Dulusions Duluth's Weekly Reality Check


CTRL: Smoke ‘Em If You Got ‘Em

Each month, I write a column for Transistor (www.transistormag.com) called CTRL+ALT+DULUTH. (Yes, it plays on the "duh-LOOT" pronunciation.) Below is the text from last week's issue:

This New Year’s Day, I resolved to stop taking my garbage down to the building’s dumpster. Three weeks in, I’m happy to say that I’m holding steady.

Sure, I’ll admit that sticking to it gets hard at times – especially when my wife insists on emptying the trash in front of me while I’m trying to watch television. But every time I come close to caving, I simply recall the last time I took it out:

While walking back through the lobby after tossing a bag of recyclables, one of my neighbors approached me with a beaming smile and a roll of scotch tape.

“Hi! I’m just looking for someone to help me out with something,” she explained.

Given the tape and her short stature, I assumed that she needed help with putting up a holiday decoration, or perhaps posting a juicy missive on the security door. Either one being cool with me, I enthusiastically consented.

Instead, she pulled up her sleeve to reveal a Nicoderm patch on her shoulder.

“Could you tape this on for me? It just won’t stay on, and I can’t get the tape to stick with only one hand.”

After swallowing the small squirt of puke my stomach had spit up, I dutifully pressed the strips of tape to her fleshy arm with my thumbs. “If I can help a fellow human being overcome an addiction, it’s well worth it,” I thought.

“You know, I was just sitting there thinking, ‘God, I could really use a cigarette,” and then I saw the patch lying on the floor,” she admitted. “I had it on my thigh earlier, but it just won’t stick.”

Two days later, there she was, huddled in the outside entryway – puffing away again.

Of course, she wasn’t alone. This time of year, the epic battle between brutal arctic cold and nicotine addiction plays out daily across Duluth, with the vanquished shivering outside the city’s office buildings and bars.

(You don’t often see such scenes in Superior, where smoke still billows legally from the bars and where, apparently, a lung cancer diagnosis isn’t necessarily worse than the other prospects you may have lined up.)

Lately, however, a new player has arrived to help would-be quitters come in from the cold. Quitplan, a service sponsored by the nonprofit group ClearWay Minnesota, has launched a comprehensive counseling service to help residents who may have resolved to put away their packs this year.

Perhaps you’ve seen the TV ad, which features a guy whose strategy for kicking cigarettes apparently involves dropping acid instead. Sitting alone at his kitchen table with a thousand-yard stare, he sweats away as his cigarettes morph into a cartoon cavalcade of evil influences that try to coax him into lighting up. Instead of giving in, he picks up the phone:

“Hello, Quitplan…can I get some Ketamine instead?”

Sadly, the ad blitz works as a double-edged sword. After all, is there a better way to help smokers quell their cravings than saturating the airwaves and plastering billboards and buses with reminders of how much they’d love a cigarette? I mean, that’s exactly what you need at the bus stop – where it is just impossible to bum a smoke – right?

As you’ve probably guessed, I’m not a smoker – perhaps partly because I know that I’d never muster the will power to stop once I started. (Ditto heroin.) But I must admit: Those cartoons in the Quitplan commercial make some good points. And my success in this garbage endeavor has me itching for a new challenge…

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