Tuesday, May 16, 2006

loosen up on loosies

I've smoked on average half a pack a day for at least 20 years. I know this isn't good, and for the past six years I've been trying to quit. The patch didn't work for me. I don't like gum. I managed to quit for five months taking Wellbutrin, an antidepressant, but restarted. Trying again later with Wellbutrin SR, the sustained-release version, I went insane – I began raging all the time. Everything made me angry, and I really enjoyed being angry. I stopped taking it after less than a week. (Obviously, it's not good to take antidepressants if you're not depressed. The first round may have worked not just because it was a different formulation, but because I was also under a great deal of stress at the time.)

These days I know I have lung damage. Last year I measured my O2 sat. and got 98%, rather than the 99 or 100 I usually got just three years ago. My chest hurts if I smoke more than half a pack. So I'm running scared right now, but addiction has me.

The thing that does help is simply cutting back. I can be content with 4 or 5, and at times have gotten down to one or two a day.

I learned this because of two grocery stores in my area that sold individual cigarettes, sometimes called loosies. You buy just one or two instead of a pack of twenty. They cost anywhere from 35 to 50 cents each. I spent the same amount of cigarette money per day, but the health gain of smoking 4 or 5 rather than 10 was worth it.

About eight years ago, California made it illegal to sell loosies. This was to prevent children from buying cigarettes. The reasoning was that kids don't have enough money to buy a whole pack, but they can spend 25 to 40 cents on a single cigarette, and this will get them started. However, these days $4.50 for a pack is NOTHING for a kid who wants to get them. The average weekly allowance in 2000 for 9-14 year olds was over $20 and by now I'm sure that's gone up. And kids don't need to buy singles; they swipe their parents' cigs, or get them from friends or siblings. It's already illegal to sell cigarettes, loose or not, to minors, so there's no purpose behind having an extra layer of law. Except for keeping people who are already addicted.

One of the groceries complied immediately with the law; the other didn't. And a few weeks ago that grocery got caught. Now I'm back up to my usual half a pack a day, my lungs feel crappy, and I have a pack of cigarettes calling me begging to be smoked. And I listen. Yeah, I'm stupid, but I'm also addicted.

It would really help if the law was changed back to legalize loosies.

Here's a couple articles on this:
California Aggie - Mike Giardina
SF Bayview - Carol McGruder

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