Why I Secretly Miss Being a Smoker

I made the life-saving choice to quit, but man I could use a smoke break

Michele Koh Morollo
Human Parts
Published in
7 min readJan 2, 2020


Photo: Evgeniy Kleymenov/EyeEm/Getty Images

IIt’s been 10 years since I quit smoking. I didn’t stop because I wanted to, but because my fiancé quit smoking and asked for my support in the form of solidarity. I agreed to quit but after finishing my last cigarette, I couldn’t sleep. Desperate for a hit of nicotine, I took a walk around the block. I saw a half-smoked cigarette on the sidewalk, picked it up, brought it home, snipped off the tip of the filter and took two long drags. That was the end of 15 years of nicotine dependence.

Though I no longer call myself a bona fide smoker, I won’t call myself a nonsmoker either. I still smoke occasionally — on my first night on vacation in a new destination, or in social situations that make me feel insecure, for example — but I’m not really a smoker because I don’t get a kick from it like I used to. I don’t crave nicotine, and I no longer go to bed hating myself for finishing two packs when I told myself I’d only have one. Now, even on days when I’ve given myself a smoking hall pass, I never light more than three sticks in any given 24-hour period. I don’t get excited the way I used to when I would anticipate my first cigarette of the day, and I usually feel icky by the time I’ve smoked a third of a stick. I’m now a social smoker — that person that real smokers look at as an interloper, and nonsmokers judge as wimpy.

Most of the time, I’m glad I’ve quit smoking. It makes me feel very grown-up, responsible, and righteous, like one of the strong ones who can hobble through life’s tangled web without a crutch. I don’t miss the metallic taste at the back of my tongue, or the phlegm in my lungs that needs to be dispelled every morning. My skin is clearer and suppler, my cheeks rosier, my teeth whiter, and my breath sweeter. It’s easy-peasy completing 50 Sun Salutations or running up 10 flights of stairs (okay, that’s an exaggeration — I still pant, but not as much as before).

But, despite all the benefits of being a nonsmoker, I still look at smokers with admiration and envy. I see them sucking on their Marlboros or Camels with impunity, noxious fumes billowing above their heads — fumes that I know will make their hair smell like an ashtray — and I feel deprived. I find myself…