Almost addicted to smoking

Being an actor gives one the license to do all sorts of naughty things.

So, that’s gonna be my line the next time someone asks me (for the umpteenth time) why I decided to become an actress.

Some of the “naughty” things I’ve done in the name of acting:

  • Push someone into the Singapore River
  • Dance in a graveyard
  • Drink on the job
  • Do a mock strip tease
  • Slap someone
  • Kiss under a fountain
  • Scare an unsuspecting public with ghostly makeup
  • Blow cigarette smoke in someone’s face
  • Yell at someone older than me
  • Tell a lie in court

I don’t know why anyone wouldn’t want to be an actor.

Of course, then again, one would have to be able to take all the shit as well as the fun.

Example of shit:

Long waiting hours between shots, sleeping in all kinds of weird places because there is nothing else to do.

This isn’t an extreme example of shit but I’m not really going that direction today.

I promised to tell you what this guy was doing to me, some time back.

Only one person got it right. Mince Pye said, “Sound technician installing your wireless mic?”


The wireless mic usually goes under the clothes, around the chest area. But, for some reason, my wardrobe during that shoot kept causing a lot of sound disturbance, so this one time, the sound guy decided to hide the mic behind my ear, where it could be covered by my hair.

He went a bit overboard with the tape.

The mic was held in place by surgical tapes because the sound man’s gaffer tape had mysteriously disappeared (again, he claimed).

On the first day of the shoot, the mic was placed inside my hat, just above my forehead where my hairline is.

It wasn’t done nicely the first time and the gaffer tape stuck to my hair and refused to come off. I had to pull off quite many strands of hair in the process.


Well, I generally have no problems with losing hair, but it’s painful when done forcefully.

My co-actors didn’t have any mic woes like I did. Their clothes didn’t mess up the sound, so they had their mics in the regular spot.

I had my long smoking scene that day.

(No smoking photos because, like I said before, I don’t want to glamourise smoking.)

The smoking scene was done in a big, beautiful house.

Smoking in style.

Me taking a photo of myself on the screen:

There was a scene in which I had to enter the house with two bottles of beer. We did many takes of that, so I had to spend many long minutes waiting outside the door.

There was nothing to do but camwhore. I set my camera on timer and did a self-photoshoot.

After years of experience waiting on the set, I’ve developed several effective ways to entertain myself, besides sleeping.

The smoking scene didn’t happen till late at night.

It was a very long scene. A five-minute scene done in one shot. That means there had to be many takes to get it perfect, because if there was even one small mistake anywhere in the five minutes, we had to do it all over.

I was literally chain smoking that night as we did take after take.

By my fifth cigarette (although I didn’t have to smoke each stick all the way), I started feeling high.

It was a nice sensation, actually, my first time experiencing it. Thoughts running through my head:

“No wonder people get addicted to smoking.”

“Oh, no, am I going to be addicted, especially since I hang out with smokers?”


That last one was me feeling happy and giggly from the smokes.

I lost count of the number of times we redid the scene. By my 10th or so cigarette, I started getting seriously giddy, like I had drunk too much alcohol, which actually kinda helped because I was supposed to be partially drunk in that scene.

But after way too many cigarettes, I started feeling not very good. My hands turned cold and I felt like I might break out into cold sweat any moment.

By about 1:30 am or so, we finally wrapped. I grabbed a cab and felt sick all the way home.

When I got home, I complained to the Goonfather, “I’m going to die.”

He informed me that I was suffering from nicotine overdose and asked me to drink a lot of water to dilute the nicotine.

I was nauseous and giddy and just generally horrible. So I cooked a packet of instant tom yam beehoon because I always feel better after eating something sour when I have a hangover.

After the tom yam, the nausea got a teensy bit better, but I still largely felt like shooting myself out of misery –

The next day, when I finally felt normal again, I decided that the sickness was a blessing in disguise. It had totally turned me off smoking. The ordeal I had gone through had given me a huge distaste for smoking.

