Abstinence is not a patch on puffing yourself silly

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The Independent Online
'IT'S NOW four months since I've smoked a cigarette and I've never felt better.' Great. Another boring, evangelical ex-smoker. And there's more where that came from.

'I thought about how my hair, clothes and flat must have smelt before, about how climbing the stairs used to push me to the point of collapse . . . I noticed that I felt brighter in the morning, that my skin was clearer, I was delighted to have given up.'

Sweet-smelling hair. Clear skin. Feeling brighter in the morning. Doesn't it make you sick? I suppose giving up smoking makes you lose weight, too.

So let's see who put their name to this pile of cliched nonsense and what paper it was in. 'Susannah Frankel. The Independent.' Oops.

What can I say?. It was about two years ago. A piece about the nicotine patch. About how great it was. There's no excuse for that sort of thing, I know, and I'm really terribly sorry. I don't

know what I was thinking of. Four months without smoking were obviously taking their toll.

'As I was still taking in nicotine, my metabolism wasn't slowing down suddenly so I wasn't putting on inordinate amounts of weight.'

Yep, there it is. I embarrass myself sometimes, really I do. Giving up smoking must have made me blind as well as deranged. The truth is, I put on a stone.

Of course, the patch wasn't without its disadvantages from the outset. The fact that it used to hang out of the side of my swimming costume on the beach, for example, was hardly very From Here To Eternity. Or that one day, at the bus stop, it made its way down my trouser leg and fell out on to the pavement. I swear that a man in the queue winked at me knowingly. He was probably wearing one, too. Everyone was at that point. Big, unfortunately shiny, dirty-

yellow nicotine patches were all the rage.

It was probably in about the fifth month that I started to slip.

I always wore my patch religiously, of course. I love nicotine, after all. I love it so much that one day, in the chemist's, I bought the gum, too.

'Even at night, the most testing time - after dinner, in a restaurant, in a pub, at a party - my resolve was unshakable.'

That particular night, after dinner, in a restaurant, patch in place, gum in cheek (it must have been costing me a small fortune), I thought I'd just try a cigarette. See how much I hated it. Filthy habit, I thought, gulping down the smoke furiously. Better just check exactly how filthy and have another one. For research purposes only, of course.

I hadn't felt so happy since, well, since stopping smoking actually.

Then, dear reader (sad but true) I had a nicotine overdose. There's apparently only a certain amount of nicotine that a girl (even a girl who loves nicotine

like I do) can take. I felt sick as a parrot and dizzy. I had a splitting headache. The next morning I woke up covered in an awful rash, I went to the doctor.

'Why are you doing this to yourself?' he asked me. 'It's so terribly self-destructive. Other people can manage it. Why can't you? Why can't you just give up?'

He was right, of course. I felt completely ashamed of myself.

I solemnly vowed never to touch another patch from that day onward, bought 200 cigarettes and Bob's Your Uncle. No withdrawals. No irritability. I had to admit it, the nicotine patch really was amazing. It wasn't addictive at all.

Life as a fallen non-smoker, it goes without saying, is a breeze.

Back on the Marlboro, my heart bleeds for the poor souls who buy Super, Extra and Ultra Light brands (healthy cigarettes). It's just exhausting worrying about covering up all the holes in the filters, always having to puff so hard. I watch

sympathetically as desperate ex- smokers sidle up in bars and just stand there next to me breathing in the fumes. Passive smoking, nothing beats it. Ask my cat.

Of course, just because I smoke doesn't mean I'm not interested in fitness. I smoke stoically all the way through my Callanetics for Beginners video. They should do one called Callanetics For Smokers. Yoga's pretty good too. No sudden, jerky movements. No chance of burning yourself in the eye.

'Thinking about giving up, talking about giving up, wondering when, how and where to give up is the smoker's condition.'

Never again.

Not any more, I'm happy to say. Not now that all that's behind me.

Now, day after day, I just sit here merrily puffing away, knowing no shame.

Which reminds me . . .

Miles Kington is on holiday.