Pictures of ravaged, blackened lungs.
Videos of former smokers speaking from what used to be a fully formed face before cancer and tumors and surgeons took their toll.
I appropriately cringe, and for a fleeting moment recognize that this could happen to me.
I go on smoking. These hideous images have absolutely zero effect.
But now that I am trying to quit, I am confronted with a frustrating irony:
A grim testimonial of another kind is scaring me off the pill that was supposed to wean me from nicotine.
A recent article in New York Magazine featured a first-person account of a smoker who took this popular drug, called Chantix or Champix, and started spiraling into a depressed state that included suicidal thoughts. The writer cited a recent advisory issued by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration that it was aware of more than 30 suicides possibly linked to the drug made by Pfizer.
That was my crutch, now broken. This drug was to be the silver bullet that would finally, once and for all, slay the habit.
I've tried Zyban, and it made me feel too up, too happy. Sleepless, and unsettled by a creepy perma-grin I noticed in the mirror, I dropped it.
I've tried the nicotine gum. That helped me lay off smokes for a year, the longest I've ever stayed quit.
I flagrantly abused the gum, chewing each piece for an hour until it took on the consistency of cement. My molars are nubs. (To help stop the disappearance of my back teeth, my dentist has ordered me to wear a protective mouth-guard -- it resembles a retainer -- so I don't grind teeth in my sleep. Out of pride and a sense of dignity appropriate for any 30-year-old, I don't wear it.)
So the gum is out.
What am I left with?
Oh God, this is going to suck.
And please don't show me images of tumors and black lungs that look like torched footballs. None of that magnanimous medical stuff adds up to an antidote for quitting cold.