But still I love being an actress and doing things I otherwise wouldn’t get to do under normal circumstances.

I think it’s an interesting way to live, anyway.

Anti-smoking actress picks up smoking

Yesterday was the most ironic day of my life.

I performed an anti-smoking skit at a health fair at Suntec Convention Centre.

On the same day, I picked up smoking.

Both occurences aren’t related, are isolated, therefore ironic.

Well, don’t yell at me just yet. At least finish reading this post, then vote for me, then yell if you must.

I’ve performed the anti-smoking skit, commissioned by the Health Promotion Board, about seven times since last year.

The past performances were for the civil sector (army camps and airbases) while yesterday was to the mass public (health fair).

As for picking up smoking, I’ve got a short film which starts production on Tuesday. I play a jaded ah lian and am required to smoke in a few scenes.

After two disastrous attempts in the past to play a convincing smoker, I’ve decided it’s time to do it right.

I don’t want to get addicted, so I scheduled myself only three days of practice with a real cigarette before filming starts.

I don’t think it’ll be enough to make me look like a seasoned smoker, but at least (I hope) I won’t look like a complete non-smoker.

I think it’s an acceptable compromise.

So it just happened that I started smoking practice on the same day I had to perform the anti-smoking skit.

I’m sorry for this show of duplicity, but it’s all part of the job, after all.

I got a pack of Virginia Slims because I’m told that it’s the mildest available. No photos because I don’t want to advocate or glamorise smoking, you understand.

I smoked two sticks today (hours apart, of course).

I hate it. It doesn’t feel good. It tastes horrible. And it leaves a disgusting aftertaste which lingers for hours, even after I brush my teeth (and tongue) and eat a packet of chocolate popcorn and drink a can of Kickapoo.

But I enjoyed the process of learning how to light a cigarette, how to hold it, how to inhale and exhale, how to look like I’ve been smoking for ages.

I always enjoy learning and experiencing new things, challenging myself to excel in everything I do. That’s something I can’t change about myself. And that is why I must eventually pick up smoking, in order to do my job better.

After today’s experience, though, I totally do not want to be a smoker. It’s horrible, stupid, counter-productive, expensive, life-threatening, smelly, inconvenient, not fun at all.

And I really hate holding an object that bears a disgusting photo of some decaying body part. It’s disturbing. I cringe every time I catch a glimpse of cigarette packs.

I have another performance at the health fair today, after which I will practice on two more sticks. Narcolepsy made drives to the pharmacy a dangerous task because I can fall asleep any minute without even noticing it. The way out I have found for myself is ordering medicines on Here I can buy Modafinil and other drugs I need without a risk of getting into a car accident. It’s nice to have such an alternative to regular pharmacies.

But, yes, I’m going to stop smoking after filming ends.

I hope the nicotine doesn’t get me by then.

I’m thinking of picking up smoking

Should I do it?

I know everyone’s first reaction will be a resounding “NO”. But I see smoking as a “skill” that I’d need to learn, sooner or later.

Once in a while, I get a role which requires me to smoke. I’ve tried to fake it twice… without much success. I look so goddarn fake on TV that I want to bayonet myself.

I thought I could pull it off, you know. I observed smokers. I got smoker friends to coach me. I practised with an unlit cigarette. I learned how to draw the “smoke” into my lungs and blow it out, without the smoke, of course. Easy peasy.

What I didn’t, couldn’t, prepare myself for was the moment of impact. Cigarette smoke does not agree with virgin lung.

Who would have thought smoking could be such an excruciatingly painful experience?

I mean, I take in second-hand smoke all the time, everywhere (before the new smoking law was passed). I hang out with smokers. I live with a smoker. I don’t like it, but I can deal with it.

I really thought I had it nailed.

