How I Quit Smoking: The Story of a Heavy Smoker

Updated on March 12, 2018
Paul Kuehn profile image

Paul is a retired American expat living in Thailand. Besides being an English teacher and translator, Paul likes languages and most sports.

My Journey With Smoking

Giving up cigarettes is one of the most successful things I have ever done in my life. Prior to June of 1995, I thought I would be hooked on nicotine and cigarettes until the end of my life. Smoking seemed like such a necessary and permanent habit—just like eating and sleeping. How could I stop after 28 years?

Well, I did quit and begin the third chapter of my life. In this article I recollect my early life before starting to smoke, life as a smoker, how and why I quit smoking, and my current life as an ex-smoker.

Quit Smoking


Life Before Smoking

Although I was born and grew up in the family of a smoker, I never had an interest or desire to smoke when I was young. My dad was a smoker, but he rarely smoked in the house in front of my sisters and me. My mother never smoked, and although many of my uncles and aunts smoked, I never saw them that much. I guess you can say that I was mostly in a non-smoking environment through the end of high school. There were kids in high school who did smoke, but I never hung out with them. After I went away to college, I never really lived or associated that much with smoking friends. There was absolutely no peer pressure or temptation for me to get started smoking.

Why And How I Started to Smoke

I started smoking in June of 1967 when I was taking Navy basic training. During our nine weeks of training, recruits had very little free time during the day. When we were allowed five or ten minutes of free time, it was popularly referred to as a "smoke break." We would all be in a "gedunk" area where you could get a coke from vending machines and puff on cigarettes. During one of these breaks when the "smoking lamp" was lit, a fellow recruit offered me a Tareyton filter cigarette, and shortly later I was hooked and buying my own cigarettes from the BX. At first, I really didn't get that much enjoyment out of smoking. However, after a week or two when I started to crave the nicotine which was building up in my blood, it was an established habit and I had a good feeling each time I lit up. At that time, smoking was very popular in society, and there was no worry about the harmful effects of smoking.

Life As a Smoker

During my 28 years of smoking, I went through an average of one to one and one-half packs of cigarettes per day. Looking back over the experience, I would divide my smoking life into four stages as follows:

1. Light Smoker

During the first seven years, I was generally a light smoker averaging no more than a pack of 100 mm Tareyton filter cigarettes per day. I would smoke after all meals, during breaks at work and school, and while I was studying at night. At times when I was drinking with friends, I would smoke more than usual, While I was smoking with the Navy in Taiwan, a Chinese man once remarked that my Tareyton cigarette was number 10 for smoking but number one for health.

2. Moderate Smoker

Throughout the second seven-year stage of my smoking life, I was a moderate smoker puffing on about one and one-half packs a day. At this stage, I started to need cigarettes while I was working. During most of this time, I was living and teaching English in Taiwan. Vividly do I remember smoking and allowing my students to smoke during class.

3. Heavy Smoker

From about 1981-1993 I was a heavy smoker needing one and one-half to two packs of cigarettes per day. I remember smoking the most during work when I was under pressure to think and complete work assignments. At times I would even chain smoke. Smoking in the workplace environment stopped about 1988 when the federal government decreed that smokers could no longer light up in the presence of non-smokers. It didn't matter to us smokers because we would first go to designated smoking rooms and then outside for frequent smoke breaks.

4. Light to Moderate Smoker

During the last two years I smoked, I was a light to a moderate smoker. At this time I was recently divorced, and my new girlfriend was putting a lot of pressure on me to quit smoking. For that reason, I stopped lighting up inside the house. Most of the time I only smoked when I wasn't in her presence.

Quitting Smoking

How and Why I Quit Smoking

On a few occasions, I had tried quitting smoking. I never lasted more than a week before going back to my "old friend." This all changed on one evening in 1995 when I had my last cigarette and quit smoking for good. At that time I had been complaining about pains in my chest when breathing. After listening to my complaints, I remember my girlfriend saying that she didn't want to lose me from cancer. Upon hearing this, a spell seemed to come over me, and I became very afraid and started to perspire. I began to associate cigarettes with the pains in my chest and cancer, and I actually convinced myself that I would get cancer and die if I smoked another cigarette. I threw away the cigarettes I had left, and I have never had another one. That was on June 30, 1995.

