Bill Linnane: 'I smoked 20 a day until the GP gave it to me straight, and now I'm completely smoke free'

How are you getting on with the new year’s resolutions? Sticking with them?

It’s only been a matter of hours, but sher look just try your best, and remember that the most important thing is not your good intentions, but rather that you didn’t actually tell anyone about your big plan to give up the drink, exercise more, or try to ease off the badger baiting. Because once you tell someone, a verbal contract is enacted, and you have to make a half-arsed attempt at fulfilling your resolution, which means grinding out your new regime until they forget or you just stop caring what they think, which is usually around February 1, which is why St Brigid is the patron saint of going back on the drink.

New year’s resolutions are a testament to how endlessly optimistic we are, or alternatively, how oblivious we are to our inability to change. Year after year we assume that this time, it will be different, and we will dig down deep and stop making the same mistakes, eating the same junk, and falling for the same terrible people: This will be our year. Sadly though, we really only change under medical advice, or maybe that’s just me.

I was an enthusiastic smoker. Having started relatively late — aged 17 — I made up for lost time by taking up full-time residence in Marlboro country. Marlboros were among the strongest, most deadly and therefore most manly cigarettes you could find back in the 1990s, and apart from times when I wanted to appear more exotic by smoking Camels, I ploughed through a 20-pack of reds a day. Then, of course, my asthma flared up, and I sounded like Wheezy, the malfunctioning penguin in Toy Story 2, whilst also smelling like Stinky Pete the prospector from the same film. You really don’t feel very cool when you are breathing and smelling like a yak by the time you’ve reached the top of a flight of stairs.

So I cut down to Silk Cut Purples, a lighter cigarette, and just dragged a lot harder on them to make up the difference. This was a brilliant idea, until my mouth was scorched from the smoke.

So off I trotted to the doctor, who gave it to me straight — I was one of those poor souls who was going to get cancer in their mouth, throat, tongue, jaw or general facial area before I got it anywhere else. If he had told me my lungs would be ground zero, I probably would have sparked one up there and then and growled about how a man can do a lot of living in six months, but he had appealed to my incredible vanity. I could keep smoking, but I would be saying goodbye to my inoffensive sitcom face.

So I resolved to change, and with a lot of hard work, stamina and the support of the local Burger King, I finally managed to be completely smoke free a mere two years later. Granted, most of the hard work came in the first six months — I managed to cut back on the smokes, mainly by chewing nicotine gum in my sleep, putting on two stone, and shouting at the TV or angrily muttering under my breath at strangers on the street.

After that it was 18 months of smoking with pints, and hating myself afterwards. I only finally kicked the last remnants of my addiction when I went out with someone who didn’t smoke, and who grimaced when I kissed her after a cigarette. Mind you, she grimaced a lot of the time she was with me, but especially so after one my infrequent sojourns in Flavour Country. So I finally, officially quit smoking.

I never looked back, but by god, it was hard, yet worth it. I live a better, healthier life and my chances of being around to see my kids grow and settle are vastly increased. Quitting smoking is one of the hardest, most rewarding things you will ever do, but it is one of those rare changes we can make to our lives that actually buy us more time on earth. So hang in there, vape hard, and give it until February 2, at least.

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