Slash says that watching Cher perform in concert helped him quit smoking nearly a decade ago.
The GUNS N' ROSES guitarist has not smoked since 2009 and admits seeing his mother lose her battle with lung cancer, and a bout of pneumonia he suffered himself, made him realize he needed to ditch his habit for good.
"I quit smoking nine years ago, almost 10 years ago," Slash told "WTF With Marc Maron" (hear audio below). "When I did it, I had pneumonia, and pneumonia is what helped me quit smoking. That, and I saw Cher the night before, and that's when I caught the pneumonia. So Cher helped me quit smoking. Anyway, I couldn't smoke. I tried — I couldn't breathe — so I had two weeks on my back. So I quit, and then I used the patch to sort of get the edge off. Then I started doing the snus [smokeless tobacco] thing, and I was doing that for years. My significant other talked me out of doing it, and so I started doing the [nicotine] gum. And I sleep with the gum."
Slash — who has two sons with his ex-wife Perla Ferrar — did not find it difficult to give up smoking once his mother lost her battle with cancer. "She was one of those smokers that always said, 'I'm gonna quit one day,'" he recalled. "But while she was in the hospital, I would literally sit with her, go outside and smoke a cigarette, come back and sit with her. And then the Cher thing happened, and that's when I said, 'You know what?'"
The guitarist said that he was "dragged" to the Cher concert in Las Vegas by his ex-wife and "her buddies," and was less than impressed by what he saw. "I had to leave for every song and go outside and smoke," he said. "And I think I'd worn myself down from smoking so much, and Cher just took me over the top. Every time she revisited one of those periods [during the concert]… She had a closet on stage and she'd go in the closet and she'd come out and she'd be the Indian. Every single thing that she's been over her career… When she started with the Sonny & Cher thing, it just killed me — I couldn't take it. So I would smoke… I just didn't have any fond memories of that show or any of the other stuff."
Slash, who has been open about his previous battles with drugs and alcohol, went on to say that staying smoke-free is "tough." He explained: "You've got these triggers all the time. They only last for maybe two seconds or so, but they're really, really potent. And you can just get it watching somebody smoke on TV. I saw somebody smoking at a bus stop, and I said, 'Ohhh…' It happens at least once a day every day."
Slash, who had a 60-cigarette-a-day habit, described himself as "a compulsive smoker. I chainsmoked," he said. "And I couldn't handle — this is not why I quit smoking — but I couldn't handle not being able to smoke wherever I wanted.
"I was in Calabasas one time," he recalled. "It was one of the first times I'd ever actually been there. And there's some sort of outdoor mall-y kind of thing with a theater — it was like a pavilion of something — and I got out of the car and I lit a cigarette and I was walking wherever we were walking to through the parking lot. And they said, 'You can't smoke in here.' And I said, 'We can smoke in here. We're fucking out here. This is out here.' And it was, like, there's a rule — you can't smoke on the street. So enough of that kind of stuff [happened]."
Slash said that his cigarette habit affected his live performances, especially after a smoking ban was introduced in enclosed work places in the U.K. back in 2007.
"I was smoking at gigs, and I was on tour in the U.K., and they told me, 'The smoking ban's coming,'" he said. "I said, 'You guys are gonna have some serious problems.' It was in Ireland. [I said] 'You know they're gonna riot. It's not gonna work.' And so we finished the tour, and I came back maybe six months later, and they had passed this thing. And it was people sitting outside all smoking their cigarettes with their cocktails, and they were sitting on benches. And some hotels had put monitors outside so you could watch TV and smoke, and they just went down quietly. And it was, like, 'Wow!' No repercussions whatsoever — no violence, stoning or anything."
He added: "They were trying to fine me for every cigarette I smoked on stage. So it was, like, a hundred quid for every cigarette. So we had to make up a bunch of stories, and we got out of it. But I couldn't believe it had gotten to that point."
Back in 2010, Slash said that he quit smoking once before, only to start lighting up again. "The first time I quit smoking was because me and my wife just had a baby and she claimed the baby smelled like an ashtray," he said. "So I thought, 'Well, I'll give it a shot.' So I quit for a year and then I started again."