After You Quit Smoking: Consequences of Stopping Smoking

I have never regretted quitting smoking, and only wish I could have stopped sooner. Since giving up cigarettes, I feel fortunate to have reaped the following benefits:

1. Recovered Sense of Smell

It's amazing how much a person doesn't appreciate his or her own sense of smell while being a smoker. While I was a smoker, I never realized how badly I smelled, because I couldn't smell. Within one week of being smoke-free, I was starting to smell things I hadn't smelled in 28 years.

2. Clothes Smell Fresh and Smoke-Free

After quitting smoking, more people gravitated to me because there wasn't the bad smell of smoke on my clothes.

3. No Smell of Smoke on Body or Hair

While I was a smoker, I can now imagine how my breath must have smelled when I talked to people. It's amazing I was able to have a girlfriend considering the smell of smoke in my hair and on my skin.

4. Decrease in Blood Pressure And Better Health

Four years before I quit smoking, I was diagnosed with hypertension. Although I was on medication, my blood pressure was still high while smoking. It's amazing how much my blood pressure decreased after I stopped smoking. I also could breathe a lot better, and felt generally in much better health.

5. Saved a Lot of Money

Since quitting smoking, I have saved an average of $1,440 per year on cigarettes. From 1995 until 2016 that amounts to $30,240. To me, that's a significant amount of money which I have spent on more worthwhile things.

6. Avoided Smoking Friends And Places of Smoke

While smoking, it seems that I was constantly with smoking friends or in a smoke-filled environment. Since I have quit, I have experienced a new and better kind of environment away from the smoke.

How to Quit Smoking

Lessons Learned From Smoking

From 28 years of smoking I have learned the following lessons:

1. Smoking Is Not a Drug Addiction

Contrary to the beliefs of many, smoking is not a drug addiction similar to the addictions to heroin and cocaine. If it were, I would have had to go to a detox center to stop smoking.

2. Smoking Is an Acquired Psychological Social Habit

People are not born or inherit genes which predispose them to be a slave to a cigarette. Smoking is an acquired psychological social habit which one develops usually with a little pressure from peers. If one were not in the presence of smoking friends, a person would most likely not start smoking.

3. Smoking Is an Important Part of One's Daily Routine

While I was a smoker, I always had to have a cigarette right after I got up in the morning, after meals, and at intervals of approximately one hour. This is because one has nicotine in the bloodstream, and one must maintain this nicotine level without feeling psychologically disturbed.

4. How One Can Stop Smoking

Although hypnosis, nicotine patches, electric cigarettes, and nicotine chewing gum can help some people stop smoking, people can still stop smoking cold turkey if they have a strong will. Based on my personal experience, a person needs a fear stimulus like death, and he or she must associate it with cigarettes, pain, and cancer. A person also needs an environment away from smoke and smokers as well as support from loved ones.

5. Smoking Has a Long-Term Effect on Your Health

On March 26, 2015, I was diagnosed with renal cell carcinoma (kidney cancer) of the left kidney. On April 26, 2015, I had my kidney removed. I'm pretty sure that my 28 years of smoking was a significant factor in causing my cancer.

Everyone is aware of Alcoholics Anonymous, a support group for recovering alcoholics. There should be a comparable organization for ex-smokers. Ex-smokers need a support group such as I have had to ensure that they will never go back to such a health-damaging habit.

Quitting Smoking

How Do You Plan to Stop Smoking?

See results

Questions & Answers

    © 2012 Paul Richard Kuehn


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      • Paul Kuehn profile imageAUTHOR

        Paul Richard Kuehn 

        10 months ago from Udorn City, Thailand

        Thank you for your comments, Walter. I'm happy you were able to stop smoking, but isn't vaping also harmful to your health?

      • Paul Kuehn profile imageAUTHOR

        Paul Richard Kuehn 

        13 months ago from Udorn City, Thailand

        Thank you for your comments.

