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Smoking and Scuba Diving October 2, 2008

Posted by Chris Sullivan in Fitness and Nutrition.
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I don’t think it’s a coincidence that I learned to dive not long after I’d quit smoking. At the age of 26 I was starting to take a new healthier path in life, improving continually to this day. My last cigarette was on December 27th, 1981, the day Hoagy Carmichael died, getting a jump on New Year’s. My girlfriend, who is now my wife, quit on January 2nd, 1982. She claims I gave her a dirty look every time she lit up. I’m sure that’s true. We both quit cold turkey, no patches, gum or cutting down slowly.

I used to smoke 15 cigarettes a day. She smoked about 40. Now, almost 27 years later, I figure I’ve saved $30-40,000, not including interest. Together it’s more like $100,000. So if you think $100K might come in handy later in life, quit now!

Quitting isn’t easy, of course. The first three days are the hardest, when you go through withdrawals. I don’t think the discomfort is any worse than a bad cold, and you have less of these if you don’t smoke, so you’re better off, right? The next three weeks you tend to think about cigarettes a lot. For me, most of the physical discomfort was gone but the sense of loss is palpable. Then the following three months are better but there are still plenty of moments when you think about it. For the first three years you get the occasional longing, and certainly temptation, but it gets progressively easier to resist. After that, I never felt the urge, Even in stressful situations. But like a recovering alcoholic can’t touch a drop of alcohol, I had a firm rule of never, ever, ever having a single drag from a cigarette.

During the first few months I had the usual problem of weakening resolve while out for a few drinks, which I still did a lot. My solution was to have another drink instead of a smoke. You can’t smoke when you’re passed out, which I did regularly for a while. I don’t recommend this technique necessarily. Alcohol is a serious problem for society and doesn’t mix well with diving. If Alcohol was invented today, I’m sure there’d be a huge outcry from ordinary citizens to make it illegal. Not that I’m a teetotaler myself or anything.

I count this as one of the great accomplishments of my life. A greater accomplishment would be to not start in the first place, but better late than never. 27 years later I can thank it for some wealth, health and possibly my life. I doubt I’d still be able to scuba dive if I’d kept it up all these years.  Funny thing is about half the people I dive with smoke, but I work in an office of about 65 people and only one of them smokes.

When I was about 20 I went for a physical and the doctor asked me if I smoked. I told him that I hadn’t managed to quit. He said “the important thing is to keep trying”. I never forgot that advice and eventually made it stick.

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Comments»

1. scubaout - December 12, 2008

Congratulations on quitting.. unfortunately when you started there wasn’t enough information and education available as there is now regarding the horrible health effects of smoking.

What’s really sad is seeing young people smoking today with all that we know.
Naples Dive Center

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