1. jacklondonsghost
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    jacklondonsghost Contributing Member

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    Main character is a smoker; need help

    Discussion in 'Research' started by jacklondonsghost, Jan 25, 2010.

    Hi everyone, I'm new here.

    I haven't had a chance to review any work yet but I have a big question with my current piece.

    My main character is a 19 year old kid, and he is also a smoker. However, I have never so much as smoked a cigarette in my life. I feel this compromises the realism of the character, so I'm asking for some help with this.

    If anyone here is/was a smoker, I need to know what it is like. How often it is typical to smoke, how it feels to do so, any health detriments that are noticeable from the beginning, and anything else useful (such as what demographics tend to smoke which cigarettes).

    If this is a personal question, I'm very sorry :( I just really, really need help with this.

    EDIT: Sorry, looks like I put this in the wrong place...
     
  2. soujiroseta
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    soujiroseta Senior Member Contributor

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    Well let's see. I myself find that smoking most often occurs during rituals and certain actions throughout the day. For example, it is very common for most people to smoke after meals, during coffee breaks, while waiting for the bus or anything else. Other times its a social lubricant of sorts. If you're tense at a party or something and you see other smokers it's easier to go over and talk to them and find conversation. Many people ive met i met over a cigarette.

    As for the feeling well, it's a bit different from person to person and you don't always get it. Thats part of the addiction, constantly searching for that relaxed feeling. In truth its akin to a head-rush only more intense.

    When you start people can start to notice you smell of tobacco on your breath and clothes. Some people go to extreme lengths to hide this. Apart from this there are no noticable symptoms i experienced except maybe wheezing from time to time, nothing major. In terms of demographics i think it depends on the location.

    I'm sorry i cant give a more detailed response i'm in the office so if there's anything else you'd like to ask don't hesitate:)
     
  3. jacklondonsghost
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    jacklondonsghost Contributing Member

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    Thank you so much. This is really helpful to me. My character is debating over buying cigarettes as soon as the very first paragraph of my novel and I really need to have it realistic.

    Any other information on exactly how it feels to smoke would be really appreciated :)
     
  4. soujiroseta
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    soujiroseta Senior Member Contributor

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    Describing what it feels like to someone who's never smoked is like describing colour to a creature without eyes. Like any feeling it's difficult to explain to someone who's never felt it. Like i said before it's different for some people, i guess it's in a way like being drunk for a very short period of time. Your body's relaxed, mind is in a state of euphoria but your decisions are not affected as it would be if you were drunk. It lasts ,at most, 10 minutes and then is gone. It's possible to smoke for a whole week and not feel this feeling. I'm not sure if i got it down correctly, i think it would be wise to wait for a second opinion.
     
  5. jacklondonsghost
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    jacklondonsghost Contributing Member

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    That's still very helpful. Thanks so much :)
     
  6. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    Most people I've met who smoke, I was one of these too, smoke at regular intervals because of 'the need' which can be very powerful. It's like an addiction.
     
  7. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    It isn't like an addiction. It is an addiction, complete with withdrawal symptoms when you try to quit.

    When I started smoking (I started and stopped decades ago), there was a discernable "high" associated with it - a slight giddiness, and a mild stimulantg rush similar to strong coffee. It wasn't long before I no longer felt those sensations. A couple months after I quit, I noticed that I had been feeling somewhat lethargic before I quit. The absence of the "drugged" feeling was noticeable.
     
  8. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    ^ I can dispute that: it is the will to have something because you really enjoy it, that's not really an addiction.
     
  9. John Bender
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    John Bender Banned

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    I’m a moderate smoker (about 1-2 packs a week) but I’ve smoked for more than 20 years now and I can tell you, I hardly ever had any actual feeling when smoking, let alone one that was comparable to euphoria or being drunk or anything like that. I know a guy who said he got dizzy with the first few drags of a cigarette every now and then but that never really happened to me. On the other hand I sometimes get actually sick from smoking. Like, kind of a circulatory problem. But that’s very rare. The most likely immediate effect is kind of a rough, hoarse feeling in your throat when you inhale, especially when you smoke strong stuff. To turn wheezy most people would have to smoke quite a lot at a time and/or quite a long time. I mean, after, like, two packs in one night you might well feel a bit short of breath, but an average teenager should be ok with like half a pack or so a day. Except he started smoking at ten or so, then he might suffer from long term effects as well. By the way, a pretty common amount for serious smokers is about a pack a day. Oh, and you can get quite a headache from smoking too much. 2 packs on a wild night may well let you wake up with a sledge hammer in your head. Some people actually entertain suspicion that the headache that comes with a hangover is more due to smoking than to drinking. It definitely can worsen the effect…

