Confessions of a smoker: Dave Thune ready to quit (again)

(Editor’s Note: We caught up with St. Paul Council Member Dave Thune, who spearheaded the St. Paul smoking ban, which kicked in about six months ago. We quizzed him about starting to smoke again—at least he was honest …)

Pulse: Where are you at with your smoking?
Thune: I am about to quit again (laughs).

Pulse: Uh-huh …
Thune: And—I’m going to the Commit Lozenges and Zyban again, although now I’ve read about another drug on the market where you don’t get the nicotine—I was going to ask about that.

Pulse: When did you last quit and how long did that last?
Thune: On March 31, when the smoking ban in St. Paul took effect—until about 30 days ago.

Pulse: Do you remember what happened just before you had a cigarette again?
Thune: I did fine with City Council stress and stuff like that. The first day back I realized that I had never showed up at City Council without a pack of cigarettes before. It was kind of a good feeling … Then I started doing some kitchen remodeling at the house, and somehow when you finish a project, you’re looking at it and figuring out what to do next—and I found an old pack of cigarettes laying around.

Pulse: Was it in the garage?
Thune: Yeah.

Pulse: So, no one else knew you had started again?
Thune: No, it took a while.

Pulse: Why do you feel you need to quit? I know you’ve said before you were worried you might have a heart attack.
Thune: I think someone my age [56], the less risks you have the better. If you keep smoking, it’ll kill you, or you’ll end up with emphysema like my dad.

Pulse: Is it a sign of personal weakness, that you, so far, have not been able to quit permanently?
Thune: Yeah, weakness, but also, it’s just really hard. It has such a good feeling when you do it, at first. What I’ve found is that the first two or three cigarettes of the day taste good, and the rest taste like crap, but you gotta just keep doing it.

Pulse: I think you might remember I’m a smoker too.
Thune: Yeah. Have you tried to quit?

Pulse: Not really. I tried to quit for a few days and it was amazing how high I felt from the withdrawal symptoms. Did that happen to you, too?
Thune: Not really. Usually when I quit, it’s not a high, but at some point, your body says it’s time again, you get really fidgety. I always end up getting angry. If somebody says some little thing, I’ll just snap, you know.

Pulse: What brand do you smoke?
Thune: It doesn’t matter. The cheapest one I can get.

Pulse: Scholars say—I don’t know if it’s true, when you get rid of something, you inevitably replace it with something else. So they say you should replace it consciously, so you have control of that process. Have you done that?
Thune: I’ve tried to find toys (laughs). And that doesn’t work.

Pulse: What kind of toys?
Thune: Like a motorcycle. That’s what I did about 10 years ago when I quit. But lately, I’ve just been going with eating carrots. And chewing gum.

Pulse: When people see you smoking do they give you a bad time?
Thune: Oh, yeah. Everybody. It’s one thing when they give you a bad time. It’s another when they look sorry for you. That really hurts.

Pulse: What about the smoking ban opponents?
Thune: Whether I’m currently successful at quitting smoking has nothing to do with the bar and restaurant smoking ban. I’ve gotten more letters from workers who said they didn’t want to say anything because they value their job, but that it’s so much better working there now.

Pulse: A long time ago there was a report out that said it was more difficult to quit smoking than to quit heroin.
Thune: I’ve never been hooked on heroin (laughs), but I’ve heard the same thing. In fact, Zyban is a drug that they used initially to get people off cocaine.

Pulse: That’s kind of sobering.
Thune: Oh yeah. This isn’t any kiddie toy addiction.

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