Russell Blackstock is a senior reporter at the Herald on Sunday.

Russell Blackstock: Grip of the demon weed

Megan Charan blew a 7 on the smokalyser. Photo / Doug Sherring
Megan Charan blew a 7 on the smokalyser. Photo / Doug Sherring

As I thrust a device called a smokalyser into my mouth and start to blow, I have few real concerns about the results.

After all, I am only a 12-a-day junkie and a number of my colleagues who puff a lot more than that had barely blown over a 6 on the fag-o-meter, supplied by the Heart Foundation and Auckland DHB.

Six is the magic number you have to reach to prove you are indeed a serious smoker. The smokalyser measures the levels of carbon monoxide on your breath.

Administrator Megan Charan smokes 15 a day and barely blew 7ppm. She was delighted.

"I was expecting a lot higher than that," she beamed, before handing the machine to yours truly.

I am trying to quit the demon weed by joining the Herald team entering the nationwide Wero Challenge. I was sure I would score below Megan, as I don't puff as many cigs as she does.

I nearly keeled over when the score came back as a whopping 25. It blew away everyone else on the team's efforts. It began to sink in I might have a little problem. I might not be that heavy a smoker, but time is clearly taking its toll.

It all started about 30 years ago in my native Glasgow, with a packet of 10 Benson & Hedges.

I had no idea I was setting up an addiction that would have me in a vice-like grip for the next three decades and more. The weekly pack of 10 soon became a daily purchase.

Within months, I had graduated to packs of 20, and smoking suddenly seemed as natural as breathing.

Even though I was now a 20-a-day man, I never really thought I was hooked.

In between times, I did manage to stop. One smoke-free stint even lasted for six years.

I vividly recall the day I picked it up again. I even fooled myself into thinking I had done it strictly on doctors' orders.

A chest infection unrelated to smoking sent me to the quacks in the early 1990s. I told my GP I'd stopped puffing on the fags years back but did enjoy an occasional cigar in the pub.

When the doc discovered I was inhaling the cigar smoke, she jokingly advised I would be better off on the cigarettes. Stupidly, I took this as a green light to start again and I've been back on the hamster wheel since.

So, next Saturday night I will be furiously dragging on what I hope will be the last cigs I'll ever touch. But I know come Sunday morning, the cravings will be attacking me in waves.

Cold turkey beckons and all I have is an e-cigarette to get me over the worst. Perhaps it is time to pray.

- Herald on Sunday

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Russell Blackstock is a senior reporter at the Herald on Sunday.

Russell Blackstock is a senior reporter at the Herald on Sunday, mainly covering education, events and campaigns. The Scotsman arrived in New Zealand in 2008 following a 10-year stint on the features desk at The Sun. Before that he was with Scotland's best-selling newspaper the Sunday Mail and has contributed to the Sunday Mirror and Daily Express. Blackstock joined the Herald on Sunday in 2011 after four years at the award-winning Mountain Scene newspaper in Queenstown, including a spell as editor.

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