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SfN Banter: The Review
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SfN Day 3 (yeah, late again)
Tuesday, November 16, 2010

They Love me in San Diego!
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SfN Day 2 (also late)
Sunday, November 14, 2010

SfN Day 1 (late)
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Office Space
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Time for BANTER!
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My House
Sunday, October 31, 2010

SfN the Meh...WTF!?
Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Lola, or A Tale of Delightful Surprise
Tuesday, October 19, 2010

This one's for Odyssey
Wednesday, October 13, 2010

A Meandering Scholar meanders once more
Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Donors Choose do they?
Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Hey, Ho, the Witch is Dead...
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INVITING CONTRIBUTORS TO A SPECIAL ISSUE OF IJAD
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I wonder...what if...
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Dear Barista...
Thursday, September 30, 2010

I hate sports
Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Grantsmanship - skill or gift?
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Classic Sting?
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What I know now? You're not that special.
Tuesday, September 7, 2010
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Wait. You are not the boss.
Thursday, August 26, 2010

Did you find what you were looking for?
Monday, August 23, 2010

Smoke Break?
Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Crash, Bang, Wallop...click, click, boom
Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Injury Re-re-post
Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Don't tag me Bro!
Friday, August 6, 2010

Remember that time you called a Laureate a twat?
Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Here I am!
Wednesday, August 4, 2010
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Tideliar

I am scientist by training, inclination and temperament. However, this is a blog, not a lab. The title reflects my passion for hyperbole, so don't take me too seriously. I don't. I was a technician in a physiology lab, got my PhD in molecular genetics and neuroscience, was a postdoctoral fellow in biophysics and now am a Project Manager in a Clinical Science/Biomedical Informatics institute. I am a scientific jack-of-all-trades, and very happy because of it. I write about science that catches my eye, making the transition away from the lab bench, and the slightly odd and moist boundary where science culture meets the public. I am an Englishman by birth, an American by temperament and if I were you I wouldn't lend me money.

My posts are presented as opinion and commentary and do not represent the views of LabSpaces Productions, LLC, my employer, or my educational institution.

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Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Our esteemed Overlord has hijacked my train of thought today with this little entry on our News Page:

"Smokers trying to give up -- don't stop thinking about cigarettes!!!"

I added the exclamation points. They need to be there.

It is now 14:45 Central Standard Time***, which means I have not smoked a cigarette in 5.41 days. That's 129 hours and 45 mins. That's 7785 minutes, or 467,100 seconds, or...

OK, you get the picture I'm sure. Almost everyone nowadays knows a smoker who has tried to quit and sadly, very few know an ex-smoker who quit successfully (not counting the final, terminal phase of smoking cessation). I worked for many years in neuropharmacology labs and my former Department Chair is a Pioneer in nicotine addiction research so I've been to plenty of seminars on nicotine addiction*. I'm trying to remember the figure for smoking recidivism and I recall it having a cumulative rate of 95%. That's right, only 1 in 20 attempts to quit smoking are successful. I'm looking for a reference right now, and funnily enough putting "smoking recidivism" into Google Scholar brings are a mass of papers from the 70s and 80s and nothing more recent. Using PubMed I get recent references, but find the usual undetangleable mass of semi-tangential references to welders, Jordanians and dentistry.

Suffice it to say, smoking is very hard to give up. Partly it is the sheer addictiveness of nicotine, the other is that even under the draconian conditions smokers are forced to endure nowadays, in most cases smoking is still socially acceptable. It's not like I'm sitting in my local pub with my works on a Friday night.

The Ban That Never Was

I work, indirectly, for the State and last year our legislature tried to enforce a no-smoking ban in State funded workplaces. Despite initial outrage at being singled out (where's the fat-bloke ban?) I grew to love this idea because I saw they had actually allowed scientific information to inform the policy debate. Every parent knows, or should, that positive reinforcement works better in most cases than negative reinforcement. Telling little Johnny he's being naughty when he throws his crayons lets little Johnny know he gets attention every time he does it. Consequently he becomes an attention seeking little shit. Telling little Johnny not to throw his crayons, but also telling him he's done well when he just puts his crayons away reinforces the attention seeking behavior of compliance. Johnny becomes an obedient little shit (I'm not big on kids. So shot me).

Likewise, telling me I can't smoke on school grounds makes me tell you to go fuck yourself while I fire up a big fat blunt on the main lawn. Telling me I can't smoke on school property, but you'll also help not smoke on school property makes me go, huh, say what? And think about it.

You won't just punish me for doing it. You will reward me for not doing it.

The negative reinforcement was a $50/month fine (taken as a $600/year deduction to heath care).

Mother. Fucker.


The positive reinforcement was a refund of your fine if you proved you were smoking free, as well as free smoke cessation counseling for as long a you needed and a $5-10 co-pay on 9 months of smoking cessation products purchased via prescription.

