Matthew Backhouse's "Diary of a Quitter" has made me recall how I gave up smoking over twenty years ago.
His diary entries and the accompanying reader comments reference an array of tools that can be harnessed in the quest to stop smoking. There are nicotine patches, going cold turkey, "smoking cessation drugs" and e-cigarettes.
As someone who started smoking during my first year at Victoria University in 1983, I can attest that none of the above tools featured in my rehabilitation.
I gave up smoking very slowly and very surely as the number of venues in which smoking was permitted was severely reduced. I wasn't even trying to give up. It just became a pragmatic decision.
By the end of my smoking days in the nineties there were only two places I could smoke without being hassled and/or be breaking the law: one was at bars and the other was on the deck outside at home.
It just ended up being far too much trouble. I had to either arrange to go to the pub with like-minded friends or schlep outdoors while my non-smoking housemates frowned upon my nicotine habit.
Eventually smoking became too much bother. After cutting down massively over several years, I simply stopped.
Interestingly, the university hostel where I started this filthy habit is now a reformed institution.
According to its website, "Weir House buildings and grounds are smoke-free". In my day, we smoked up a storm at this same hostel. In some circles, smoking was virtually compulsory there.
But it's not just Weir House that has done a U-turn in this regard. Here are four other venues that have changed their tune.
1. At work: When I started work in 1987, smoking was fully acceptable in the office. I still cringe at the memory of Alan Martin giving me instructions about LV Martin & Son's advertising while I sat at my desk nodding and smoking.
Somehow the fact that I was using a coffee mug as an ashtray makes such recollections all the more hideous. I would empty it only when it was overflowing with butts. Clearly, I was all class.
2. Company cars: Once smoking was outlawed at work, the morning and evening commute through Auckland traffic became key points at which to indulge my vice. Then a company car became part of my remuneration package and even that small pleasure was lost. Boo hoo!
3. Restaurants: When dining out in the early eighties we would smoke before dinner, between courses and after dinner. It was disgusting. One particular evening at the Bengal Tiger in Wellington I recall a woman at an adjacent table expressing displeasure at our wafting smoke. My friend and I muttered about her. We were like: "What is her problem? She's at a restaurant. What does she expect? Of course there's going to be smoke. What a whiner."
4. On planes: Almost unbelievably, smoking used to be permitted on commercial flights. Passengers could choose either smoking or nonsmoking seats. How weird was that?
Of course, the smoke had no idea in which direction it was supposed to waft. It was a joke. My first long-haul flight as a smoker was from Auckland to Hong Kong. Upon the advice of my travelling companion, we booked nonsmoking seats so we didn't have to breathe through other people's smoke. We simply walked to the back of the aircraft and loitered there whenever we wanted to light up. I know, what were we like?
So, bearing all that in mind, instead of frowning upon people who cluster outside doorways furiously smoking, perhaps we should try to empathise with them. They are fast running out of places in which it is permitted to indulge. I know the feeling.