Day Forty One

Days Without a Cigarette: 40.5680555
Days Without Nicotine: 0
Dollars Saved: $91.01
Time Saved: 57 hours, 28 minutes

Today, I was reminded once more to stop bragging about all these unhatched chickens I have. Over the last few days I’ve been pretty impressed by how infrequently I’ve wanted a smoke. Yesterday, I didn’t really think about a cigarette until late in the evening, and even then it was a passing thought more than a craving. Which is why it felt so weird this morning when I realized I’d had two legitimate cravings within an hour of one another.

It wasn’t until after that second one subsided that I thought to myself, “what’s different about today?” and realized I’d forgotten to slap on a nicotine patch this morning. I normally wear them overnight and use yesterday’s patch as a reminder that I need to put on today’s, but the one I wore yesterday wasn’t sticking well, so at some point in the night, I pulled it off, folded it up, and stuck it in a bedside drawer so that my cats wouldn’t get it. Then, when I’m going through my morning ablutions, it totally slipped my mind. But holy shit did my mind catch up fast.

I’ve gotta admit, as much as I’ve known all along that it was coming, it’s depressing to be reminded that I have to quit again. I’ve been putting “Days Without Nicotine: 0” at the top of each entry as a reminder to both of us. As important as the psychological end of this is, there’s still a physical addiction at the core of it and I can’t risk overlooking that.

I have to imagine this is a weak spot for a lot of people. After eight weeks without lighting up a cigarette, it’s gotta be pretty easy to break out the party hats and the sparklers and borrow that “Mission Accomplished” banner from George W. Bush. And to reach the end of all of that only to discover that you’re still as addicted as I realized I was this morning has a very “your princess is in another castle” feel to it. In fact, one of the ways I’ve beaten back temptation is to remind myself that I never want to go through the process of quitting again. It was too miserable to invite back into my life. But realizing I kind of have to do it again anyway is pretty demoralizing.

I’m lucky for this fuck up. I picked up my last box of patches this morning. This is step three, the lowest dose of nicotine. Two weeks on that one and then I get to start moving that “Days Without Nicotine” counter forward. But it was good to be forewarned while there’s still a couple of weeks to go.

When I was still a smoker, I saw people get through programs like this and pick cigarettes back up at the end and it seemed inexplicable. People would say stuff like “Yeah, I was fine when I was taking the Chantix, but as soon as I stopped, I went right back to smoking”, and I didn’t understand that. I figured that once you’d done all this heavy lifting to get over the daily routines of lighting up the momentum should be enough to carry you the rest of the way. But now I can see why it isn’t. I had a feeling this morning like I’d lifted a lot of heavy shit, but all the heaviest stones were still to come. And my arms are tired.

Hopefully the fact that I can see the obstacle will be sufficient to avoid it. But if I get to the end of this road and find that I don’t have enough will power to resist these new nicotine-less cravings, the fallback isn’t to start smoking again, it’s to go buy another box of patches and rethink my strategy for a couple more weeks. And to say ‘fuck’ a lot more. That seems to help.

Day Thirty Nine

Days Without a Cigarette: 38.5458333
Days Without Nicotine: 0
Dollars Saved: $119.16
Time Saved: 54 hours, 36 minutes

It wouldn’t be accurate to say that I miss being a smoker, but it also wouldn’t be accurate to say that I don’t.

I think I hit on the right analogy last night, but maybe you have to be the same kind of hateful bastard that I am for it to make any sense. Imagine that you’d worked the same job for a really long time and there’s a coworker that’s been there the whole time that you fucking hate. He’s just an embodiment of all the things that annoy you about a human, whatever those things might be. And to make the analogy work, he can’t just be annoying. He’s gotta be a genuinely bad person. Like, you’re pretty sure he hits his wife or something.

But you also gotta imagine that he likes you. As much as he annoys you, he never seems to pick up on the fact that you would rather play “edible or not” with the local wild-berries than talk to him, no matter how many times you turn down his invitations.

And now imagine he died. And since I made up a poor wife for this guy just so he could hit her, let’s imagine she gets a bunch of money in a wrongful death settlement. That isn’t part of the analogy exactly, I just felt bad for the theoretical wife and wanted things to end good for her.

Anyway, the point is that you wouldn’t miss the guy exactly. But once in a while you’d be sitting around the break room and you’d think to yourself, “Usually this is the point when Henry would come tell me a racist joke that I’d asked him to stop telling me”, and you’d be kinda sad. But also kinda relieved that he wasn’t there telling you a racist joke.

