My childhood was peppered with my father’s euphemisms for smoking.
Every evening after our family meal, he’d get up from the table and inform us he was ‘just going to check on the weather’ — or ‘the oven’, or even ‘a giraffe’ he had apparently seen in the garden.
Each of these was actually an excuse for my dad to have his after-dinner cigarette.
My father, Anthony, now 68, smoked more than 20 a day for 40 years — and this was a routine almost every night for the 20 years I lived at home.
Around an hour later, he will have another, then an hour after that we’ll hear the rustle of the packet again.
‘My breathing is already better and I can walk and run properly.’But he is definitely addicted. While gum was meant to bridge the gap between addiction and freedom for smokers, many have trouble weaning themselves off it.To go by the experience of other countries that have done this, it will lead to many more smokers switching to nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) products, such as gum. When the taste becomes strong or hot (this signals that the nicotine has been released), users are told to ‘park’ the gum in the side of their cheek until the feeling fades, before continuing to chew. The latter (which Dad uses) is recommended for people on more than 20 cigarettes a day.One 2mg piece of gum has double the amount of nicotine absorbed (on average) from a cigarette, though experts say gum-chewers don’t absorb it all.Half of all lifelong smokers die early, losing around three months of life expectancy for every year after the age of 35 that they smoke, according to a report last month. As Professor John Britton, chairman of the Royal College of Physicians tobacco advisory group, explains, smokers are ‘like people in a nightclub when a fire breaks out’ — they just need a way out, and that’s what nicotine gum provides.The leaflet that accompanies nicotine gum brand Nicorette, for instance, warns that ‘very common side-effects’ include stomach discomfort, nausea, headaches and tingling or numbness in hands and feet, with more than one user in ten affected.Less common are vomiting, palpitations and hives.‘The effects of chewing ten to 15 pieces of gum a day are pretty onerous,’ he says.‘That’s around one piece every hour, with recommended chewing of around 20 minutes, so people do say they have sore jaws.And nausea, dizziness, insomnia and headaches can also be side-effects of the gum, but they are for most medications.’There is some evidence of more serious harm.In 2014, a study by scientists at the Virginia Bioinformatics Institute, in the U.S., found nicotine was such a powerful carcinogen, it caused thousands of cell mutations similar to those known to be a precursor to cancer.Half of all lifelong smokers die early, losing around three months of life expectancy for every year after the age of 35 that they smoke, according to a report last month.