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A Smoker, An Ex-Smoker, Or A Non-Smoker?

Few people discussed this topic at a smoke-free restaurant, since the subject came up and is raised every now and then. For people who are having difficulty quitting, it’s something they’ve thought about. Here are few different opinions.

Let’s start with the easy part: Someone who has never smoked at all is a non-smoker. After that, there’s no easy terminology. While it may not be a big deal to some people, knowing what to call yourself, being called a smoker, a non-smoker or an ex-smoker is something that can make a difference in how you see yourself as well as how others see you or treat you.

A smoker who has quit but has relapsed a few times may always refer to himself or herself as a smoker, just as an alcoholic would say, “My name is Bob and I am an alcoholic.” The implication and meaning are the same. The smoker will always use it to remind himself that he is, at heart, a smoker.

Muriel explains further. “I blew it once when I had quit for almost three years. I was in a new job for a year and was so used to not smoking. My work mates were treating me as a person who had never smoked. They would often make deprecating remarks to me about smokers, and even though I even told a couple of them that I once smoked, they paid no attention. So just as I used to play mind games with myself when I was trying to quit smoking, I now began to fool myself that I fit the description that these non-smokers had of me. I believed it without giving too much thought to it.

One day when I found myself in a crowd of smokers, I lit someone’s cigarette for them. People laughed. I didn’t feel anything, or so I thought. Then stupidly, I played the game a few more times in the day. In all, I took about four puffs. Those four puffs got the ball rolling again, and I was back at it fulltime by the end of the week. That time though, my smoking increased to a couple of packs a day. So in my case, I will always think of myself as ‘a smoker struggling to remain quit’ and will say so up front whenever I can.”

Brad: “Not a big deal for me. I’ve been an ex-smoker all my life,” he laughs. “An ex-smoker for a year or two, an ex-smoker for a few months, or an ex-smoker for six years. Every few years, I go back to it, not that I’m proud of it. I even call myself ‘an ex-smoker in relapse’. I don’t like being a smoker.” He smiles again. Asked when he would give up smoking for the final time, he replied, “I say I will never go back to it, but something’s always happened that I would give in. One of these days I’ll get it right.”

“Edgar told me, “I am a non-smoker, period. It’s a mindset, an attitude. I refuse to be led back into the trappings or to anything that will make me smoke again. I don’t ever want to have to quit again. Smokers nowadays shy away from non-smokers, so by aligning myself with them, no one bothers me. I really don’t think much about the whole question. Yeah, I smoked once. I don’t any more. I’m a non-smoker.”

Joye added another dimension to it. “My children are almost at the age I was when I began smoking. By calling myself a non-smoker, I may be giving them a message, but if they have a moment of rebelliousness such as the one that led me to smoke in the first place, then it would upset me. So instead, I tell them the little I know about genetics and how some day scientists will discover or isolate the addiction gene. There’s no doubt in my mind that they will. So I want my children to know that they probably carry that gene and I really don’t want to see them struggling to overcome an addiction. We discuss smoking and drugs and alcohol. There’s depression on my husband’s side of the family and there apparently is a genetic factor in that too. So if I give my children anything in life, it’s the idea of avoiding those things, not because they’re weaker than others, but because in our family, those are the things we know we have to avoid. Wish us well, will you?”

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