And like I said, maybe this analogy doesn’t work if you’re less misanthropic than myself. If you attach humanist values to all people, you should miss the asshole guy, and then the whole thing breaks down. But for me, smoking was a boorish, abusive asshole that wouldn’t leave me alone for thirty years. And I don’t not miss him.

Day Thirty Six

Days Without a Cigarette: 35.369444
Days Without Nicotine: 0
Dollars Saved: $102.96
Time Saved: 50 hours, 6 minutes

When I was seventeen years old, my brother spent a year as an exchange student in Japan. A couple of weeks before we was scheduled to ship out, somebody noticed some problem with his paperwork and because of the short notice, he had to go to some state office to take care of it in person. We lived in South Georgia at the time, some five hours from the capital.

So I agree to ride along with him and share a bit of the driving on the ten hour round trip, on the condition that he buys me a pack of cigarettes on the way. It’s not that I needed his money, mind you, I was just still too young to buy them myself. And my nonsmoker (and pretty health conscious) brother wasn’t normally inclined to buy them for me. But in this instance it was either buy my smokes, or make the drive with nothing but country music and gospel stations to keep him company.

Anyway, early afternoon we get to the place in Atlanta. It’s on the fifteenth floor of a skyscraper and our hick asses are pretty impressed with an elevator that goes all the way up to the thirties. So we ride up to the office, he files whatever it was he has to file, and we enter into the ‘sit and wait’ period of the proceedings. He was told to come back in a couple of hours and everything would be ready.

Of course, back in the halcyon days of 1993, buildings like that had areas you could smoke in. So eventually we wound up hanging out at this lounge downstairs, where my brother can look down his nose at my burning cigarette. He’s the type that jogs every morning and goes to the gym every night, so he starts bragging about how much better his stamina is than mine, even though I’ve only been smoking for a few years.

And that gives us the classic formula of a challenge plus two brothers plus two hours to kill. So somehow or another we landed on a bet where we were gonna race one another up the stairs of this building. All thirty-whatever stories. If I made it up first, he had to buy me a pack of cigarettes with his money. If he won, he got to throw away the rest of the pack I had.

Well, I’ll shortcut through the suspense and admit that I wouldn’t be telling you this story if I lost. In fact, my brother never actually made it to the top. I got up there, smoked a cigarette, waited a few minutes, then left a penny, a nickel, and a dime on the top step in case he doubted I actually made it to the all the way. Then I headed back down to meet him. Eventually I found him seven or eight floors down, no longer giving two fucks about any bets.

But I was always that guy. I was always that annoyingly fit smoker. I hiked up mountains while smoking. Really pissed off the gym rat tourists struggling their way up a trail when I pass by them with a cigarette hanging off my lip. When I lived in New York I annoyed the shit out of my friends by always jogging up the stairs when I was leaving the subway station. I’d jog up and wait at the top for them to crest the escalator. And, of course, I’d be smoking a cigarette when they got there.

I bring this all up because a lot of people have asked if I’m starting to see the benefits of quitting in my lung capacity or my stamina. And the truth is that I haven’t. I don’t start coughing when I laugh as often, but other than that, I haven’t noticed any of the health benefits giving up cigarettes is supposed to give me. But that’s not to say they aren’t there. I could probably jog a lot farther now than I could have six weeks ago, I’d just have to jog to find that out so I may never know.

But honestly, just knowing how far I’ve come is reward enough. Quitting cigarettes is a reminder that my will is often stronger than I give it credit for. It’s a reminder that I can still surprise myself. And that beats the hell out of a few more flights of stairs.

Day Thirty Five

Days Without a Cigarette: 34.58333
Days Without Nicotine: 0
Dollars Saved: $92.16
Time Saved: 49 hours

I know this is going to sound silly, but I’m surprised that being a nonsmoker isn’t a bigger part of my life.

I still have three or four cravings a day, but most of them are pleasantly evanescent. I’ll randomly think “I should go outside and have a cigarette”, and then I’ll think “no the fuck I shouldn’t”, and that’s that. Once in a while they linger, but it’s never more than a couple of minutes.

In a sense, I expected that. I didn’t think it would come as quick as it did and I thought the cravings themselves would be worse, but I did anticipate their eventual reduction. I didn’t expect that being a nonsmoker would mean I’d spend a lot of time everyday thinking about not smoking. But it also felt like it would wedge into my personality somehow. Like ‘non smoker’ would become one of my descriptors.

