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Getting-Personal Series: When Did You Start Smoking?

MyFinalSmoke has conducted interviews with current and ex smokers to compile this series of stories and personal experiences, true accounts of how people like you have encountered the cigarette, how it affected their lives, and how they live with the habit, and how they gave it up. In the following, we will share with you the insights of real people and how they answered our questions.

When Did You Start Smoking? *

The first time you made the decision to try out a cigarette might come with a significant story, or it might be an irrelevant incident that you could barely remember, one that doesn’t exactly mark the start of a long-term use. You might have enjoyed your very first experience, or perhaps you took up smoking years after that first time you gave it a try and hated everything about it. We all come with our unique yet often relatable narratives. Here are the stories of how four current smokers answered our question, “When did you start smoking?”

Disclaimer: All stories are submitted anonymously to encourage complete honesty and are paraphrased when needed to enhance readability. MyFinalSmoke doesn’t endorse or embrace or advocate for any of the viewpoints shared below. 

Sneaking the First Cigarette *

“Both my parents have been smoking since as far back as I can remember. I grew up aware of how damaging it can be, seeing my father and my mother struggle to quit and then fail. I hated the concept and always encouraged them to stop. But I also had this curiosity: what was so great about smoking anyway? And how difficult can it be to just stop if you know full well it can kill you? So while I loathed the habit I still had this deep interest to understand. And I think that’s what drove me to try the first time.

I was about 14 and I was spending the night at my aunt’s. My aunt had a whole box of cigarette packs in her wardrobe. Everyone was asleep, and I remembered my conversations with my girlfriends where we all spoke of wanting to try smoking once. So I sneaked to her room and grabbed myself one cigarette and the matches from the kitchen. I hid in the balcony and tried to light it. I think that failed a few times before it finally worked. I breathed in twice. It was a heavy brand, and I hated the taste. So I threw it away and got rid of all evidence of the crime. I spent years afterwards proclaiming to everyone that smoking, from my firsthand experience, was horrible.

I don’t remember the second first time I did it. But it was among friends who all smoked and were very encouraging about it. I tried it because ‘what is the worst thing that could happen?’ and still hated the taste. But it became a habit to smoke socially, and soon enough I bough my very own pack because I still wanted to do it when there were no friends around to offer me one.”

Hookah Sessions and Depression *

“I started smoking when I was 18. Whenever I was with my friends at a place that serves hookah, I wanted to try that because I liked the smell. And then after trying it I realized that it helps my anxiety. So I started smoking excessively as my anxiety and depression worsened. The smoke makes me dizzy so it helps. It puts me in such a state. It helps. I wrote something about it:

For me smoke means something different. It means cutting myself deeper than any edge would go. It means my lungs bleed as much as my arms. I smoke to pretend the ache in my heart is something I chose.”

Like Father Like Son *

“Well, what I think of smoking is irrelevant if I do smoke. I had my first cigarette on my way home when I was 16 and could bum two fags for a quarter of a pound, the cheap kind. I remember wanting to try it out since my father was always a heavy smoker and I used to light up the butt of his cigarettes from the ashtray when I was alone. After years of smoking, I’ve come to realize the associations of smoking with what I do. I smoke when I’m excited, I smoke when I’m down, I smoke when I’m pleased, I smoke when I’m drinking, I smoke when I’m anxious, I smoke when I’m celebrating and most of all I have to smoke if I want to get high, obviously.”

Curiosity and Rituals *

“I started smoking about a year ago. I’m 24, so I officially started at 23. Before that I had borrowed a cigarette every now and then from friends, and I never liked the taste, although I guess I was curious. But I liked the routine of blowing smoke, ashing the cigarette, putting it out after it dies. I grew accustomed to the ritual and I liked always having something between my fingers. Gradually, I started to tolerate the taste, and then I grew to like it. Sometimes when I’m stressed I think I need a cigarette because it’ll make everything better. Rationally I know it won’t. But it’s easier to rely on something so simple and easy to get your hand on instead of actually worrying about fixing a problem.

There’s also this voice at the back of my head that still tells me I am in control. That I control the habit and not vice versa. Honestly though, now, I’m not so sure this remains true.”

Short Conclusion *

Whether you’re reading this article out of curiosity, or to learn the reasons someone dear to you might have started smoking, it’s important to understand that how it began doesn’t necessarily explain why it’s still happening. Most people often try their first cigarette because “once can’t hurt,” or as a way to conform, yield to peer pressure, or seek validation from a group (though no one would deny their agency so far as to outright admit this is the case). Regardless, if you’re worried about your child or your loved one taking on smoking, it’s advisable to sit with them, have a conversation, learn of their own personal individual stories, and plan how to move from there.

Our next article in the series will ask the question of “why do you currently smoke?” So if you found the stories above helpful, tune in for more insight or email us/comment below with your own story. We hope that, in the shared experiences, we may come to find a moral, and reach an understanding of why a habit so harmful can have such a strong hold on the best of us.

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