stop/reduce smoking system?

An everyday system, TM, is a simple, commonsense solution to an everyday problem, grounded by a pun or metaphor. Propose/discuss new systems here.
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stop/reduce smoking system?

Post by phano » Tue Jan 01, 2008 3:01 am

Hi, I was wondering of there's a system to quit or reduce smoking? My husband likes the everyday system idea and wondered.

Last edited by phano on Sun Jan 20, 2008 1:09 am, edited 2 times in total.

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Post by reinhard » Wed Jan 02, 2008 8:36 pm

I have a "reduce smoking system" that I don't emphasize too much because I'm not sure it's replicable, though it has been very successful for me. The other reason I don't emphasize it is that non-smokers tend to get all puritanical on you if you admit any level of smoking (especially if you're posing as a health guru!) , and I'm afraid smokers will either disbelieve and resent that I'm able to trifle with such a potent devil, or be tempted into thinking it's easier than it really is, and put off seeking the stronger medicine they need.

My system is called "Low Smoking." The inspirational metaphor behind it is from Goethe's Faust. In Faust, there's a scene it which the devil gets into Faust's lab, but can't get out, because there's a pentagram on the door with a little gap in it. He was able to get IN through the gap, but then he's stuck. So I imagine a no smoking sign, one of those red slashed circles -- except with a little gap. It's a useful metaphor because it emphasizes the smallness of the permitted gap, and the danger of the forces you're messing with. It's also Grandly Literary, an amusingly incongruent but somehow still appropriate mapping to this mundane image (the no smoking sign) and problem.

The system works like this: no smoking except on S days. And then no more than 3 cigarettes an S-day (so even if you smoked the max every S day, which I don't advise, you'd still average less than 1 per calendar day). After several years of this, in practice, I'm down to about 1 cigarette a week. From what I've read, that's insignificant in terms of health effect (but not in terms of pleasure!). I should add, though, that no study that I know off has actually looked at the effects of such low levels of smoking (presumably because no one has the willpower to do it), so it's possible that it's worse for you than extrapolating downward from available data would suggest.

That's all there is too it. Very simple. Very clear. Very compatible with the other everyday systems (S days and all). And for me, it's been very effective. But I'm not sure it will work for anyone else, so be careful.

Why do I bother smoking at all, if I've gotten it down to once a week? Why play with the devil? Because I really, really enjoy that one cigarette -- more than I used to enjoy a whole pack. Playing with the devil is very, very amusing, if you can pull it off.

I've also noticed that many virtuous people, even (quite vocally) professed non-smokers, smoke an equivalent amount of tobacco in cigar format. I prefer an occasional (quality) cigarette. If they want to be snobs about my choice of poison, fine. But tone down the self righteousness please.

A few related recommendations/disclosures/warnings:

1. I was never a very heavy smoker. For several years, I smoked more or less daily, but (almost) never more than a pack a day, usually less than half that. By the time I started this system I was smoking much less than that (not daily, I'd smoke sporadically, the amount would slippery slope up, I'd get scared and cut down again, get complacent and it would start, etc.). It may be VERY hard, if not impossible, to go straight from heavy or even moderate regular smoking to Low Smoking.

2. I'd significantly built up my store of general purpose willpower with nos and shovelglove before I attempted Low Smoking. I don't know if I would have been able to pull it off without this preparatory conditioning.

3. A good preliminary/complementary step is no smoking in the house. Other good preliminary steps might be starting with one low smoking N-day a week, then 2, then 3, etc., until you work your way up to the full work week.

4. Because I smoke so rarely, I splurge on fancy cigarettes (Nat Sherman's MCDs). Unfortunately because a pack lasts me so long, they're usually totally stale by the time I get to them. I wish they sold half or quarter packs (or better yet, individual cigarettes). I've become so de-addicted that if I can't get me hands on a Nat Sherman, I'm not even interested.

5. As with most habits, I think that addict/saint dichotomy is false (for some people, at least). Thinking in terms of habit (when possible), with its degrees and directions, is more useful and more accurate and more rewarding than simple on/off, always negative addiction. Obviously this isn't true with truly awful stuff like morphine, but, for me at least, it's possible with tobacco.

6. For me, Low Smoking sort of a showcase for moderation. Among other things I keep it up (instead of simply quitting) to show off, if only to myself -- that I've got even a devil of this magnitude trained like a toy poodle.

