Basic training is where they take away all your rights and give them back to you, one at a time, as privileges.
That was my take on basic training at Lackland Air Force Base 40 years ago. Smoking is now banned during basic, but in my day it was one of those meted out privileges. It was torture in those early days of basic, watching our TIs puff away as they did their best to rid us of our disgusting civilian habits before molding us into proper airmen.
I can’t tell you how long we went without a smoke, but I remember well the moment at mail call when we were first allowed to light up. A few short moments later we were told to put them out, but we finally were on the road to recovery, tobacco-wise.
I never regained my smoking form after that. My two-pack-a-day habit was cut at least in half and I started entertaining, half-heartedly, the idea of quitting altogether. But military cigarettes were cheap, even in the states. At that time, a carton of king-size filter cigarettes was available at the base commissary for under $2. That’s less than a penny per cigarette.
Within three years, I was married and the father of a young child. At that point, the hypocrisy of a military organization that was preaching physical well-being on the one hand while subsidizing cheap cigarettes on the other, was just too much. Vowing to be a better (and healthier) role model for my children, I decided to quit. It wasn’t as hard as I thought.
I discovered a most effective technique for quelling the inevitable cravings of my addiction that dogged me in the first few days of my recovery. Whenever the need for a smoke came up, I’d light up and puff as fast as I could, never inhaling. This frantic puffing left such a hot, bitter taste in my mouth that, after just a short time, the craving went away.
Smoking is more complicated and addictive than most nonsmokers realize. This site has information on why we smoke and this site offers a history of tobacco use. By the way, Tex Williams, a heavy smoker who had the hit with “Smoke! Smoke! Smoke! (That Cigarette)” that opened this series, eventually died of cancer.
Flickr photo of World War I doughboy courtesy of paws22.