    I know a bit about drugs and stuff and I have been trained as addiction counsellor and in my opinion nicotine is hardly an actual drug. This doesn’t mean that people won’t get compulsive over it, but the actual effect of the substance is nominal compared to other psychotropic substances. It’s short, weak and in fact you have hardly any physical withdrawal symptoms when you quit. Nicotine addiction is a massively overestimated phenomenon.

    As for your character:

    When did he start smoking? (Beginner or old hand?)
    Why is it important that he smokes?
    Do you really have to go into any details? I mean, I’ve never met a smoker who like ponders over how a cigarette makes him feel or something like that. Smoking is a very casual, en passant kind of thing without noteworthy effects. You simply light one, puff it down and toss away the butt. That’s about it. Not like, I don’t know, blazing or doing coke or anything like that, where you experience an actual shift in perception and feelings.
    If the guy has to smoke – if it’s important to the character and the plot – I’d really just mention it here and there without much ado. Everything else would quite likely come across inflated and really give you away as a layman.

    Any more questions, feel free to ask.

    Oops..just saw that I also pretty much contradict what Cogito wrote...I'm not attempting to come across insubordinate. But it shows how much opinions on topics like these are divided. Also, I live in Europe and we have not (yet) adopted the USA's slightly obsessive and inflationary attitude towards addiciton and the consumption of more or less psychotropic substances. and
     
  10. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    Hey John, I politely disagree with Cognito too, and what you wrote is everything I frankly couldn't be bothered to write (so I have something to thank you for).

    I guess it's a European thing.
     
  11. jacklondonsghost
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    jacklondonsghost Contributing Member

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    Thanks to everyone for the useful information. My character is 19 and has been smoking since 15. He started after his dad died of a sudden cardiac death (his dad was a smoker; he also wears his father's old clothing). He has four siblings and a mother who gambles, so he works as much as he can to help support his family. The smoking is necessary because it makes him feel guilty to spend money on cigarettes as opposed to on family expenses, and is a metaphor for how he struggles to balance taking on his father's job of supporting his family, and taking care of himself.

    It's not necessary for him to describe smoking, obviously, and I won't go into detail about it in the actual work of course, but I am curious for my own knowledge what it is like. I feel more comfortable writing about it if I know a bit about it.

    Thanks to everyone again :)
     
  12. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    There must be people you know who are smokers who are willing to talk about their experiences.
     
  13. jacklondonsghost
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    jacklondonsghost Contributing Member

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    ...

    I'm actually astounded with myself that that never crossed my mind. I should probably just ask someone I know.
     
  14. John Bender
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    John Bender Banned

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    @ Lemex

    “I guess it's a European thing.!

    It definitely is! Though I’m afraid we’re already a bit on the obsessive and inflationary track as well…I think my country is about the last in Central Europe with no general smoking prohibition in restaurants and bars. I dread the day that bull comes over us too…

    “so I have something to thank you for”

    Thank me by visiting my thread in here and contributing your opinion! ;-))

    @ jacklondon…

    Ok, I can kind of see the person you describe. But if he’s short of money and feeling guilty and everything he’d quite likely smoke the cheapest brand of cigarettes he can get or even roll. You know, like buying tobacco and papers and rolling…
     
  15. ronmatt
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    ronmatt Member

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    Nasty old me, I am a smoker. I've been a smoker since I was 14; I'm almost 70.
    It's more difficult to explain the feeling of 'not smoking' for me than 'what I feel, as a smoker'. I get no 'rush' from smoking..My first cigarette in the morning simply takes the edge off of 'needing' that first cigarette in the morning. I can go days without a cigarette. I've never been short of breath, or I've always been short of breath as I've nothing to compare breath length to. I've never been sick, I've maybe had 10 colds and 5 bouts of flu in my life.

    Why do you feel the need to 'point out' your character as a smoker? Just make his habit incidental. Unless you feel the need for political correctness. Cause that's all it really is.
     

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