Anyway, not an official recommendation, but just something that works for me. Though I've been lucky so far, don't forget that Faust's pet devil turns out to be a considerable nuisance.

Good luck, whatever you decide,


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Post by Murphysraven » Fri Jan 04, 2008 6:33 pm


If you are really honestly ready to quit smoking (instead of just cutting down) I'd recommend a Prescription drug called Chantix ( It's not a antidepressant or a nicotine replacement. What it does(basically) is block the receptors in your brain that crave the nicotine plus it prevents the chemical reaction that makes smoking so pleasant. It is expencive if your health insurance doesn't cover it, but when you factor how much you spend on cigarettes in a year it really doesn't seem too bad.

I did successfully quit for a year, and then sabatoged myself and started again (purposfully) :oops:

Speaking from someone who did the program, the side affects I experienced was a bit of nausia. At the end of 1 month I was only taking half the recommended dosage because it hurt my stomach too much to take more. I didn't do the full 3 months of the program but was able to be quit for a year.

I think the hardest parts were right at the beginning and then several months out. At the beginning you still mentally crave smoking but having a cigarette doesn't do anything for you, you start to notice how gross it tastes an I ended up giving up after the first 3rd of the cigarette.

After a non smoking for awhile (months after I coughed all the crap out of my lungs) the memory of everything I hated when I smoked seemed to fade away, I still remembered the time when I enjoyed smoking, both the act itself and the social aspects.

Quitting again is back on my list but I am procrastinating because I don't want to tackle too many new years resolutions in one blow. I think this time I am going to carry a long list of the negative aspects of smoking to carry around with me whenever I think about starting up again.

I am a 6-8 cigarette a day smoker, and although I smoke lights I truly don't believe they are any "better" than regulars.

Here's one example (as much a reminder for me that anyone else

Smoking deprives your body of oxygen. Even though cigarettes have been spouted as an "appetite supressent" I've read a few articles regarding what a lack of oxygen does in regards to weight and brain functions. My grandmother who was a hard core smoker is completely addle brained when not breathing from her oxygen tank. I've never been as scared of cancer as I was of not being able to think clearly.

For someone like reinhard who might only have a few on the weekends, I don't think most of the negatives really apply. I think its a rare person who has the willpower to be what I call a "social"smoker. I tried to be a social smoker after being quit for a year and it was a slippery slope back to a half a pack a day. For me once it's be a smoker or not, there really isn't an inbetween.

Or and reinhard, I recommend kepping your pack in the freezer to maintain its freshness since you only have it on weekends.
When I asked for all things, so that I may enjoy Life, I was given Life, so that I may enjoy all things.

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Post by reinhard » Thu Jan 24, 2008 2:42 pm

Thanks for the freezer tip. Trying that...

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Post by reinhard » Thu Dec 04, 2008 3:26 pm

Just put up an official Low Smoking page here:

Not much new material (except for some pictures).


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Post by yaki » Sat Mar 21, 2009 1:44 pm

Hm. I guess water pipes are another fairly safe form of tobacco, because its, relatively speaking, so much work to set one up, at least I would be much to lazy to do it more than once a month with friends. And since nicotine is nicotine, maybe that would help.

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Thank-you for this!

Post by Jessica » Sun Dec 13, 2009 10:46 pm

Reinhard, I'm so happy you had the courage to write about this. :D

I have noticed that in North American people see people as either "smokers" or "non-smokers". No attention is paid to moderation in smoking. In fact, I've been almost booed out of a conversation for even suggesting that moderate smoking is possible (even though I'm living proof!).

My low-smoking habit is as follows. Each week I have a three cigarette limit. If I choose to smoke less than this in a given week, those cigarettes get "rolled forward" into the next week, and so on. So sometimes I'll save up for a month if I know I'm going on vacation or something and will want to smoke a bit more there.

I've been smoking this way for five years now. Before this, I smoked regularly 1 pack a day. I would say that I felt very addicted before. Now, I often forget about smoking for weeks at a time, then for a few days I'll have a few, then forget again.

