in that poster, did it tell a person to quit cigarettes. Shame I didn’t take a picture of the poster.

X-rated

In the West, it’s different. The last couple of decades has seen a huge eradication effect on smoking and smokers. I’ve heard it’s more extreme in the USA, but in the UK, cigarette boxes have pictures of corpses on them – the kind of images that should be X-rated and worse than the stuff you find in 18+ horror movies. Does anyone wonder what happens if a child picks a box off the floor or lying on a table and sees these pictures? The trauma?

No…? I suppose you can call that collateral damage in the war against smokers.

Cigarette boxes are not allowed to be shown on display in shops so if you want to buy cigarettes, it makes buying them an awkward and farcical process. For this reason it is better to buy them from small off-licences, where the shop keepers are less ridiculous about not letting you see what they actually have in stock.

This is unlike Japan, where you can buy them in vending machines. But then again you can buy porn in vending machines over there, so maybe that’s not a good thing. Or perhaps it is.

Where is JCVD’s Time Cop when you need him?

Recently, they passed a law saying that it is illegal to smoke with someone under the age of 16 in your car. This is interesting, because if this law had been passed 30 years ago, my mother would have been guilty of breaking the law. She always smoked in the car with me all the times, she drove me to school as we lived in the desolate Shropshire countryside, miles away from anywhere. Looking back, I wonder if my school uniform smelt of tobacco? I should note, I was often late to school. I wonder what kind of impression I must have given. Late and smelling of tobacco. Perhaps this is a good law to pass.

The war against smoking

But going back to the West’s war on smoking. Because that is what it is. An unofficial war against smoking. Even most diseases seem to be blamed on smoking. Doctors will routinely ask you if you smoke. Dentists also.

And if you tell them ‘yes’, …oh dear. You can almost see the condemnation in their eyes. You are a smoker, you are evil. Get out of my clinic. “Nurse. Call security”.

It’s still your choice

I just think that if you are a smoker, well, that is your lifestyle choice and sure you are probably aware that it’s evil and bad for your health and of course for all those innocent people you are passively hurting, and all that, but I don’t think you need the extra condemnation every time you go to the dentist or doctor.

I mean if I said yes to that question ‘ “do you smoke?”, then it follows – I will be told that my cavities are caused by smoking as well as the evil sugar. But if I say ‘no’ to that question, than it’s only the evil sugar that causing it, which I suppose is less of a condemnation.

Condemnation

And then I wonder about this quote:

“The lady doth protest too much, methinks.”

Shakespeare’s quote from Hamlet, does seem to fit. Whenever I find the government going overboard with pushing a new health objective on the population, then my spidey-sense stats kicking in.

It almost makes me want to start smoking just to make a point of non-compliance.

Perhaps I’m exaggerating. But it just seems the world has such a thing about smokers and smoking these days (except for the Japanese). And yes, smoking is bad for your health. It is linked to lung cancer and COPD and can be  a contributory factor in other diseases.  Also, you’ll be a lot healthier if you don’t smoke. You will smell better, your skin will look clearer, you will have more energy and save a fortune.

Cool?

The only downside, is you will look less cooler.  Clint Eastwood’s coolness was multiplied by a factor of 10 every time he put a cigar in his mouth. The same for Sean Connery when he smoked in his early James Bond movies.

Here are some examples:

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Condemnation, Tried here on the Stand

And if you are a smoker who feels unfairly treated by society. Here is Depeche Mode’s song ‘Condemnation’ to make you feel a little less like the dirty filthy smoking dog that you are. Only joking:

Addiction versus moderation

But putting these movie characters aside, cigarettes are addictive, they are expensive, they’re generally bad for your health and they make you smell. Also they contain lots of strange additives designed to burn the tobacco too quickly and hook you to them.

I wonder if it are those additives that are cancer causing?

