Welcome to Meet the Quitters—a series of interviews that explore the real challenges, victories and experiences of real-world Quitters. This month, the Quit Culture team spoke with Derrick Smith about his relationship with tobacco, how he quit, and what advice he has for other Quitters looking to lead a smoke-free life.
When did you start smoking and how were you introduced to the habit?
I started smoking when I was 16. I was working at Burger King and an older friend of mine who worked there smoked. I tried one of his cigarettes one day and that led to me starting smoking. I think I wanted to try it because it was something I had never done. Growing up with the D.A.R.E program I had heard that if you try it once, you can get hooked and addicted to the habit. I wanted to see what the hype was about I suppose. So many people do it. I didn’t think it would be so bad if I tried one. That’s how I got started. In the parking lot of a Burger King.
Why did you start smoking?
As a STEM major in college, it was a mixture of stress from being in classes and then also just plain being bored. I wasn’t the most social person in college, so it gave me a lot of free time to myself. With that free time, I would just spend it smoking. I’d go outside and get a little buzz and then go about the rest of my day or night.
What made you kick the habit?
After being out of college and having to manage my own finances and household, I really started to calculate how much I was spending on it. And then also the health consequences. When I would try to do any sort of cardio, whether that was running, being on the Stairmaster or the elliptical, I wouldn’t be able to run for more than 60 seconds, maybe two minutes before I would have to stop and catch my breath. I think the biggest thing towards the tail end of me smoking is that my gums would bleed. I’d be at my desk working and I would taste blood in the back of my mouth, and it became more and more regular. I had to tell myself, this is not okay. You’re bleeding from the mouth on a semi-regular basis. On top of that, my gums were receding a little bit, my lips were turning black and my tongue was discolored from time to time.
What advice do you have for other people trying to quit?
If you are not the type of person to seek others when it comes to working through your personal problems, using products can be very helpful. Whether it’s the lozenges, gum, patches or medication, there are some great options. More than anything though, just keep trying. You will more than likely fall off the wagon and it can be a demoralizing thing. But the big thing is to make sure that you get back on the wagon and that you don’t let it stop.
If you’re interested in hearing more about Derrick’s journey and advice, check out his guest appearance on our 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.