Holy! Shit! Slather me in canola oil and call me Dorothy, I'm signing up for that!


And then it hit the State legislature and it got shat all over because everyone pointed out, for reasons good and bad, "Where's the fat bloke ban?"

Your Brain Doesn't Want to Stop

I've tried to stop a couple of times, but it's a half-arsed effort at best. I had my first cigarette when I was 11 years old. I was smoking pretty regularly by 16 and went Pro in college. So, let's say for 17 years at least I've been a "smoker" in the "grown-up" sense of the word. The first few days after you stop are horrible. I can write about those at length if anyone is interested, but let me tell you it's not just the psycho-social (with psycho being the operative word) effects of dealing of day-to-day life without a stimulant. Humans come fully equipped with three major nervous systems (autonomic, peripheral and central), and everything needs time to reset to a new baseline level of neurotransmitters**. Mood, sleep pattern, dreams, memory, libido...bowels, bladder...etc.

So, needless-to-say, since the non-smoking effort failed to become law I've been puffing away like an inverted dragon, as usual, between 15-20 times everyday, unless I'm in the pub in which case it spikes somewhere between 30-40 times/day.

And then last week I saw the article referenced at the top of this post, and this statement resonated with me, "If trying to avoid thoughts of something in an attempt to give it up actually unwittingly triggers a subsequent increase, it's a poor method of achieving self control. This work may stop people using quitting techniques that are ultimately harmful." Well, of course in the past i avoided thinking about smoking. I tried to not-think about smoking so hard I couldn't help but bloody smoke. And so i started thinking about quitting again. trying again, at least. "They" say you need a quit date, and I guess "They" are right in most cases. But this weekend I just stopped. I had a few left in a pack and my girlfriend hid them after I went to bed. And that has mostly been that.

Run, Tideliar, Run!

So what's my secret? I guess I got bored of smoking. I got bored of watching my hard earned salary get pissed up the barroom wall and ground into the barroom ashtrays every weekend. I figure my long term health is well and truly fucked by now, but in the short term what time I have left I'd like to enjoy without running out of breath talking with someone as we walk across the parking lot.

Because the Gods have nothing if they don't have a cruel and fucked up sense of humour, this week has been the week from hell at work (and it's only Wednesday!), and yet I have managed to avoid smoking...I belong to an awesome gym with cool and supportive staff and I go every night after work. I've avoided alcohol completely - the pub is a cue and alcohol lowers inhibitions allowing me to bum a smoke off someone (yep, spoken from experience).

I'm only five days in but I can feel my breath coming back a little. A cursory glance at the literature shows there isn't as much research as I thought into long term health effects of smoking cessation. I think that'll be another blog post soon. But, right now, I can feel a pang niggling away...the reward for a blog post is a cigarette break. I think it's time to run up and down the 5 flights of stairs at work while thinking very hard about cigarettes.



* - One day, get round to inserting that story about that guy at journal club

** - Anyone want a guided tour of "your brain on drugs" let me know. it might be a fun post sometime.
*** - Or was when I started this. Add 60 minutes to everything for the postage time :)

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Blog Comments

Gerty-Z
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I'm going to have another cup of coffee for you right now! I hope you are succesful in keeping the cigarettes front and center in your mind. As for the pub, if you wait long enough you won't be able to smoke there, either. Then you can laugh at the poor folks that must leave the bar to go stand outside in the horrible weather for a smoke. :-P
antipodean

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Bartholomew, H.C. and Knuiman, M.W. Longitudinal analysis of the effect of smoking cessation on cardiovascular risk factors in a community sample: the Busselton Study, Journal of Cardiovascular Risk, 5:4, pp 263-271 (1998)

I am loving the verification questions on this site: patients quotery

Brian Krueger, PhD
Columbia University Medical Center
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Great post, good luck to you. My grandfather who passed away a while back said he started smoking at 7! He got emphysema hardcore, and lucky me, I had to share a bedroom with him for the first 15 years of my life. Good times :) He eventually quit when my mom told him he couldn't smoke in the house.

Tideliar
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@Gerty: They tried to ban smoking in pubs in my town, and it caused such an uproar they changed rules after a month LMAO. Customers complained and business owners complained. Now if you want to allow smoking you need to 21 and up. If you're all-ages (i.e. classed as a restaurant) you're non-smoking.

@Antipodean: I saw a couple of meta-analyses I wanna read. One was 2005 and was looking at cardiovascular risk...oh...wait...maybe it was the same dudes you referenced...

...here it is, from PLoS Medicine, Bakhru & Erlinger, 2005 Smoking Cessation and Cardiovascular Disease Risk Factors: Results from the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.