Additives and manipulation

It is well known that the evil tobacco companies put in extra additives and chemicals into regular cigarettes. These additives make the cigarettes burn more quickly and are also addictive. They make you want to smoke more, which in turn increases your cigarette consumption, which in turn increases your risk of cancer.

And if the UK government is so against cigarettes, then why don’t they forgo the money in tax they get from cigarettes, which are seriously overpriced. How about they donated all that extra tax income to a cancer charity instead? Never going to happen. Hypocrites. Basically, they just want their cut.

Hence, this is a good reason to quit smoking cold turkey. Don’t be a pawn to this game run by big business and the government. Break your addiction. Take the red pill.

Healthy Smoking

If you smoke excessively – that is 10-20 a day, then it’s a good idea to cut down to less than 5 or to quit. I’m not against cigarettes per-se. They can be a great way of relieving stress and even making relationships. Some of the coolest and spirituality alert people I have met have smoked moderately – say around a couple a day.

One of my Tai Chi teachers, a lady in her 60s, and in good health and fitness allowed herself the odd one now and again. I thought her approach was pretty opened-minded and more balanced then someone who is completely obsessed with healthy living to the extent they are bordering on neuroticism. She would only smoke natural rolling tobacco.

Some cultural historical examples of moderate smoking

I think when smoking is practiced in moderation, then it can be beneficial.

For example, we know of the Victorians who after supper, all the men would retreat to the smoking room to talk ‘men talk’. I suppose the women would have to clear up the dishes.

Some people even wear special smoking jackets.

And then there is the Native American smoking ritual.

We hear of the old person living to the age of 90 who smokes. Well, I don’t know the details, but I suspect they smoked moderately and were probably healthier in other aspects of their life to balance.

Control

It is when cigarettes start to control you is when you have a problem. I have a family members who absolutely could never give up. She’s smoked 20-40 a day for over 40 years and when you smoke this much for years, it really will impact on your health. In fact, it will always be a major block to being healthy.

You cannot even consider to become fitter or healthier such as starting a gym practice or sport without at least giving some consideration to quitting smoking. And if smoking is something you can’t envision giving up, then you are increasing the chances you are going to have a predominately unhealthy lifestyle.


Let’s quit those evil filthy cigarettes now

I think up to now,  I may have painting a somewhat positive picture of smoking in general. Well, it’s because I don’t have a strong emotional aversion to smoking. I accept people choose to smoke. I don’t condemn. In fact, I can understand the attraction.

But it is a habit that you should always control. Never let nicotine or the tobacco or advertising companies control it for you. For this reason, you need to be able to quit whenever you want.

Also, a smoking addiction or habit restricts your life. Is a serious waste of money (taxes) and doesn’t help your health. And yes, it can lead to serious illness. Worse of all, it makes you smell bad.

No more heroes anymore

Also the glory days of smoking are long behind us. No longer can you smoke on planes, in casinos like James Bond or sitting at your work desk. Heck you can’t even smoke in hospitals anymore.

No longer can you smoke cigars in public without getting some complaints about the strong smell. Neither can you chew tobacco and spit on mangy dogs like Clint Eastwood does. If you do, you are consigned to the outside. You are the dog.

So let’s get to talking about quitting. Next, I’ll go over the ‘quitting smoking cold turkey’ process.

Quit smoking cold turkey process

As I mentioned at the beginning, I don’t smoke. But I have done in the past. Occasionally, I have had periods when I did smoke and then when I feel the time to stop comes, then I quit. I have become quite practiced at quitting cigarettes. So for this reason, I thought I’d share my thoughts about quitting cold turkey.

I believe quitting cold turkey is the best way. Here I will explain the process I follow:

Stage 1

Mentally prepare yourself. This process may be days, weeks, even months. Don’t just decide one day on a whim to quit and then do it. Quitting effectively involves a process of thinking and preparing yourself mentally, usually for weeks beforehand about doing so. Quitting smoking also involves several stages.

Find a motivation to quit

Firstly it is about finding a motivation.

