Smokers a blight on society, and worse when quitting
A “symptom of recovery” from smoking addiction is the hilarious excuse for ministerial forgetfulness from a support group for people trying to beat the butt.
Assistant Treasurer Nick Sherry got himself in a minor twist yesterday on national television when he wrongly – and repeatedly – said the forecast unemployment rate was 8 per cent rather than the recently revised lower figure of 6.75.
His spokesman blamed ill-health, saying the Senator had experienced withdrawal symptoms since giving up smoking. Support group Smokenders told the Sydney Morning Herald that “quitting cold turkey often led to a cough in the first few days and forgetfulness in the first few weeks.”
This raises a terrifying prospect in this quitting season – if ministers can trip up on key economic statistics, can cold-turkey bus drivers forget to brake? Can pilots omit to, say, lower the wheels before landing?
To be fair Australia’s unemployment data has been the most confusing and expert-confounding figure of them all, in this post-GFC era in which “economic forecasting” is regarded on the continuum of precision as somewhere between crystal-ball gazing and a game of pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey.
The minister later took “full responsibility” for the error, but I have to say I can sympathise. Some ex-smokers I know - including two people who work in the chaotic and confronting world of acute hospitals - say quitting is the hardest thing they have ever done in their life, and I believe them.
For a heavy smoker, the physical and mental effects of prolonged nicotine deprivation are an incomparable horror. For me it results in cold sweats, headaches, and a barely-controllable urge to punch a nearby wall just to have something to do with my hands. All I can think about is a cigarette. Catch me at the end of a long-haul flight and I’ll struggle to tell you what year it is, never mind the revised unemployment forecast from the Mid-Year Financial Outlook.
I got very close to giving up completely once, back in the mid-90s while at university. Over three months I cut down from a pack a day to a few puffs of an ultra-light, once in the morning, and once in the evening. It all came undone after exams when, before getting on a flight to New York with friends, I had a couple of full-strengths and then ended up rolling down Broadway that night with a cigarette in one hand - and a fat cigar in the other.
Since then I’ve made a few half-hearted attempts to quit but was never resolved enough.
To anyone, including Senator Sherry, who is trying to give up at the moment: keep it up. It may be the hardest thing you ever do, but you’d imagine it will surely be among the best.
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