So you’ve started smoking. Congratulations! That means you’ve started beginning to think about maybe at least cutting back on your smoking a little, nicotine being a drug that ushers you along from blithe casual use to self-loathing zealotry with fantastic speed.
So you’re starting to think about quitting. Again, congratulations are in order. You’ve come to the right place. The Troy Patterson Stop Smoking Plan is foolproof, within limits.
Some, no doubt, will find it rather too specifically targeted.
For one thing, it is best suited to the light smoker—the sort of person conquering the urge to light up a mere four or five a day or, OK, maybe a couple more when stressed out by a particular concern, such as worrying about how you need to quit.
Further, the plan is designed for the smoker who has accumulated a lot of experience at quitting—who, as in the unavoidable Mark Twain quip, knows that quitting is the easiest thing in the world because he’s done it a thousand times.
With this invocation of Twain, we come to a third caveat: This how-to guide is written for the reader who actually likes to read. It represents a survey of the history of smoking-cessation literature, texts ranging from the best self-help books (guides to getting inside your own head, really) to the sharpest formulations of novelists and essayists (observations as precise as the click of a Zippo).
The Troy Patterson Stop Smoking Plan is not guaranteed to work for everyone. In fact, looking it over again, I see that it is not guaranteed to work for anyone, except for Troy Patterson. This writer’s plan is foolproof, but the writer is the only certain fool. Here at the beginning, the preamble to Step 1 (of 10), he vows that the period on this story’s last sentence marks a full stop.
Step 1: Using Google and the New York Public Library, skim across the history of anti-tobacconist literature. Such an experience is akin to getting hassled, for 400 years, by a million monkeys banging at a million typewriters that have only four or five keys. The Western world has said nothing new against the vices of tobacco since the days shortly after Walter Raleigh taking up the pipe and Jean Nicot bringing Catherine de Medici a snuffbox as a hostess gift.
The first medical authority to weigh in was King James I—“the proper Phisician of his Politicke-body”—with A Counterblaste to Tobacco, a treatise that set the template. In short, James wrote vehemently that smoking was gross, but he was writing in 1604, so it came out more like groff. In the United States, the prose practice of huffing about puffing blew up in the 1830s. The anti-tobacco voices joined the chorus of the temperance movement, and for the duration of the 19th century we got a lot of tracts and sermons deploring filth, waste, and licentious idleness. And yet the writers—addressing young boys and old bluenoses, not smokers—weren’t even interested in nagging you properly.
American publishers expressed little interest in the future ex-smoker until the turn of the century, when they mixed their printer's ink with snake oil. An 1893 pamphlet titled King No-To-Bac, His Work in America existed to shill a fad-cure chewing gum, and the medical value of 1900's Hypnotism in Mental and Moral Culture is conveniently indicated by the last name of its author, John Duncan Quackenbos. In reality, nothing much happened in the denunciation of tobacco between James’ Counterblaste and the Journal of the American Medical Association’s issue of May 27, 1950, which published lung-cancer research confirming the king’s hunch that tobacco “hath a certaine venemous facultie joyned with the heate thereof, which makes it have an Antipathie against nature.”