      • Paul Kuehn profile imageAUTHOR

        Paul Richard Kuehn 

        18 months ago from Udorn City, Thailand

        Thank you very much for sharing your experience, Morag. I really hope you can quit smoking now.

      • profile image

        Morag collier 

        18 months ago

        I'm from West Sussex in England I had phumonia in November was rushed to the hospital from the doctors surgery my heart started racing in the ambulance very scary any way I got such a fright I haven't had a cig since 63 days uso,e times it ales a fright to make you relise what harm you are doing to your self so well done to you.

      • Paul Kuehn profile imageAUTHOR

        Paul Richard Kuehn 

        2 years ago from Udorn City, Thailand

        &trevor Excuse my long delay in replying to your comment. I appreciate your personal experiences in quitting smoking.

      • misterhollywood profile image

        John Hollywood 

        2 years ago from Hollywood, CA

        Loved your hub and will share but I do encourage you to rethink the one point about smoking not being an addiction. Nicotine is one of the most addictive sunstances known to man. And while there's no detox program per se it's still is a very addictive substance.

        Really wonderful hub and helpful to be sure!!

      • profile image


        2 years ago

        Paul, I haven't had a smoke for over ten years now. I stopped by using nictotine lozenges, which were very effective. The only problem was that I was just changing the way I got my nicotine, and I finished up addicted

        to the lzenges as much as I had been to tobacco. I kept using them for nine years, then the company decided to stop making them and produce a different type of nicotine gimmick, so I thought "this is it; I have to stop and get away from this". I was not going to become addicted to something else! After a LONG time, I eventually can say that I have got rid of my addiction, but it wasn't easy! I'm sure your way, although very hard, is a more efficient way of achieving the same result I did, though much cheaper! All the lozenges do is prolong the time you are on nicotine. Thanks for your hub.

      • Paul Kuehn profile imageAUTHOR

        Paul Richard Kuehn 

        4 years ago from Udorn City, Thailand


        Thank you very much for reading and commenting on this hub. Starting smoking was the worst thing I did in my life, and stopping was definitely the best. Thanks for the votes and finding this article both useful and interesting.

      • tillsontitan profile image

        Mary Craig 

        4 years ago from New York

        Thank you for sharing your journey to non-smoking. Each of us has a different feeling about why we smoke and how we need to quit. The more we read and the more encouragement we get the more likely we are to quit. Fear is always a good motivator and fear of death is probably the best!

        Voted up, useful, and interesting.

      • Paul Kuehn profile imageAUTHOR

        Paul Richard Kuehn 

        4 years ago from Udorn City, Thailand


        Thank you so much for commenting on this hub. I congratulate you for quitting smoking, and, yes, it really does make one feel proud.

      • Paul Kuehn profile imageAUTHOR

        Paul Richard Kuehn 

        4 years ago from Udorn City, Thailand

        Au fair,

        I'm extremely pleased that you liked this hub on my smoking experiences. I appreciate greatly your kind review and am especially thankful for you sharing this hub.

      • rebeccamealey profile image

        Rebecca Mealey 

        4 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

        Congratulations, and good for you. I too, quit after many years of smoking, it really makes one proud of oneself. Thanks for sharing your story.

      • Au fait profile image

        C E Clark 

        4 years ago from North Texas

        How in the world did I miss this great article? Thought I had read all of your hubs and then I came across this one! A fantastic article, so well written as all your hubs always are, and with so much good information and advice. It's always better when it comes from someone who's been there.

        Thankfully I never started smoking, but my husbands all did, and many of my friends did too. I am allergic to pretty much everything in the world including smoke of any kind, but especially tobacco smoke.

        A very impressive article and I have pinned it to my "Health" board, as well as placing a prominent link at the end of my hub, "New Anti-Smoking Public Service Announcements Get Straight To The Point – Are They Going Too Far?" Voted up, AUI, and will share with my followers.

      • Paul Kuehn profile imageAUTHOR

        Paul Richard Kuehn 

        4 years ago from Udorn City, Thailand


        Thank you very much reading and commenting on this hub. Congratulations on quitting smoking! I know how you must feel both physically and spiritually as a new person. Yes people should not start smoking, and quit if they have.

