How to Quit Smoking

by Alexandra Molotkow


So you’ve decided to quit smoking! You’ve made the right decision, and I’m here to help. Quitting was definitely the easiest thing I’ve ever done. Afterward I never once craved a cigarette. Nor did I feel like my life had lost all meaning, nor that I needed to shove things and people into my mouth just to keep time in motion. Quitting felt nothing like losing a constant friend who had carried me through my highest and lowest times, or a magic amulet that let me perform tasks that were now impossible. I formed no obsessive, doomed attachments to people who jacked up my sagging dopamine levels. I never spent hundreds of dollars on toothpicks. There’s no doubt I looked better gnawing on a Thursday Plantation Tea Tree Chewing Stick than I did smoking a Camel.

I am not still sucking back nicotine lozenges, which are way cheaper than actual cigarettes.

So, congratulations. Once you quit, you will live forever. Your skin will clear and your brain will grow from those big gulps of oxygen until you are as perfect as Willow Smith. You will save enough money for a down payment on a boat. You will spot strange, beautiful birds on your lawn that aren’t endemic to your region. Friends you fell out with will call to say it wasn’t your fault.

I am well qualified to tell you:


1. Start smoking. If you don’t know how to light a cigarette, get an Australian from the Internet to draw you an ASCII diagram. Smoke watching Sally Jessy as you skip school. Smoke making friends on the alternative rock message boards of Smoke writing poetry about what sex probably feels like.

2. Learn how to hold a cigarette. Smoke where adults won’t find you but other kids will. Among classmates, develop a reputation for having your own cigarettes. Bum cigarettes from their older boyfriends who don’t go to this school. Smoke in your bedroom and ash in your parents’ drinking glasses. Stow them under your bed until your mom topples them while sweeping, dousing the floor in black sludge. Admit you’ve been smoking. Don’t stop smoking.

3. Smoke on the balcony after Cliff finger-bangs you to a 4am airing of Matlock. Smoke as you notice that cum smells just like you thought it would.

5. Tell yourself you’ll quit when you fall in love, fall in love and realize smoking is to love what music is to parties and smoking is to everything else.

6. Tell yourself you’ll quit the next time you’re hospitalized for bronchitis. Consider it the next time you’re hospitalized for bronchitis and a raven appears on the power line overhead just as a friend hands you a John Player Special to celebrate your return. Decide against quitting. All your friends smoke.

7. Smoke at your writer’s craft teacher’s party for your graduating class, as the sun sets and the future seems so full of possibilities that will be cut short by your smoking. Listen to “Do You Know the Way to San Jose.”

8. Smoke because pressure and because deadlines and because heartbreak and because it’s not food. Smoke because you’re proud and because you’re satisfied and because you’re drunk. Smoke because you’re young and healthy and smoke because you’re going to die. Smoke because you just got laid. Smoke to delay sex. Smoke for the pleasure of loosening phlegm. Smoke because it’s an out, smoke because it’s an in, smoke because it’s how you start and because it’s how you finish. Smoke because smoking is how you hook yourself through the day. Smoke because you don’t want to go to bed. Smoke because you’re a smoker, and because you love to smoke.

9. Notice how literal the tar on your lungs feels. Notice you’re not breathing out all the air you breathe in. Think about sex with an oxygen tank. Try running for the bus. Imagine days that don’t start with your biggest mistake. Imagine imagining life beyond 50.

10. Worry and worry and worry and worry and worry and WORRY and WORRY and WORRY and promise yourself if you live you’ll quit smoking.

11. Quit smoking.