For example, when I was a young man the motivation to make myself fresher and smell better so I could a get a girlfriend was a strong motivation for me to quit then. Nowadays that doesn’t work because I’m Married with Children. Just like Al Bundy.

Today it is more about envisioning myself being, fitter and healthier and going to the gym to become a better version of myself. As I start to create a new self-image for myself, the whole image of me smoking is no longer congruent with the identity I am creating for myself. So in order to create this new identity for myself, I have to quit.

Another good reason is to avoid serious illness. Reducing your cancer risk is a great motivation to quit, especially if you have family.

Or maybe you don’t want to be a pawn to the tobacco industry anymore.

Whatever your motivation, consider it carefully. Even write it down somewhere and carry it with you. Remind yourself of that motivation everytime you feel those cravings kicking in.

Stage 2 – stopping

Just do it. Set a day. Take your last rites (e.g. smoke as much as you want the day or days before). Set a date and on that date, the quitting smoking process starts.

Make sure you have no tobacco in the house. Sometimes, it is best to pick a day when it is inconvenient to smoke. Perhaps if you are travelling, or when you have a cold. Actually the best, is if you have a cold. You won’t want to smoke then and by the time you are over the cold, you will have gone through 2 or 3 days, thus completing your first threshold, which I will discuss shortly.

Stage 3 – staying motivated.

Suffice to say, if you have any stresses going on during this period, you will find it very difficult to quit. Work and family stresses are very hard and can easily send you back to the evil nicotine

You need to find a substitute for smoking. The best is exercise – e.g. going for walks, meditation tai chi, or qigong helps. Develop the practice days or weeks before you quit. It will help you get through the withdrawal phase.

Also, avoid any triggers, like going to the pub and drinking. And all the time, when you feel your will-power faltering and these cravings coming – remind yourself over and over again why you are quitting.

It helps to write down why you are quitting and the better person you want to become on the notes in your smartphone and re-read it frequently throughout the day.

Say you want to be in good health. You want to take power over your life. You don’t want to be a slave to the government taxes and the tobacco companies – whatever your motivation. Pull out that piece of paper or note on your smartphone and remind yourself, why you are doing this.

The quit smoking cold turkey thresholds

To give up smoking cold turkey, you must pass these thresholds:

  • First, you must go one day without smoking.
  • Then, you must make it to three days without smoking.
  • Then one week
  • Then 3 weeks

Once you have passed these thresholds, you pretty much have quit.

Understandably the first 3 days and the first week are the hardest. You will be tempted to break it in those first three days. If you do, then you will have to start again from the beginning. If you still can’t quit, then maybe you are just not mentally ready to quit yet. Or perhaps there is just too much going on in your life. In which case, you must need to go back to Stage 1 and spend more time mentally preparing yourself for quitting.

What about vaping?

It’s the new big trend and there are a lot of vaping shops around. I don’t wish to be a bummer on these new entrepreneurs. But I don’t see vaping as a good alternative. Firstly it just perfumed smoke, so after the initial novelty has worn, it doesn’t really fill the same effect as nicotine from smoking does.

Also I noticed that some vapers tend to be less people-conscious than actual smokers. Smokers have to be more considerate these days about where they blow their smoke. Usually they move off into a corner somewhere. Vapers don’t seem to care and I’ve walked past people vaping on the path and even sitting inside buildings only to take a big breath of their vaping fumes, which I don’t particular want to breathe in, no matter how rosy if is. I don’t want to inhale someone else’s breath.

Also, don’t vaping shops benefit from people continuing to vape? If you vaped once then quit, well, wouldn’t their business suffer. So from their perspective, they don’t really want you to quit. They want you to be a vaper. So instead of smelling like smoke, you smell like roses.

Which reminds me of that quote from the movie ‘Withnail and I’, where the drunkard Withnail and his friend go to a grotty 1960’s Camden pub. Withnail’s friend had to wash his clothes with perfume. Irish Paddy (from Sharpe) shouts at them:

“Ponce… Perfumed Ponce!

