So, it’s the New Year, and the media is on our backs to get off our arses and do something about the filthy disgusting slobs we’ve turned ourselves into over Christmas. The papers and mags are full of diets. “Drop a Jean Size In Two Weeks.” “The Ten-Day Detox Diet.” The All-Sprout and Lentil Fart Yourself Thin Plan. Carol Vorderman’s “Totally Realistic Eat Yourself Slim, Go Up A Bra Size And Shag Brad Pitt In A Week Diet.” Lot of swiss chard in that one. My personal favourite, the McDonald’s “Buy One Big Mac Get One Free Fuck Dieting Diet.”

And of course the anti-smoking lobby gets into full swing, rubbing in that New Years Resolution guilt trip. And yes, smoking is foul and disgusting and of course giving up is a good thing to do. But you’re at your weakest when you’re fighting an addiction, and you can be damn sure there’ll be some evil bastard ready to take advantage of your need for a crutch.

Take the nicotine gum people. They’re easy! They’re convenient! They come in vaguely palatable fruit-like flavours! They’ll give you the power to beat the crap out of the six-foot tall cigarettes that you’re now hallucinating in your weakened state!

But you read the small print and you get a different story. At the bottom of every pack, on every poster, at the end of every advert, there are the two magic words. “Requires Willpower.”

Hang on a minute. You need willpower to give up smoking, chewy or no chewy. All the gum’s doing is giving you the nicotine you’re craving at a slightly reduced dose to ease you away from the fags. Nicotine’s the last thing you need. Nicotine’s the problem in the first place! You’re telling me that I’m going to be spending as much on chewing gum as I was on the old coffin nails, and I’m still going to be gnawing my fingernails down to the knuckle to fight off the need for just one more lungful of that sweet sweet smoke? As far as I’m concerned, if you’re on the gum or the see-through plasters, you’re still smoking! You’re just making it more difficult to justify the fag breaks!

That’s a thing no-one talks about. You’re not just giving up the bad stuff about smoking. You’re giving up the good stuff as well. You’re giving up your fag break buddies. You’re giving up that excuse to slope off from your desk for fifteen minutes every oh, half-hour or so. There you are one day, puffing away with that skinny bloke from accounts with the twitch and the bad teeth, and that receptionist you wouldn’t get the time of day from if you weren’t puffing Lambert and Butler at her. Next thing they know, you’re missing in action.

“What happened to Rob?” “He’s no longer with us.” “You mean…?” “I’m afraid so. Patches.” “Why? Why is it always the pretty ones? Why did I not tell him I loved him when I had the chance?”

I think what smokers need isn’t gum with nicotine. I think smokers need gum with willpower in it. Pop a couple of those babies and you’d be able to face down a crack jones with a jaunty shrug. “I have a craving!” Poink. “No. I. Don’t. Graaaaaaahhhh! Eye of the tiger!”

Fantastic stuff! You wouldn’t just have to use it for addictions. You could use it for any tough decision. That problem with the boss. “I can’t stand that self-absorbed arsemonkey a nanosecond longer! Don’t hold me back! I’m marching into that fucking corner office right this minute, tear his head off and spit down the hollow end!” “Wow! How’d Rob get so assertive?” “Willpower gum.” “Oooohhh…”

Break-ups? “No, you can’t have the Barry Manilow records! I bought them, I’m keeping them!” An altercation at the checkout? “I said there’s 5p off this can of beans! Grraaaaahhhh! Eye of the Tiger!” It’s self-confidence in a blisterpak!

Only problem is, you could overshoot the mark a little, of course. “Yeah, I’m smoking. It’s hard and the blonde on reception likes it when I blow smoke at her. Wanna make something of it?”

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Rob

Writer. Film-maker. Cartoonist. Cook. Lover.

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