And again, I know how stupid that sounds. I don’t define other people like that. I’ve never thought of ‘nonsmoker’ as somebody else’s personality trait. But I kind of figured it would become one of mine. And largely that’s because being a smoker was part of my personality. It made me part of an exclusive club (or reviled minority, depending on how you wanna look at it). It created camaraderie around the ashtray. It felt in some way representative of my persona. The fact that I was a smoker said “I don’t give a shit what society thinks”, or at least, that’s what it was meant to say. And so in some dumb ass part of my brain that I didn’t fully explore, I figured once I was a nonsmoker I’d give a shit about what society thought.

I thought maybe nonsmoker me might be a jogger. I assumed he’d at least eat more fresh fruits and vegetables. I figured he’d know how to do build wooden stuff and own more ties. But alas, he’s just me. He’s just the same person I was before with a little more money and life expectancy.

The idea that ‘smoker’ was part of my personality was a marketing trick that I fell for. I’d love to think I was too clever to fall for something so patently stupid, but it’s hard to pat yourself on the back for being clever after three decades of paying some corporation to kill you.

Day Thirty

Days Without a Cigarette: 29. 77569444
Days Without Nicotine: 0
Dollars Saved: $65.16
Time Saved: 42 hours, 10 minutes

The decreasing frequency of these posts is probably a good thing. The fact that I have less and less to say about quitting is a good sign that I’m not thinking about it as often.

Since the last time I blogged I’ve passed a couple of important milestones. I’m on an eight week, three step program with the patch, and as of Thursday I moved to step two. I’m taking in 14mg or nicotine per day now as opposed to the 21mg I was taking in for the first four weeks. I started on the smaller patches yesterday and didn’t notice any difference in the strength or frequency of my cravings, which is a good sign.

And regardless of the patch change, I think that four week mark was a pretty big milestone all by itself. I mean, strictly speaking it isn’t. Making it twenty eight days is exactly one day less impressive than making it twenty nine. But I’m allowing my brain to embrace the “nice round number” fallacy in this instance because I need all the milestones I can get. And “four weeks since my last cigarette” sounds pretty fucking impressive. It also means we’ve reached the point where I can (more or less) start measuring in months.

But I think the most important milestone I passed was one that I almost didn’t notice. Last night my wife and I watched a movie where the main character basically chain smoked. This is not a first. I’ve watched several movies with smokers in them over the last four weeks and my diminishing responses to these representations have been a good metric of my progress. For the first couple of days, I didn’t allow myself to watch TV or movies at all for fear of seeing a cigarette. When I finally did dip my toe back in the water of popular entertainment, every time I saw a cigarette I had to clutch the sides of the couch and breath like I was in labor.

That went away pretty quick, but it was replaced with long internal monologues about how awesome it would be to be an actor who could at least theoretically get cast as a smoker. After that subsided, I found myself simply envying the characters that hadn’t made a commitment to quit smoking and got to just do whatever the fuck they wanted with their lungs.

But last night was different. When I saw the character onscreen light up, I wasn’t envious. I didn’t find it making me crave a cigarette. Instead, I just kinda felt sorry for him. My first thought wasn’t how great a mouth full of cancer smoke would be, I thought about all the shit that poor bastard was gonna have to go through to quit. I watched a person smoke a cigarette and thought to myself, “Man, that must suck for you.”

In a lot of ways, that feels like the biggest milestone I’ve crossed. I quit smoking because I didn’t want to smoke anymore. Along the way, I’ve lost track of that from time to time. And that’s no surprise, I suppose. There are only so many times a day you can tell yourself, “No, you can’t have a cigarette no matter how much you beg” without losing track of the fact that deep down you don’t want one. But that thought came to mind unbidden last night.

It’s like all the various voices in my brain are starting to fall into harmony. They’re not there yet and it’s still a pretty awful cacophony inside my head, but you can’t just start to make out the tune they’re going for.

Day Twenty Seven

Days Without a Cigarette: 26.62986111
Days Without Nicotine: 0
Dollars Saved: $43.56 (bought another box of patches)
Time Saved: 37 hours, 43 minutes

The cravings are getting worse.

I noticed that a few days ago, and it seemed to defy logic. A cursory examination of the logic suggested that the further away I got from the last cigarette, the less intense the cravings would be. So I kept expecting them to soften up, and they kept doing the opposite.

