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photos by Lara Shipley

One-Player Game Theory

March 17th, 2009 · 19 Comments

In the interest of deterring my own future self from defecting from my longstanding scheme to quit smoking at 30, I’m announcing publicly that I’m now officially smoke-free.  While I’d like to believe it’s possible for even ex-smokers to—eventually—enjoy the occasional cigarette without careening into a life of sin and degradation, I’m thinking that it needs to be a complete ban for at least the first year to avoid the risk of backsliding into regular smoking. Which means if you spot me skulking about somewhere with a cigarette, you are permitted—indeed, encouraged—to publicly ridicule me. You should take pictures with your camera-phone and send it to all your Twitter buddies with a snarky caption mocking my pathetic akrasia.

Since I’ve been skimming various anti-smoking sites to get a sense of the withdrawal timeline, however, let me add a corollary: If I ever become one of those chirpy, preening ex-smokers  who can’t stop nattering about the million ways they’re better, happier, healthier people since they came to Jesus and abandoned the foul weed (And started running! Oh my God, do you run? It’s the best thing I ever did!) do us both a favor and bludgeon me with a rusty pipe.  I’m stopping because the stuff does tend to kill you eventually, and as best I can determine, quitting by 30 leaves your body with a pretty good chance of repairing itself without serious long-term consequences. Assuming that happens, I’ll be delighted I got away with smoking for a decade and change, because (like so many other things in life) it’s really quite nice except for the killing-you part.

Tags: Economics · Personal



19 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Franklin Harris // Mar 17, 2009 at 12:28 pm

    This is just a scheme to avoid paying for SCHIP, isn’t it?

  • 2 mmy // Mar 17, 2009 at 12:29 pm

    Don’t know if this will encourage or discourage you. I quit smoking over 2 decades ago. I had a horrible time in withdrawal. Initially the physical symptoms were the most notable. In time I began to appreciate how much of my addiction was psychological as well. To this day I smoke in my dreams–the inner me still smokes. I still have times when I want cigarettes. I have never had so much as a puff since the day I quit since I am in way no sure that if I had one puff it wouldn’t lead to another and I never want to go through the process of quitting again. I am glad I quit but I certainly am not “chirpy” about it.

  • 3 Jeremy Pober // Mar 17, 2009 at 4:10 pm

    I quit for two years and the worst part about starting again is that I know I have to go through the whole crappy process of quitting again. So, no problem on your request.

    But the philosopher’s tic in me makes me ask: Is it really game theory?

  • 4 NG // Mar 17, 2009 at 4:14 pm

    Just tobacco?

  • 5 digamma // Mar 17, 2009 at 4:23 pm

    Oh my God, do you run? It’s the best thing I ever did!

  • 6 Ed // Mar 17, 2009 at 8:01 pm

    You can’t “enjoy the occasional cigarette”. If you smoke after getting the nicotine out of your body, that cigarette isn’t enjoyable. The next one, on the other hand, is…

    Read Allen Carr. Seriously.

  • 7 Julian Sanchez // Mar 17, 2009 at 8:16 pm

    That’s plainly false. There must be a couple dozen people in my circle of acquaintances alone who have a cigarette something like twice a month, enjoy it just fine, and (having kept that up for some years) display no interest in smoking with any greater frequency. I have no doubt whatever that very many people do “enjoy the occasional cigarette”; it would be nice if those of us who have been more regular smokers could do the same, but I realize it’s probably not tenable.

  • 8 Amy // Mar 17, 2009 at 9:18 pm

    I’ve never been a regular smoker the way you are (were?) a regular smoker. But I went from smoking about 3 packs a week to smoking about 3 cigarettes a week, and I’ve been at about that level for years. Sometimes I’ll smoke a a few cigarettes in a day, and sometimes I’ll go months without having any. It’s great. I wish you all the best in your transition from addict to occasional moocher.

  • 9 Julian Sanchez // Mar 17, 2009 at 9:57 pm

    Well, let’s see how I do as a non-smoker first.

