It’s bizarre. As I said in my last post, I recently gave up smoking (13 weeks on Thursday). I'd smoked for nearly 30 years, although I had given up for periods ranging from 2-4 weeks, this is definitely the longest length of time.
So why give up now? I'd been wanting to for some time, but kept putting it off (as most addicts do), and then, thirteen weeks ago, I got sick, to the extent that I was faced with the decision of 'smoke or breathe'. I chose the latter.
Now for those that don't know, the most addictive 'element' of smoking is nicotine. And all the research that I've done says that it takes the body between four days and two weeks to purge itself of the nicotine. Five days after I stopped I was admitted to hospital, where I remained until eleven days after I stopped, so I was actually in hospital during the period that I should have been experiencing the worst withdrawals, so I missed them.
However, that didn't stop me from having the occasional craving. What was odd was that, although I'd smoked 20+ cigarettes a day for many years, the cravings that I actually got were for cigars, which I would sometimes smoke on high days and holidays. But, these cravings were never that intense and I never acted on them.
So why, having had occasional cravings for the first eleven weeks have the cravings for nicotine been so great in the last two weeks. Not just that, but these have been cravings for any format of nicotine, pipe, cigar or cigarette. Without wishing to appear smug, I can also report that I haven't acted on these cravings whilst awake (I have dreamt most nights in the last two weeks that I've been smoking and woken up feeling guilty).
One thing that did make me laugh in my research is that 8 hours after giving up smoking, a person’s chances of having a heart attack are reduced. Just as well I gave up then.
Now, as you may or may not be aware that the Government in this country introduced a smoking ban in all public building on July 1st 2007 and it’s also reported in many papers that hospitals have reported a fall in the number of heart attack cases since the ban. However, there are no figures to confirm or deny that the people that would have had MIs have died of pneumonia because they now have to stand outside in all weathers to have a cigarette.
It has also given Nanny, as the current Government is affectionately known, the opportunity to introduce more people to keep an eye on the general public and report back.
For example, in Tunbridge Wells we have the litter wardens, who issue fixed penalties to people who dispose of litter anywhere other than bins, including cigarette ends, and hence their nickname of 'Butt Nazis'. They are employed by the council, and generally seem to be the type of people who are too stupid to ask 'Do ya want fries with that?' or to whom English is either a third, or even fourth, language.
Whilst I agree that something needs to be done to improve the environment, I don't think that this is the solution. I would imagine that these people are on minimum wage, but can get a performance related bonus, ie. the more tickets issued the more they will be paid. This leaves the system open to abuse. However, at least we were not the town where the self-employed decorator was issued a fixed penalty this week whilst having a cigarette in his own van because the warden decided that he had broken the law by smoking in his place of work.
Personally, I would have used the money to buy more dustbins and ash bins. One off cost, minimal upkeep, cheaper than a warden. However, there would still be people who would litter, even with more receptacles. Simple. Traffic wardens are already 'double-hatting' alongside the litter wardens, so pay them a little more and get rid of the waste of wages that are the litter wardens. Or better still, there has been talk recently of those on benefits having to do community work to carry on receiving those benefits. Why not have them 'litter sweep' their local area.
However, I don't think that this will ever happen. Why not? It’s all to do with money. If you do just buy more bins there is not the on-going revenue coming in that there is by having the litter wardens.
And why is this so important? The reports claim that since the smoking ban was introduced, more than 400,000 people have given up. If one imagines that each of those people smoked 20 cigarettes a day, then there are 400,000 less packets of cigarettes being sold daily, which is 146 million less packets being sold each year. Bearing in mind that the tax on a packet of cigarettes is about £3.27, that means that the Government are receiving about £477.5m less each year in tax and they have to make up this shortfall somehow.
In the meantime, I shall ignore the cravings and promise not to turn into one of those 'holier than thou' ex-smokers. Why? Cos I could just go for a ciggie at the mo.