But upon reflection, this kind of makes sense. This is, after all, a purely psychological addiction I’m dealing with. I haven’t even started tackling the physical addiction yet. And after nearly four weeks of this shit, I’m just sick of quitting. I’m sick of thinking “I’ll just go out and smoke a… wait… no…” I’m sick of that despondent feeling. I’m sick of sitting alone in a room and arguing with myself. It’s not that the weight is getting heavier, it’s that my arms are getting tired.

What’s more is that the cravings leveled out about a week ago. Up until then, I could offset that fatigue with the fact that is was happening with ever decreasing frequency. Sure, my misery may have ticked up a little bit in those moments, but those moments came less often and thus the overall misery was in remission. But that’s not happening anymore. I’ve gotten to the point that I have about the same number of cravings at about the same times each day. And each time I reach into that same bucket of inspiration to get through it. It makes sense that the bucket would start getting low.

A lot of people told me going in that the first few days were the hardest, or that the first week was the hardest. In a sense, I think they’re right. It would have been a lot easier to fall off the wagon three weeks ago than it would be today. But in a sense they’re wrong. Or, at least, their experience doesn’t match my own. It’s much easier to take it one day at a time when you don’t have twenty-six days of accumulated frustration behind you. When you tell your brain “we just have to make it through this one day” twenty seven times in a row, it starts to realize you’re lying.

Day Twenty Five

Days Without a Cigarette: 24.66597222
Days Without Nicotine: 0
Dollars Saved: $72.25
Time Saved: 34 hours, 56 minutes

I got a tough lesson today in just how little progress I’ve really made.

They say these patches are water proof and that you can wear them overnight and they’ll stick. And sometimes they’re right. But other times they’re not. And I worry a lot about the patches popping off overnight because they’re really dangerous for my cats. The amount of nicotine on even a used patch is plenty to make a cat deathly ill, and I’ve got one that just eats just about any damn piece of trash he can get his paws on.

Now, you have to move your patch around day to day. According to the instructions, you shouldn’t put a nicotine patch back on the same part of your skin for at least seven days. That means that sometimes it’s on my shoulder, sometimes my bicep, sometimes my back. And along the way, I’ve learned which of those places it tends to stick to overnight and which ones it doesn’t. When it’s on one of those spots that isn’t as easy to cling to, I generally take it off overnight. Which is what I did last night.

Technically, you’re not supposed to do that. That being said, a lot of people get really fucked up dreams when they wear a nicotine patch overnight, so even in the little booklet that comes with the patches, it allows for this. It recommends that you leave them on overnight if you can so you don’t wake up dying for a cigarette, but it does concede that if you want, you can take it off overnight.

So when I got up this morning to do my normal morning routine, I just forgot about the damn thing. Normally yesterday’s patch is still hanging off of me somewhere as a reminder, but it wasn’t there today. So I just finished my ablutions and headed to work, and I didn’t even realize I’d forgotten it until eleven o’clock.

At that point, I had a ‘well fuck it’ attitude. I was feeling fine and I had been all morning. I was actually pretty proud of myself. I’d gone almost twelve hours without nicotine at all. And if I could do that, maybe I didn’t really need the patches anymore. Hell, maybe I could save myself the eighty bucks it would cost me to get the rest of the way through their recommended program.

Well, as it happens, that was stupid. And I realized just how stupid it was a couple hours later when a very slight frustration snowballed into apoplectic fury in the blink of an eye and I found myself shouting into an empty room when the microphone wasn’t even on.

I realized right away that I’d made a mistake, so I hauled ass down stairs and slapped on a patch. About thirty minutes later, the anger and frustration started to ebb and I was able to move on and get back to work.

Up until that moment, I thought I was already through the hard part. I knew that at some point I’d stop using the patches and have to go through an additional trial, but I assumed that one would be far easier than the transition away from the psychological habit. And based on my experience today, I’m pretty sure that’s wrong. I’m pretty sure the hardest part is still in the future.

Of course, the nicotine patches account for that. It’s a stair step program that weans you off if you do it right. Starting on Thursday of this week I’m scheduled to start using a smaller patch for two weeks, then an even smaller one for two weeks. By then, hopefully the transition will be significantly easier than what I experienced today. But even significantly easier could still be really fucking hard.

To be clear, if I hadn’t had the patch, I doubt I’d have made it through the afternoon without throwing in the towel and lighting up. Not to shit on what I’ve done so far too thoroughly, but I haven’t quit using nicotine and I haven’t quit smoking, I’ve just quit smoking nicotine. And as herculean as that’s seemed from the inside, it’s really not very much. It’s certainly not the same as quitting.