  • 10 My Theory of Your Mind — Objectively Biased // Mar 18, 2009 at 4:47 pm

    […] like I commented on his post, I’m not sure any interaction I could have with him would count as a game theory since I know […]

  • 11 Nobody Much // Mar 20, 2009 at 8:04 pm

    The first cigarette I had after quitting (I only made it two months) was awful. Made me dizzy and sick. The problem is the way you smoke the first one back–smokers actuate their dose. If you smoke it like you did when you were smoking regularly, you won’t like it. If you smoke it like one of the dilettantes you apparently aspire to being, it’ll probably go better.

    Good luck, anyway.

  • 12 Julian Sanchez // Mar 21, 2009 at 2:36 am

    Well, hey, if some months from now I have a cigarette and find it distasteful, so be it… I guess that makes things simpler.

  • 13 kristine // Mar 22, 2009 at 10:09 pm

    Happy birthday … You gave yourself a wonderful present by quitting

  • 14 dhex // Mar 24, 2009 at 10:52 am

    i feel your pain, mr. sanchez, coming up on four months here myself. i’ve had a few here and there, and they were neither mindblowingly delicious nor disgusting. more importantly i’m not back up to smoking every day.

    light cigarettes, however, smell like the worst thing on earth. weirdness (or maybe they’re just that awful?)

    good luck, regardless.

  • 15 Elizabeth Ames // Mar 28, 2009 at 9:43 pm

    Glad to hear you did something great on your birthday. Now, if you put the money you save into a Roth IRA, you can ” double your pleasure, double your fun.”

  • 16 Barry // Apr 7, 2009 at 10:40 am

    “Which means if you spot me skulking about somewhere with a cigarette, you are permitted—indeed, encouraged—to publicly ridicule me. You should take pictures with your camera-phone and send it to all your Twitter buddies with a snarky caption mocking my pathetic akrasia.”

    Post a bond – $500 to anybody who catches you smoking. That’ll seriously encourage monitoring, but probably won’t be so large as to cause people to plant cameras in your apartment 🙂

  • 17 Jeff Graver // Apr 9, 2009 at 2:20 pm

    Don’t fear! Quitting is easy! I should know, I’ve done it several times. The last time seems to be sticking better. Oddities from my experience include:
    – the voice inside my head that kept telling me how nice it would be when I had finished quitting so I could celebrate with a smoke
    – the realization that I was tailing a stranger on the street because of the enticing smell of cigarette smoke that followed them
    – the joy, the sheer delight, of that first (no, Ed’s right, make that the second) smoke
    Incidentally, I used the patch – every time I quit – and I heartily endorse using whatever aid (patch, gum, food, sex, whatever) that makes the first couple/three weeks easier.

    Enjoy your misery!

  • 18 Jeff Graver // Apr 9, 2009 at 2:22 pm

    Oh yeah, the other oddity is the dreams. There’s nothing quite like waking in the middle of the night, having dreamed that you smoked. The feeling of failure, depression, desire, is simply incomparable. Not like quitting any other drug I’ve quit (in my limited experience).

  • 19 mmy re // May 4, 2009 at 4:38 pm

    EU: Deutschland wieder Defizitsünder
    Europa in der Rezession

    Deutschland wird in der Wirtschaftskrise wieder zum Defizitsünder. Entgegen früherer Prognosen bricht Berlin schon im laufenden Jahr mit einer Neuverschuldung von 3,9 Prozent den Euro-Stabilitätspakt, wie die EU-Kommission am Montag in Brüssel vorhersagte.

    Im kommenden Jahr drohen 5,9 Prozent Defizit vom Bruttoinlandsprodukt. Europa steckt mitten in der tiefsten Rezession seit dem Zweiten Weltkrieg. Das Heer der Arbeitslosen wächst. Ein leichter Hoffnungsschimmer zeichnet sich für 2010 ab.

    Bundesfinanzminister Peer Steinbrück sagte in Brüssel zum europäischen Arbeitsmarkt: «Das macht mir Sorge.» Es sei kein Trost, dass die Lage in Deutschland wegen der Reformen der vergangenen Jahre besser aussehe. Laut Kommission werden 2009 und 2010 insgesamt 8,5 Millionen Jobs in der EU verschwinden. Die Arbeitslosenquote soll im kommenden Jahr im Eurogebiet auf 11,5 Prozent steigen nach 9,9 Prozent im laufenden Jahr. Deutschland schneidet mit 10,4 Prozent (2010) und 8,6 Prozent (2009) etwas besser ab.