Some of the benefits I've gained from low-smoking:
- Each cigarette is now truly enjoyed because it is a limited pleasure.
- I don't feel guilty while smoking because I do so in such small quantity.
- I don't have to give up my beloved cigarettes forever.
- I never worry about re-starting. I'm always a low-smoker, never a "non-smoker" and most importantly, never just a "smoker" anymore.
- I don't notice any negative health effects anymore as I did when I was a pack a day smoker (and I exercise often).
- My husband doesn't worry about me any more, and I don't have to sneak around smoking because he's satisfied with my 3 a week limit.

So there it is! Low smoking IS possible.:)

Again, Reinhard thank-you so so much for writing about this topic. I thought I was the only one out there=).


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Post by reinhard » Fri Dec 18, 2009 7:17 pm


I'm glad "low smoking" resonates with you. Thank you for letting me know -- and sorry for my delayed response.

"Courage" is not the first word that comes to mind in this context, but I'll take it :-)

The "no sneaking" aspect is particularly nice, isn't it?


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Post by wosnes » Tue Jan 26, 2010 2:05 pm

I've been a heavy smoker, now down to about 1/2 pack a day. I'd be absolutely thrilled to get to 3 a day! I truly enjoy one in the morning with coffee and one after dinner.
"That which we persist in doing becomes easier for us to do. Not that the nature of the thing itself has changed but our power to do it is increased." -- Ralph Waldo Emerson

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Post by taylor04 » Sun Jun 26, 2011 5:49 pm

I started smoking when I lived in China about three years ago. I have essentially smoked a pack a day, but quit cold turkey a month ago. I have to say that doing this "low smoking" method would take incredible willpower for me, in fact, it would be harder than to just stop smoking(maybe one day in the future). I read Allen Carr's Easy Way, it truly is easy. It is the first time I have been able to stop smoking with little effort. The best part of this method? It deals with the psychological aspects behind smoking, gets down to the core of the problem, it's only a book and has no side effects :)

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Post by reinhard » Thu Jun 30, 2011 12:48 pm

Yeah, one reason I don't advertise this system more prominently is that I think it's a small subset of smokers who would profit from it. It's worked great for me. But it doesn't surprise me in the least that others would find it impossible or even counterproductive.


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Post by eschano » Wed Aug 22, 2012 10:45 am

Hi All,

I've been a Low-Smoker for years. I average about 1.5 cigarettes a month. But I do love those 1-2 cigarettes.
I'm Austrian and smoking is very much acceptable and quite social back home. I always carry a pack of my favourite brand with me just in case I fancy one. I don't follow any S day habit when it comes to smoking but usually I have to throw more than half of it out as it just goes stale.

Thanks for writing about this Reinhard. I guess "low smoking" is a good way of explaining it. I always have trouble when it comes to communicating this habit.
eschano - Vanilla rocks!

July 2012- January 2016
Started again January 2021

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Post by Jethro » Wed Aug 22, 2012 6:43 pm

Hi everyone! I'm different. I'm a seasonal smoker.

I only smoke during regular football season tailgate parties, 16 games, and during the playoffs (up to 4 games), if my team makes it. I'll smoke 1/2 to 1 pack of Marlboro lights.

So I'm smoking no less than 200 cigs, no more than 400 cigs, per year, if my team makes it to the Superbowl.

The rest of the time, zero.

I do it to calm my nerves before the game (valium makes me sleepy). The cigs go along with a good glass of scotch. Afterwards I eat with 1-2 beers.

Maybe I need to cut down. What do you think?
"Perfection is not attainable. But if we chase perfection, we can catch excellence."
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Low smoking

Post by SugarFreebie » Mon Feb 08, 2016 2:32 am

Have to admit that I was fascinated by your explanation of Low Smoking. Took courage to admit that you actually enjoy it and that there is an alternative to the black-and-white, all yes or all no thinking that only allows for addiction or abstinence. As a Respiratory Therapist for the last 12 yrs of a 35-yr health care career I ended up ruining my own health trying to delay the slow, miserable deaths of many a nicotine addict--would never want to see anyone of your brilliance in that condition. I also have read your Glass Ceiling writings; I have similarly successfully managed alcohol moderation but I have figured out that the times that I most want a drink is when it's the worst time to have one so I don't.
Now on to my third meal of today, so far so good--no snacks, no seconds, only sweet was a diet soda (my favorite brand, which I enjoy--I have diabetes so my sweets must be chosen carefully). Thank you.
Peace out,
Mary S

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