I’ve joked about how I need to add a little more suspense to this blog. But I think today’s lesson is that I’ve gotten too damn cocky and I need to recognize that the finish line isn’t right around the corner. I need to treat these patches like antibiotics.

All that being said, I did go fourteen hours without nicotine today. Mistake or no, it’s still an accomplishment.

Day Twenty Four

Days Without a Cigarette: 23.6041666
Days Without Nicotine: 0
Dollars Saved: $66.85
Time Saved: 33 hours, 26 minutes

Today’s been a rough one and it’s gonna get rougher.

I feel like I’ve moved into a new phase of quitting . I’d say I ‘leveled up’ to keep with the video game analogy I’ve been using up until now, but that seems wrong. There’s nothing ‘up’ about the phase I just moved into.

So when I first quit, there was this giddy momentum that I had going for me. It was so novel and unexpected and I just kept looking at my hands and saying “crazy how long it’s been since I saw a cigarette there.” The sheer unexpectedness of it was enough to keep it going. And from there, I moved into a phase where each day brought fewer, weaker cravings and it felt like I was in a perpetual state of progress.

But it doesn’t feel like that anymore. As I predicted, “day 24” doesn’t sound any more impressive to my brain than “day 23”. What’s more, going from an average of 2.94 cravings a day to 2.73 doesn’t seem like much either. At this point, I’m just frustrated. I keep having these cravings, knowing that I’m gonna beat them back down, and asking myself “Is this just my life now?”

And, of course, it is. That’s what I’ve signed on to. I’ve talked to plenty of people who quit years or even decades ago that admit to me that they still go through what I was going through this afternoon – this almost painful desire to just smoke a goddamn cigarette and feel normal. And now, every time one of those cravings comes along, I can’t help but think about walking around with this unscratched itch for the rest of my fucking life.

I mean, I know it does get less frequent. And a lot of people who quit smoking 15 or 20 years ago tell me that they never even think about it anymore. But the fact that there’s a non-zero chance I’ll relieve myself of this misery before I’m sixty is cold comfort if it’s any kind of comfort at all.

Day Twenty Three

Days Without a Cigarette: 22.9375
Days Without Nicotine: 0
Dollars Saved: $61.45
Time Saved: 32 hours, 30 minutes

Edit: There are some bad and misleading arguments in this post. After I posted it, a reader followed up and set me straight on a lot of the stuff I said here. I’m keeping the post here because I (a) don’t want it to look like I’m hiding from my mistakes and (b) I want to preserve the conversation where I was talked out of this opinion. But if you read this post, please read the comments section as well, where much of what I say here is refuted.

Yesterday I wrote a post where I calculated how much money I might have saved if I’d quit smoking in an area with higher tobacco taxes. But after chatting with a few of you and reflecting on the post overnight, I want to clarify the point of it. I only did that because I wanted to make the numbers look a bit better for people who might be considering giving up cigarettes. My numbers don’t look very impressive, so I wanted to emphasize that their results would probably be better than mine in terms of money saved.

What I did not intend (and what at least a few of you seemed to take away from it) was to present an argument for greater taxation of cigarettes. While I’ll concede that there are many good arguments for high taxes on tobacco, there are also plenty of good arguments against it, and I feel the latter outweigh the former.

Now, before I dive into any of those arguments, I should concede that my brain is still in “team smoker” mode. As a smoker, I constantly found myself in debates where I was pitted against the anti-smoking argument. My brain has been running the “pro-smoker” confirmation bias filter for thirty years and it’s hard to step away from that. I don’t have a dog in the race anymore, but all the opinions I’ve bothered to formulate on these topics over the years bias towards the smoker’s position. And while I try to account for my biases in every argument, I also recognize that one can only accomplish that task to a certain degree.

So let me start with the arguments in favor of higher tobacco taxes. As near as I can tell, one of those arguments is not that it reduces smoking. Nations and states with higher cigarette taxes do not have lower rates of smokers, as the map below demonstrates. While there is some indication that young people are less likely to start smoking in states with higher tobacco taxes, there’s nothing definitive. And since the overall rate of smokers doesn’t seem to go down faster in those states with the highest taxes, it’s hard to argue that’s doing much more than delaying the onset of smoking. Now, don’t get me wrong, that’s beneficial – but it’s worlds apart from actually reducing the overall number of smokers.

I should note that there is a correlation between high cigarette taxes and low rates of smoking, but not a causal one. For reasons that should be obvious, areas with lower rates of smokers are less likely to elect people who campaign on higher tobacco taxes or to vote directly to increase those taxes. But you can see from the map that even this correlation isn’t particularly strong.