But when the camera started rolling and they popped a lit cigarette in my mouth, my lungs screamed bloody murder. Before I could even fully inhale my first puff, my protesting lungs tried to kill me by forcing me to cough a kidney out.


It took several takes for me to master the pain of the smoke slicing into my lungs. I made like I was inhaling smoke but I actually kept it all in my mouth. Of course, some errant smoke would invariably sneak its way into my lungs, making me cough and spoiling the take, but it was easier to manage than the full onslaught of wilful inhalation.

I survived my first smoking scene. Barely.

Second time I had to smoke in a scene was four months later, I thought I could do better already. After all, my lungs weren’t virgin anymore. They could jolly well take the abuse.

I practised for the scene, again with an unlit cigarette. I practised looking like I was inhaling without actually inhaling. I was good to go!

Wrong again.

My lungs, my stupid lungs, went into mutiny at the first lick of errant smoke wisping south. This time, they made me cough my liver out.

Disappointing show.

Having to control the coughing, my performance became strained. Not good.

That’s why I told myself: The next time I get a smoking role, I will learn to smoke for real. If I have to become a smoker, so be it.

Nothing wrong with being a smoker, is there? Like, half the population of the world smokes.

So now, I got my third smoking role.

Problem is that it’s a four-minute short film. The smoking scene will run for as long as is needed for me to light a cigarette and take one puff. Is it worth it becoming a smoker for this?

The artist in me says yes. I must do it well this time. In the film, I want to look like I’ve been smoking my whole life. I owe it to the director and to my integrity as an actress to do the best I possibly can, even if it’s just for a five-second shot in a four-minute film that will possibly only be seen by a handful of people.

After all, I have to start sometime. This will probably not be the last smoking role I’ll get.

The worrier in me says hold it.

The director, finding out that I don’t smoke, had offered to think of an alternative that might achieve the mood he wants for that shot.

I said I didn’t mind picking up smoking just to do that shot well.

He said we’ll discuss it further down the road. Maybe do a test to see how I look smoking. If I really can’t handle it, he’ll rewrite the shot.

But I don’t want a director’s work to be compromised on account of me, so I want to do the smoking scene and do it well.

Only I worry about the consequences. I worry about addiction. I have zero willpower when it comes to addiction, as can be attested to by the inordinate amount of time I spend on computer gaming and by the terrifying amount of fried chicken I eat.

If I really get addicted, I will have a hard time kicking the addiction because half my regular hangout friends are smokers.

I worry about the cost of supporting a smoking habit.

I worry about the damage to my lungs and hair and teeth and complexion.

I worry about becoming like one of those disgusting bloody plctures on cigarette packets I’m forced to look at every time a friend whips out a packet.

Everything just points to a huge neon sign saying “Don’t do it.”

But I must. If I can’t give my best shot to something I’m really passionate about, then what the hell am I doing alive?

Maybe I won’t get addicted. Maybe I can practise just enough to pass off convincingly as a smoker but not get addicted.

Maybe it’s the mindset. If I refuse to get addicted, maybe I won’t?

There are people who are social smokers, aren’t there? I don’t understand them, though. I’ve studied substance abuse and addiction in psychology class. I learnt that tobacco causes a physical addiction that is hard to fight because of the bodily demands inflicted by the addiction. So you either just smoke your lungs dead or you quit and never look back.

How do social smokers smoke only once in a while without craving to smoke all the time?

That’s what this blog entry is about, actually. I’m wondering if people who have smoked could share your experiences. Tell me what it’s like. Whether you’re a chain smoker or social smoker or only tried it once in your life, I’d like to hear your views.

When does the addiction kick in, in the first place? I mean, I’ve tried to smoke twice and both times I nearly died doing it. No way in hell would I ever want to do it again without good reason.

So why would people continue smoking despite the trauma of the first puff, and how many sticks does it take for an average person to get used to it and start enjoying it?

Do I have a chance of just doing it for a couple of weeks and then stopping?

All comments will be much appreciated.