@Brian: My dad was a smoker but only till I was about 4. I know for a fact that influenced me though, The first smell of those cigarettes when I was 11 took me back to being a toddler (easier when it's only 7 years I guess LOL), safety, security, family...plus gawd knows what it did epigenetically.
Dr. Girlfriend

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I started at 14 and was a 20 pack-a-day-girl for 15yrs. In that time I never managed to quit longer than a few months. I last quit nearly 7 years ago.

The first few years are the hardest. After the three year mark the temptation the desire, even under stressful conditions, subsides. 7 yrs on and I rarely think about wanting a smoke.

It is not easy. Good luck.


Tideliar
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I remember after my my brother's 21st birthday dinner party/outing he tried to roll me a cigarette and made a complete mess out of it. My dad snatched the makings and expertly rolled a perfect smoke in about 5 seconds. He probably hadn't done it in 30 or 40 years! He hadn't even smoked his pipe in about 20 years by that point....

And then he sat there staring it at....until my mum chimed in with a quiet, but firm, "No."
Nico

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Well done, Tideliar, keep it up! I\'ve been clean for about 7 years, and I can confirm it gets easier as time goes by. In my experience your endurance will start improving within 2-4 weeks, you\'ll notice it in the gym so take full advantage of it and batter the shit out of your sparring partners!
Your taste/smell sense will get sharper as well so treat yourself to some nice food a bit, but watch the weight...

Tideliar
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Hey Nico, thanks for stopping by!

I'm just lifting and doing cardio right now. I reckon I'll add about 15lbs over the next couple of months just from exercise and increased appetite. Not just the can't-smoke-must-0east issue, but also because of no longer having appetite suppression.

I spoke with the nutritionist at the gym. She did metabolic measures and a bunch of poking, prodding and measuring and reckons my basal (exercise) calorific consumption is somehwre round 2100 calories/day. So, to put on 15lbs over 10 weeks, sticking to a similar routine to the one I've been doing I need about 3250 calories/day...

Feed me Seymour!

Tideliar
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the can't-smoke-must-0east issue

Say what fule?

the "can't-smoke-must-eat" issue.

WTF, fingers? SRLSY!

Brian Krueger, PhD
Columbia University Medical Center
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I was on a 3500 calorie diet before I broke my hand. It's going to kill me to not be able to do anything with my hands for 5 weeks. I guess I'll just bulk up and get massive legs :P I've found the gym to be a great distraction from many things, hopefully it helps keep your mind off the cigs
Nico

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You guys know how many calories you're eating? I've never ever counted, if I'm a bit over and need to make weight I just eat yoghurt for 2 days and go for long runs before weight in to lose fluid. Done.

Tideliar
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Nico, you fight/play? What in? I was training up for Muay Thai amateur fights 18 months or so ago and cracked my damn shin bone. Game over. Now too old/too promoted at work to do it. Sucks.

I am only "calorie counting" because I'm trying to gain weight. When I'm 'healthy' I walk around at ~170ish (77kg?). Right now I'm at 160ish (73kg). I need to get the weight back on to be healthy but I'm so used to eating poorly and sporadically that I'll end up losing weight if I don't watch my diet.

I was down to 153lbs (< 70kg) at one point! I'm 6'3"... that is unhealthy weight!
Nico

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I do Taekwondo, but I never managed to get into it enough to get my black belt because I can't be bothered learning the patterns. In good time I'll get there. The wife fights at international comps and supporting her to do that + taking care of our son means I have little time for training myself, cycling to work and track running keep me fit.
You are one skinny guy! I'm 177cm (5' 11"?) and usually about 77kg, but when I train intensively I go down to 72 (my weight category). That's one good reason for you to stop smoking! Based on your post I assume GF doesn't smoke, so she'll appreciate that and the extra... endurance let's say!

Advantage of TKD over Muay Thai/kickboxing/boxing, is that unless you're unlucky or a poor fighter you rarely get hit square in the face, so you don't have explaining to do at work meetings!

Tideliar
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Advantage of TKD over Muay Thai/kickboxing/boxing, is that unless you're unlucky or a poor fighter you rarely get hit square in the face...

unless you're sparring a Nak Muay >:)

Evie
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I love this post.

Tideliar
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9 days today...
Nico

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Only 5 days to go and the worse will be over! Well done Tide!
microbiologist xx

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I am really proud of you. I am a smoker too. I quite for a few months a couple of years ago and started up again just when drinking. I quite for my pregnancy, but have since started up again!! I only smoke about 1/day, but that still adds up over time. For some reason I know a lot of smokers and this adds to the difficulty in stopping. My friends are where I get that one a day. I don't actually purchase any, I just fold and bum one. Also, smoking one a day is almost harder (for me) to stop than cutting down because it gives me the excuse, "It's just one. Is that really any different that living in a polluted city?"

Nico
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