Of course, the other argument in favor of upping those taxes is that smokers create a new burden on the public coffers and thus they should have to disproportionately pay for it. And that makes sense, but it’s not something that we do with other groups of people that engage in unhealthy behavior. We don’t tax people for being overweight or for failing to exercise sufficiently. That doesn’t mean the argument is invalid, but it’s obviously not such a good argument that it’s spilled into other potential uses.

Now, the argument against raising tobacco taxes should be obvious. It’s a regressive tax that disproportionately effects the poor and the mentally ill. If I told you “Hey, I’ve got a great idea for a tax that will really hammer the poor and mentally ill and rich people will scarcely notice it”, I certainly hope that you’d be primed to reject it before I went any farther. In fact, even if there was a strong correlation between lowering the number of smokers and raising the taxes, this fact alone should make us hesitant. Not that we should abandon that effort, of course, but we should demand a damn high reduction before we consider it an overall good.

Look, it’s obvious why politicians love tobacco taxes. You can raise them indefinitely and virtually nobody complains. Even the smokers who are paying them by and large just nod along and say “yeah, I kind of deserve this.” But what we’re effectively doing is driving poor people further into poverty by adding cost to a substance that they’re already addicted to.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy to change my opinion on this. I formulated this argument when I was ‘Team Smoker’, and while it still strikes me as a pretty good argument, I get that my perspective steered my thinking. Feel free to disagree below, and keep in mind that my opinion on these matters has never been more malleable.

Day Twenty Two

Days Without a Cigarette: 21.7041666
Days Without Nicotine: 0
Dollars Saved: $56.02
Time Saved: 31 hours, 45 minutes

A friend of mine in Australia reached out the other day to congratulate me and to comment on this blog. Apparently he’s been following along and was pretty taken aback by the “Dollars Saved” portion of my opening stats. Specifically, like a lot of people, he expected it to be a hell of a lot higher than it is. So I thought I’d take a minute to address that.

First of all, it could be lower. I’m subtracting out the cost of nicotine patches, but I could have gotten them for free. There’s a state hotline you can call that’ll send them to you at no cost, I just didn’t call them in time so I went out and bought some instead. Those suckers are almost forty bucks for a box of fourteen, and I’ve had to buy two of them so far. That’s $39.49 * 2 = $78.98 being subtracted from the total. So without those, my total saved would be $135.00

But even that adjusted amount is gonna seem low to an Australian, and for obvious reasons. I live in a small town in Southern Georgia where a pack of cigarettes costs about $5.40. The last time I was in Sydney, they were running about $25 a pack. And as I understand it, the price has gone up since then.

Of course, even by America’s standard, $5.40/pack is a pretty low price. When I lived in NYC I paid closer to $15, so the amount I’ve saved is only this low because of my timing. I could’ve saved a heck of a lot more in three weeks if I’d elected to quit smoking ten years ago.

So, with all that in mind, I decided to figure up how high that number could be if I hadn’t decided to quit in such a smoker-friendly state. So just to be clear, here’s the calculation as it stands now:

22 * $5.40 = +$118.80
3 * 5.40 = +$16.20 (I smoked a little over a pack a day, so I add another pack per week to my running total)
-(2 * 39.49) = -$78.98
= $56.02

But now let’s take another look at it as though I decided to quit when I was a New Yorker:

25*13.75 (approximately) = $343.75
-(2 * 39.49) (assuming the patches would cost about the same) = -$78.98
= $264.77

Much more impressive, but still not as impressive as it could be. Hell, even that total would probably still seem low to my Australian friend. So now let’s run those numbers one more time from down under. We’ll use the average price for premium cigarettes in Sydney today. According to the first thing that came up on google, that ranges from $28.25 to $33.90, so we’ll go with the middle of that range rounded up to the nearest cent: $31.08. We’ll further imagine we’re in a nation that gives enough of a shit about its residents to ensure they don’t have to spend money on nicotine patches and leave out that subtraction. And I won’t bother showing my work this time, because now I’m just multiplying 31.08 by 25, but the total we get when we do that is…

$777.00

Okay; gotta admit, I had not idea I’d get such a pretty number when I started.

But the point is “mileage may very.” I’m quitting in one of the least expensive places to smoke with one of the most expensive ways of quitting, and I’m still saving money pretty much right away. But for anybody out there thinking of following my lead, it’s probably worth keeping in mind that my “dollars saved” total can safely be considered the minimum.