I’d thought about quitting for years, but I really liked smoking. I enjoyed sitting in front of the TV after a long day of work with a cigarette and a scotch. Sure, I knew it wasn’t good for me. Sure, I was president of our company’s wellness division—and I got the ribbing to go along with it.
I felt three or four cigarettes a day weren’t a big deal. I am an endurance athlete, and never felt like smoking affected my performance. I never coughed, and because I smoked so little, neither my clothes nor my apartment smelled strongly. I felt very little reason to quit until my company applied pressure.
It wasn’t a “quit or get fired” mandate. Instead, my company instituted a health insurance discount for non-smokers, but I knew right away that, in reality, it was a penalty for smokers. The “discount” was sizable, and it added quite a bump to the price of a pack of cigarettes. But you didn’t have to quit to get the discount, you only had to enroll in the company-sponsored tobacco cessation program.
I did quit, though. The financial penalty was a big motivator. Another was having to identify myself as a smoker on a company document. The look of it just made me feel lousy. The incentive policy also brought home that smoking was a real threat to my health. If my company was going to take a stand, I knew it wasn’t because they loved me; it was because it was a smart business decision. They wanted me to quit smoking because, as a smoker, I was at higher risk for expensive diseases like lung cancer and emphysema. So I quit. Cold turkey. I didn’t use the company’s tobacco cessation program, but it was nice to know it was there if I needed it.
I’ve been tobacco-free for nearly two years. And I do feel the difference when I’m hiking at high altitudes. I also like telling a “quit” story rather than a list of excuses for being the smoking “wellness” guy. For me, my company’s tobacco cessation program was the last reminder I needed to ditch the cancer sticks, and I’m grateful, healthier, and less of a liability to my employer because of it.