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Breaking the Powerful Draw of Nicotine – The New York Times


Nicotine patches, gum and vapes can help satisfy some cravings, but they can’t replace the rituals of smoking: retreating outdoors with a co-conspirator, crumpling cellophane and paper of aluminum at the opening of a new package, the intoxicating buzz of this first trail.

Bruce Holaday, 69, a retired educator from Mill Valley, Calif., knows firsthand the power of nicotine. Over the past five decades, Mr Holaday estimates he has tried to quit 100 times, often relying on nicotine replacement products. But he invariably returned to his lifelong affair with Marlboro Lights.

His last attempt in August, a cold turkey gamble with no nicotine replacement therapy, unleashed an excruciating maelstrom of food cravings that lasted for several months. “It was like a sudden earthquake of want and need, and then there were these tremors for the next 10 to 15 minutes,” he said.

But this time, Mr. Holaday joined a support group at Stanford Health Care, which introduced a powerful social component to his quest. He described the effect as “not wanting to let the team down” and said he learned to avoid stressful situations, such as watching the news. He found that if he could weather the first waves of thirst, they invariably subside.

At the end of June, he passed the milestone of one year since his last puff.

He has gained weight but no longer runs out of breath easily during hikes. And he is convinced that he will never start smoking again.

Asked about the prospect of drastic government intervention to force Americans to quit, Mr Holaday paused and reflected on the first puff he took half a century ago as a student first year. “If it hadn’t been for this nicotine rush, I probably would have gone and never smoked again,” he said. “It will be difficult for smokers, but anything we can do to prevent a new generation from becoming addicted is a good thing.”

Robert Chiarito contributed reporting from Chicago.

nytimes

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