Welcome to Meet the Quitters, a series sharing the challenges, victories and tips from real world quit journeys. For our second installment, the Quit Culture team spoke with Aaron Penn about how he got started smoking, when he realized he needed help and a few tips for others looking to kick the habit.
Why did you start smoking?
“I started smoking because of the influence around me; it looked cool. It was something I wanted to do. It was just intriguing and that’s what got me to start.”
How old were you the first time you tried tobacco?
“The first time I tried it, I was probably about in the sixth grade. I was at the bus stop and one of the students waiting on the bus was smoking and I was like, ‘I want to try and see what the hype is about.’ And I tried it and I didn’t like it. That was my first experience smoking.”
When did you start smoking regularly?
“My freshman year of college I played football and stayed in the same dorm with one of the male cheerleaders. He was kind of a cigar connoisseur. So he turned me on to cigar smoking, gave me the history of why, why not, how you do it and all those things. So I tried it and at that point I was like, ‘Well, I kind of like this.’”
What’s something you wish you would have known about smoking before you started?
“How expensive it is! It’s very costly. Very, very costly.”
What lessons have you learned on your journey to quit smoking?
“I’ve learned about carcinogens and how all the things in smoke affect you in the way that, in my opinion, makes it hard for you to stop.”
When did you realize that smoking was becoming an issue for you?
“I used to vape and I was able to put it down cold turkey, no problem. But with cigars, I might wake up and want a cigar. Or if I’m at work on break, doing a job or if I’m spinning somewhere, I might step out back, want to hit the cigar, but then be like, ‘I don’t even want to do this’ in the middle of doing it. Like, ’What am I doing this for? I’m doing this when I don’t want to so I need to go get some help.’”
What advice do you have for other people trying to quit?
“If you’re in a relationship, you can add a relationship goal of having your partner help you to not purchase [tobacco products]. If you want to go get a cigar, instead of you taking that money and getting a cigar, you give that same money to your partner and put it into something else. Whether it be some shoes or a rainy-day fund. Also, hanging around more people that don’t [smoke]. Try to manage and stay away from those environments where that temptation lives. If friends, coworkers or people who care for you smoke, just ask them to take it away if you’re going to be in the same presence of each other. Ask if they can hold off for a second or do whatever they’re going to do before you get there to help your process until you can get enough willpower to where it doesn’t matter who’s around you smoking.”
If you’re interested in hearing more about Aaron’s journey, check out his guest appearance on our new video series Smoke Break: Quitters Edition. If you would like more support to stop smoking, join our private Facebook Community, download our free app and sign up for the Smoke Break Challenge.