      • Paul Kuehn profile imageAUTHOR

        Paul Richard Kuehn 

        4 years ago from Udorn City, Thailand


        Thank you for your great comments. I'm very happy to read that you have been smoke free for almost 6 months. I agree with you that smoking is much for mentally addictive than physically addictive. If you want to stay smoke free, it so important to make the appropriate life style changes.

      • techygran profile image


        4 years ago from Vancouver Island, Canada

        Great, well-organized article Paul! I quit smoking (after 25+ years) when I realized it was the one thing that deterred me from moving forward in my spiritual growth. It really wrecked my breathing and I highly recommend that people (a)not start OR (b)quit as soon as possible.

      • Paul Kuehn profile imageAUTHOR

        Paul Richard Kuehn 

        4 years ago from Udorn City, Thailand


        I'm very happy to read that you stopped smoking. While I was smoking, I never really realized how filthy a habit it was. If you get on your husband's case with a little loving persuasion, I'm sure that he will eventually quit. Thanks for pinning and sharing this hub.

      • Bishop55 profile image


        4 years ago from USA

        I will be 6 months smoke free on August 28, 2013! I appreciate you sharing your personal story. The only part I disagree with this that smoking is physically as well as mentally addictive, however...once you detox for a minimum of 3 days, the physical part of addiction is over, and the only fight that remains is life style changes. I hope to NEVER smoke again, and regret not quitting earlier. I was a 1-2 pack a day smoker for 17 years.

      • moonlake profile image


        4 years ago from America

        I came back to this hub so I could pin it and share it. I'm with you I can't stand the smell of cigarettes now. I remember in the spring when we would do our spring cleaning the yellow smoke on the walls and in the curtains. Once I quit my husband started smoking outside. He looks funny out there in 40 below smoking but I wish he would quit.

      • Paul Kuehn profile imageAUTHOR

        Paul Richard Kuehn 

        5 years ago from Udorn City, Thailand

        DDE, Thank you very much for commenting on this hub. Quitting smoking is definitely one of the best things I have done in my life. I'm glad you liked this hub!

      • Paul Kuehn profile imageAUTHOR

        Paul Richard Kuehn 

        5 years ago from Udorn City, Thailand


        Thank you very much for reading and commenting on this hub. It was hard to quit smoking, but when I really got the motivation with the health scare, it was cold turkey and I haven't had a cigarette in 18 years and never will again! Thanks for sharing this hub!

      • DDE profile image

        Devika Primić 

        5 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

        So glad you quit smoking a bad habit and is o difficult but it is all in ones mind to be more precise. Great job!

      • rajan jolly profile image

        Rajan Singh Jolly 

        5 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar,INDIA.

        Hi Paul, interesting to read your journey to becoming a smoker and then leaving it all for the better. Great learning of your experiences and this hub should act as a motivator to a lot of people desirous of quitting smoking.

        Voted up, useful and shared.

      • Paul Kuehn profile imageAUTHOR

        Paul Richard Kuehn 

        5 years ago from Udorn City, Thailand


        Thank you very much for commenting on this hub. I went cold turkey on cigarettes in June of 1995 and have not touched one to this day. I don't miss them at all and really hate the smoke and its smell. I appreciate you voting up this hub.

      • moonlake profile image


        5 years ago from America

        When I was a teen I never smoked but my friends did. Later when I lived in a building where ladies got together for coffee that was when I started to smoke. It was 1983 and I didn't feel so great so I decided when I got through our son's wedding I was going to stop smoking the next day. I did cold turkey and have not picked up a cigarette from that moment on. I have to say I still miss them. Voted up on your hub.

      • Paul Kuehn profile imageAUTHOR

        Paul Richard Kuehn 

        5 years ago from Udorn City, Thailand


        Thanks for reading this hub and I appreciate your comments. If you stay focused and are really motivated to quit smoking, I'm sure that you will stop for good some day.

      • torrilynn profile image


        5 years ago

        I thank you for this hub. Im trying to stop smoking but it is so hard. I am a light to moderate smoker but I can see now that it can become much worse. I just need to stay focused and one day I will quit for good.

