I'll Help -- With Conditions!

By Dr. Robert Wallace

August 29, 2020 5 min read

DR. WALLACE: I'm only six weeks from turning 20, and I have finally stopped smoking after being tied to a two-pack habit for nearly three years! I haven't smoked in over four weeks now, and I really do believe that I will never smoke again. I know how bad smoking is to my body, and with the COVID-19 pandemic going on, it's even more dangerous nowadays to be a smoker. Yes, I'm young and likely at a lower risk than most regarding the virus, but I also do not want to spew any secondhand smoke in the presence of older friends and relatives and people who have illnesses that I might not be aware of. So, I just knew it was time to quit — cold turkey.

This is an important promise I made to myself and one I truly wish to keep. I do have half a carton of cigarettes left over that I have not smoked. I was tempted at first to throw them away, but after a day or two of looking at them while I was in the pain of nicotine withdrawals, I began to see them as a badge of honor, a motivational factor. I figured that if I could keep them that close to me and still not be tempted to smoke one, that would tell me my willpower was strong.

The experts on the "quit smoking" circuit may frown upon my unique method, but it has worked for me. Now I am at the point that I am ready to dispose of them, but I have this weird desire to not be wasteful! It's a trait I've always had; I even give stale old bread to the local ducks by the pond in our city rather than throwing it away. Let's just say I like to see anything of value be used up rather than thrown out — and now I have this self-made dilemma regarding my leftover smokes!

What do you recommend I do with them? Please don't just tell me to toss them in the trash; I'm expecting a much more creative and helpful answer than that, especially since my roommate has already scolded me several times for not dumping them in the trash can already. — New Nonsmoker, via email

NEW NONSMOKER: You're pretty bold to make this request of me, especially knowing that, for decades, I have warned teens to stay clear of cigarettes.

After some thought about your request, plus thinking back to other similar situations, I will make a suggestion to you.

You didn't mention the brand you smoke, but somewhere in your town or among your circle of friends and acquaintances, there is likely an adult man or woman who smokes that very same brand. Once you locate such an individual, offer these cigarettes to that person (it must not be a teen!) at half the regular retail price. Further, you are to explain your story to this person and tell him or her that you are going to take the funds paid to you and donate that amount plus another 50% from your own pocket to the American Cancer Society (or any worthy charity that helps others to stop smoking.)

This way, everyone benefits to at least some degree. Yes, you will be enabling and facilitating a smoker to keep on smoking, but this person would almost certainly have continued smoking anyhow. Now, if you can pull this off successfully, you will provide someone with a discount while getting your story into their consciousness — and this person will know that their payment will be donated to help others to stop smoking. You never know; it just could be the spark another smoker needs to at least consider stopping smoking.

Finally, you will also be making a donation out of your pocket as well. Consider this an "investment" in your own smoke-free future and a way of helping others who may benefit from the resources brought forth by your donation. And one last request: Mention that you contacted a "friend" (I will be your friend since you were kind enough to write a sincere note to me) for a suggestion on how to resolve the issue of your leftover cigarettes. Mention that your friend insisted that, in exchange for this suggestion, you offer to help the person who received the discounted cigarettes to quit smoking whenever he or she wished to. Mention that you would be happy to help any other smoker to attempt to quit as well as part of the deal.

I realize that I've given you a lot of instructions and conditions here, but frankly, you asked for it! And, my friend, I'm proud of you that you did. Congratulations that you've now avoided a lifetime of smoking, and thank you for an interesting and thought-provoking question.

Dr. Robert Wallace welcomes questions from readers. Although he is unable to reply to all of them individually, he will answer as many as possible in this column. Email him at [email protected] To find out more about Dr. Robert Wallace and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

Photo credit: realworkhard at Pixabay

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