Forest Hills resident illustrating his fight to quit cigarettes

By Alex Davidson

Teicher, the subject of a Web-based city campaign that replaces his name with the more common, “Bob” and aims at encouraging smokers to nix their addictions, said his selection as the person behind the initiative was lucky but came at a time when he was not planning on quitting.

But once he was chosen as the front man for the media blitz that has saturated borough and city billboards, subway advertisements and newspaper pages, Teicher said he started to think about the consequences of smoking.

“I do not think smokers are future thinkers,” said Teicher, who has learned about lung cancer and other illnesses that can decrease the life expectancies of addicts. “How much future can you possibly expect?”

The citywide Health Department campaign is focused on billboards and other advertisements that direct viewers to a Web site, www.bobquits.com. There, people can read Teicher's daily journal and see how he progresses on his road to quitting.

Now, the father of three who lives with his children and wife in a high-rise just off Queens Boulevard smiles proudly as he describes, in a voice he said is less raspy than when he smoked, his ability to regularly run 3.5 miles per day, fall asleep without hearing himself wheeze and visit the gym regularly.

But giving up cigarettes did not only involve Teicher's avoiding smoking. Instead, he describes the cessation of his habit as a full transformation, one in which he examines his feelings daily in an attempt to alter the way he lives his life and reacts to everyday situations.

“I am going on 1 1/2 months and I still feel like it is the first week,” said Teicher, who was born in Florida and spent most of his life in Brooklyn. “But I feel lucky to have been chosen. What I got from it was something I did not know I needed.”

Teicher, a sheet metal worker, said he started smoking around the age of 18 and regularly consumed at least a pack a day of cigarettes. He said being chosen for the media campaign, sponsored by the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and the American Legacy Foundation, has given him the tools – and most importantly a plan – on how to quit smoking.

Without a clear path on how to avoid cigarettes and what to do when confronted with a craving, Teicher said his past quitting attempts failed and he ended up resuming his habit. He first tried to quit smoking two years ago but remained nicotine-free for only two weeks, while his second attempt, in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, fizzled out during the same two-week period.

Looking back, Teicher said he was unsuccessful because he had not clearly thought through why he wanted to quit smoking. It was being with his family, this time, that served as the incentive for giving up his addiction, Teicher said.

Recently, though, his reason for giving up cigarettes has evolved into reasons, as he said he has started looking to his family's and his own future and the role smoking had in controlling how much time he would dedicate to his wife, children and himself.

“You need a strong reason for quitting,” Teicher said. His thoughts that he would become unhealthy and be unable to care for his family spurred him on to give up his habit.

Now, instead of smoking, Teicher reaches for his quit bag, which includes cinnamon sticks, wooden coffee stirrers, toothpicks, silly putty, lollipops and packs of cinnamon gum.

Teicher said he does not mind carrying this purse-sized bag around everywhere he goes, even to work in Manhattan where he is around smokers with whom he has remained friends. He said his revelation that he had smoked enough cigarettes to account for a year and a half of straight through time made him reconsider his habit.

“I did not know it (smoking) was something I would get so hooked on,” Teicher conceded.

One of his co-workers was nice enough to take the plunge with Teicher, and both decided to quit smoking around the same time. Together they talk about their tough times and what they do to get through nicotine cravings.

And now, Teicher said he can spend more time with his children rather than running out the door to buy more cigarettes that in the past his kids had thrown in the trash to encourage their father to kick his habit.

For Teicher, who is using both nicotine gum and patches, deep breaths and writing regularly in his online journal have helped him appreciate time spent not smoking.

He admitted, although unwillingly, that he is slowly becoming one of “those” people who notice the smell of cigarettes on other people. Teicher described a recent run-in with a woman on public transportation who had just smoked a cigarette. To avoid the smell, he said he buried his face in the newspaper he was reading.

And although he does not take a stand on the smoking ban imposed by the Bloomberg administration, Teicher conceded it does help those trying to quit from being reminded of their habit.

“The thought of smoking isn't there because smoking isn't there,” he said. “It is easier for me to have a drink or have dinner.”

To watch Teicher's progress on the Web, visit his address at www.bobquits.com.

Reach reporter Alex Davidson by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or by calling 718-229-0300, Ext. 156.

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