Joel's Reinforcement Library
"No thank you, I can't have a cigarette."
I often hear this reply from ex-smokers offered cigarettes by people around them. It always sounds to me like they really wish they could have one and are depriving themselves of a great joy. The fact is, any ex-smoker can have a cigarette any time they want. They have the freedom of choice to smoke or not to smoke. Whenever they want one they can have it. But there is a catch. If they take one, they must accept the consequences of reinforcing the full addiction and going back to their old level of consumption. Very few ex-smokers ever want to smoke at their old level again. Even fewer wish to go through the withdrawals experienced when initially quitting. So, what ex-smokers really mean when they say they can't have a cigarette is that they choose not to go back to smoking.
Isn't it nicer to choose not to smoke than to feel deprived of cigarettes? When you choose not to smoke you feel as if you had won a major battle--you broke away from a deadly, dirty and expensive addiction. One clinic participant made the analogy that saying "I gave up smoking," is like a recovered cancer patient saying "I gave up cancer." You don't give up cigarette smoking, you get rid of it. Once you see cigarettes in their true light, and the many advantages of not having to smoke anymore, you begin to understand just what smoking was doing to you and what not smoking does for you.
When you quit smoking you made a decision. It was a good decision. Ever since you have continued to weigh both options, and if you keep an objective and clear perspective of both sides, not smoking is clearly the optimal choice.
So, the next time someone offers you a cigarette, answer them directly with "I choose not to smoke." And to maintain that freedom of choice, always remember-Never Take Another Puff!