Or even better, here’s a video:

By the way, for those unfamiliar, the word “ponce” is a homophobic insult. Withnail and I are not gay. They are out-of-work actors, high on drink and drugs in 1960’s London.

One of the great things about living near Camden Town is that this kind of thing happens every single day. Well, that’s an exaggeration, but there was this one time there I got called a c**t.

Nicotine patches.

I can’t give my opinion on them. Never used them. If they work – fine. But otherwise, I’m not sure how you can break your addiction to nicotine if you’re still taking a small dose of it through a patch. Also, I feel it’s a way for the pharmaceutical companies to get in on the smoking action. I think they’re kind of evil enough already.

Ear acupuncture

As an acupuncturist, I have used the 5 point NADA protocol that is supposed to be good for dealing with addiction. And I have met with several people who said acupuncture really helped them to quit.

To recap: Get past the thresholds

Understand, that the initial withdrawal is challenging and will last a few days, but each day you break the hold, you will get stronger and have more resolve. Eventually you will pass through the break point. This is where you won’t want to smoke anymore. It may be three days, a week or even three weeks till you get that feeling. But once you get it, that is it – you are well on your way to quitting.

For a few weeks, the thought of smoking will creep back to you. Especially when you are tired or stressed. Let those thoughts float away. As the days pass, those thoughts will become weaker until eventually a day will come when you don’t have any desire to smoke anymore.

At this point, then you have quit cigarettes!

Find what works for you

And just to add. The quit smoking cold turkey approach is what worked for me. It may be effective for you too.

On the other hand, you may strongly disagree with me regarding my thoughts about nicotine patches or vaping. That’s fine. Vaping and nicotine patches may be great for you. By all means try any approach. We are all different and have different motivations and drives. The most important thing is to quit smoking as relatively comfortably as possible and to be able to move on to your new healthier life.

As a reformed ex-smoker

As a non-smoker myself, I do get annoyed when I breathe in other people’s smoke especially if I am walking with my son behind a smoker. Also I do a feel a slight aversion at times when I see people outside a pub puffing away.

On the other hand, I remind myself, that I too was one of them and at the time, got plenty satisfaction from it. And I was equally as obnoxious as a smoker. I frequently enjoyed blowing smoke in the direction of all those nasty do-gooder non-smokers. How dare they be so healthy! Only joking.

I am also aware, that I may indulge again sometime in the future, although if I do, I don’t think it will be long-term habit as generally I prefer myself as a non-smoker.

I think freeing yourself of addictions is worthwhile. Anything that exerts a control over you – e.g. nicotine, alcohol, drugs, sugary food or sex, should be discouraged if we want to take control of our lives. The benefits of having a healthy life and not feeling the kind of heaviness that smoking brings is also worthwhile.

Not ready to quit yet? – Some product endorsements

And just in case you are not yet convinced about the benefits of quitting smoking cold turkey. Or perhaps you are not ready to give up smoking just yet.

Well, here are some affiliate product endorsements to consider before you take the cold turkey plunge.

Amazon basically told me that if I don’t sell something soon, they will shut down my affiliate account. So here goes.

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Bond, James Bond

How about this James Bond style tobacco case: Better than a paper box with warnings written in bold black font – “If you smoke, You will die MotherF***er”

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Clint Eastwood – the man with no name

Or this Clint Eastwood inspired poncho. Horse and hat not included.

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I was going to put some cigars here, but apparently, Amazon doesn’t allow sales of tobacco products on their sites. Prudes.

So instead I found the next best thing. Here are some cigar shaped dog chews. Goes well with the poncho. And better for your health than actual cigars. Plus you can also treat your dog.

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Cary Grant

Or if you really want to impress, you can’t go wrong with this stylish smoking jacket. Perfect for when you want to retire to the smoking room.

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And I promise that if you use any of these products in public, you will not look stupid. (Fingers crossed).

… Perhaps it is better if Amazon shuts down my affiliate account.


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