      • Paul Kuehn profile imageAUTHOR

        Paul Richard Kuehn 

        5 years ago from Udorn City, Thailand


        Thanks for stopping by again and your great comments. Let me also congratulate you for quitting. Thanks for the information about Nicotine Anonymous. I will check out this group.

      • Louisa Rogers profile image

        Louisa Rogers 

        5 years ago from Eureka, California and Guanajuato, Mexico

        Congrats on quitting, from another quitter. There is a group called Nicotine Anonymous. I don't know much about it other than that it exists.

      • Paul Kuehn profile imageAUTHOR

        Paul Richard Kuehn 

        5 years ago from Udorn City, Thailand

        Deb, That's a great idea to have churches get involved with support groups for Smokers. Thanks again for stopping by.

      • profile image

        Deb Welch 

        5 years ago

        Many churches help with AA - the church I am attending have meetings - Catholic church have OA meetings - Overeaters Anonymous - so - possibly a church could get involved with a support group for Smokers quitting an addictive habit. They are addicted to nicotine and hundreds of chemicals. Horizon Health help addictions - maybe they would like to include this kind of program. Worth asking. I always needed help - too - besides family.

      • Paul Kuehn profile imageAUTHOR

        Paul Richard Kuehn 

        5 years ago from Udorn City, Thailand


        Thanks for reading this hub and your great comments. I think there should be support groups for exsmokers like what the recovering alcoholics have in Acoholics Anonymous.

      • profile image

        Deb Welch 

        5 years ago

        I concur with you as I quit in 1982,$.85 a pk, after 13 1/2 yrs of smoking menthol cigarettes (Newport,etc) up to a pack or pack&1/2 a day - I tried every menthod - and lastly after a relaxologist session - I quit 'cold turkey' within 3 months' time. I remember how much smoking went on in the Navy - metal ashtrays on our desks. Great Hub - indepth and excellent information throughout. I would say quitting smoking was one of the hardest and best decisions I ever made. You associate smoking with drinking coffee, having a drink, getting irate, waiting and all sorts of circumstances. I had tremendous colds that I couldn't shake with a bad cough. UP - Useful and Interesting. Have a good day.

      • Paul Kuehn profile imageAUTHOR

        Paul Richard Kuehn 

        5 years ago from Udorn City, Thailand


        Thanks for reading and sharing this hub. You are so correct about your comments. While I was a smoker, I never realized that I was harming other lives in addition to my own.

      • Paul Kuehn profile imageAUTHOR

        Paul Richard Kuehn 

        5 years ago from Udorn City, Thailand


        Thanks for reading and your encouraging comments. I also appreciate you sharing this hub.

      • Amber522 profile image


        5 years ago

        This is an excellent hub. It is very inspirational to those wanting to kick their nasty habit. Congrats on making the decision to quit and sticking to it. I will be sharing this and voting up.

      • Brett.Tesol profile image

        Brett Caulton 

        5 years ago from Thailand

        Smoking ruins so many lives, but often the smoker has no idea at the time that it is even affecting their life. As you say, it is a social habit and one that can be beaten with a strong will.

        Shared, up and useful.

      • Paul Kuehn profile imageAUTHOR

        Paul Richard Kuehn 

        6 years ago from Udorn City, Thailand


        Thank you very much for reading and your comments. As you pointed out, motivation to quit smoking is so important

      • Sonny Ellar profile image

        Sonny Ellar 

        6 years ago from Saudi Arabia

        I smoke socially I mean when I am surrounded with people who smoke I smoke but when I am not with anyone who does, I don't. never got addicted to it so I believe one can quit if he or she desires so. this article will help readers who smoke figure out how to motivate themselves to quit smoking. very helpful!

      • Vellur profile image

        Nithya Venkat 

        6 years ago from Dubai

        It is very difficult for smokers to quit smoking, you have achieved a very difficult task. Great work. Voted up.

      • fpherj48 profile image


        6 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

        Paul....your journey from smoker to non-smoker is a good read, You have done your own PSA. It is amazing that the one comment from your girlfriend impacted you so greatly.

        I'm sure you are grateful you threw them away and can be free of this nasty habit! Thank you for sharing this with everyone.


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