Keith Richards on quitting smoking cigarettes after 55 years: ‘I just don’t miss it’

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Keith Richards is officially a non-smoker.

The Rolling Stones guitarist told CBS Sunday Morning that he quit smoking cigarettes two years ago, after 55 years of the habit.

“You know, it’s funny, I don’t think about it much anymore,” Richards said.

While he mostly quit cold turkey, Richards, 78, also used “a few patches for a few weeks.” But ultimately, he realized it was time to ditch the habit for good.

“Sometimes, you know, a bell rings and something inside says, ‘Hey, pal, enough.’ And so, yeah, I just put the hammer on it,” he explained.

Joking that he was “probably getting on a bit,” Richards added. “Luckily, I just don’t miss it, and that makes me feel good.”

The Keith Richards & the X-Pensive Winos frontman added that since he quit smoking, he’s “realized that I had 10 times more wind!”

Even his bandmates have recognized a bit of a change. X-Pensive Winos drummer Steve Jordan, who also took over percussion for the Rolling Stones last summer when Charlie Watts fell ill, said Richards is “singing more in the original keys.”

Keith Richards, 78, has given up smoking. (Photo: Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images for LOVE ROCKS NYC/God's Love We Deliver)Keith Richards, 78, has given up smoking. (Photo: Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images for LOVE ROCKS NYC/God's Love We Deliver)

Keith Richards, 78, has given up smoking. (Photo: Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images for LOVE ROCKS NYC/God’s Love We Deliver)

The death of Watts in August of 2021 was a significant blow to Richards. Watts, who had been the Rolling Stones’ drummer since 1963, died at age 80 in a London hospital. Richards said the loss surprised him, since the group only knew that Watts had fallen seriously ill two weeks prior.

“I think he’d been trying to keep it under the wraps for a while last year, so that it came, yeah, as quite a shock,” Richards said. “He had had a round with cancer a year or two before. And he beat that one. He just got hit with a double-whammy, bless his soul.”

The Rolling Stones even considered canceling their tour if Watts wasn’t present, but ultimately decided it would be best to resume it.

“For a brief moment. I think Charlie wanted us to go on the road; he wanted the tour to happen. That’s my feeling, the last time I spoke to him,” he said.

However, it was still a bit odd to look back onstage and not see Watts there. “Yeah, that is strange, yes, to turn suddenly and you know, after all these years, you expect that face there!”

Finding his own identity outside one of the biggest bands in music has been an interesting journey for Richards. The Stones have spent 60 years performing together, minus a stretch in the ’80s when frontman Mick Jagger wanted to pursue a solo career.

“Mick wanted to do separate things, and I didn’t!” Richards said, laughing. But now, Richards finds great joy in pursuing things outside the group he’s come to know so well.

“Maybe that’s why, one of the attractions of doing the Winos was to find if there was anything else. And anyway, just to look over the fence,” he explained. He’s released three albums with the band, and it’s an experience he said is “always sheer joy, because it didn’t matter. We were on the lam kind of, you know? Let’s see how long we can get away with this!”

Despite pursuing new endeavors with his side projects, Richards hasn’t gotten rid of some his old habits, like scrawling down songs on the back of envelopes. He’s also writing again for the Stones, inspired by the addition of Jordan in the band.

As for selling their catalog like many other major acts, Richards says he and Jagger haven’t quite broached the subject. He joked that to do so is a “sign you’re getting old.”

“Mick and I have not spoken about it on a serious level,” Richards said. “I don’t know if we’re ready to sell our catalog. Might drag it out a bit! Put some more stuff in it!”