A little over a year ago I took a break from smoking -- and have not smoked since then. I say "break" because I fully intend to start up again once technology or imminent death makes the threat posed by smoking sufficiently unimportant. All those cliches about people starting up smoking again on crashing airplanes or just prior to nuclear war breaking out are simply examples of people engaging in rational behavior.
This time I went the chewing gum and mints angle -- simply toss the cigs then, whenever the urge hit, step outside as was my normal habit and chew a stick of gum or a mint for a few minutes. The physical withdrawal symptoms were 72 hours of heightened anxiety, like after drinking too much coffee, 48 hours of which also included fever and slightly accelerated heart-rate. Not even as bad as suffering a mild cold.
I have to admit that watching people on TV or in movies smoke makes me want to smoke too -- so that's some argument for reducing the amount of smoking in the media. However, watching someone on TV or in a movie eating Round Table Pizza also makes me long for a sausage, pepperoni, and mushroom thin crust.
That said, doctors do sometimes speak of different people reacting more or less strongly to addictive substances, so perhaps there are others who actually have real addictive reactions, and not merely the, all too common, anguish of unfulfilled desire that I suffer. The problem, like the problem of knowing what it's like to be a bat, is that one can never really know whether or not others are having experiences just like you, but complaining more, or using the claim of addiction to help excuse the fact that they really don't want to stop that bad, or puff up our opinion of their moral fortitude when they do successfully stop -- or they're really feeling something different: a kind of compulsion that I can never fully appreciate.