I'm trying to quit smoking. I have become more irritable and my coworkers are making comments. One co-worker made reference to me to start smoking again so we can have a nice work environment. How should I respond to my coworkers?

  • 9
    All of the answers are assuming that you're asking what you should do about smoking but are you actually asking what you should do about the co-worker who made that comment? It would be helpful if you made your question more specific.
    – BSMP
    Commented Jan 30, 2019 at 11:08
  • 50
    What steps have you already taken to avoid being irritable?
    – LVDV
    Commented Jan 30, 2019 at 11:32
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    @Patty In your opinion was that comment a joke just stressing the problem? People seem to focus on it too much. It's important how you took it.
    – luk32
    Commented Jan 30, 2019 at 15:56
  • 6
    Are you asking us whether or not you should start smoking again (which doesn't seem like a decision we should be making for you) or how to deal with this coworker (is there even anything you need to deal with? Have they said anything more than this single comment?), or maybe how to become less irritable (which is probably more of a health question)? Commented Jan 30, 2019 at 16:29
  • 2
    You didn't mention if you are using anything to ease the withdrawal symptoms, like nicotine patches - which do work, so I don't know if I should give an answer suggesting that. Commented Jan 30, 2019 at 20:42

20 Answers 20


Make a proactive effort to be pleasant and hide irritation and any other related issues.

It's your choice to quit smoking, and a laudable one, but don't let it become a crutch or excuse for unprofessional or unpleasant behaviour.

  • 63
    As a corollary, if you find yourself on occasion being unpleasant despite your best efforts, you may want to apologize and politely request the person's understanding.
    – jpmc26
    Commented Jan 30, 2019 at 19:17
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    And bear in mind some people hate the smell of people who have been smoking (even if wouldn't comment on that). So most likely smoking colleagues are upsetting others too.
    – Ola M
    Commented Jan 31, 2019 at 11:19
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    @BittermanAndy While the chemical changes are beyond their control, this does not absolve them of the choices they make. Just as being drunk does not absolve a person of their responsibility. It is still the person's responsibility to find a way to control their behavior. And while I would certainly argue for giving them some leeway while they figure out what that way is, it is a problem they need to work on solving. I don't subscribe to the notion that we are slaves to the chemical processes in our bodies, even though I understand that making good choices in spite of them is difficult.
    – jpmc26
    Commented Jan 31, 2019 at 16:26
  • 8
    @BittermanAndy No, it isn't. It's not good enough to consistently be a jerk and apologize later. Occasionally is manageable. But what you're arguing is that they should get a free pass for doing it constantly because their chemicals are changing. The quitting person must find a way to prevent that.
    – jpmc26
    Commented Jan 31, 2019 at 16:33
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    As an actual woman with PMS, those hormone changes do make it harder to deal with frustration, negative emotions, etc. There is also pain and low mood involved. Physically and emotionally, it feels quite awful. but -I understand that I am responsible for my own emotions and the behaviors and choices that spring from them- and I certainly hold myself to a higher standard than to create a "not nice work environment" on a monthly basis! I would definitely give someone quitting an addiction some leeway... but I don't buy that they become entirely unable to behave civilly at work.
    – Meg
    Commented Jan 31, 2019 at 17:17

Your co-worker suggesting that you resume smoking is a fool. Ignore them.

They probably meant it as a joke but to someone trying to improve their health and trying to kick a difficult addiction, it's a pretty lousy thing to say.

There are mountains of evidence documenting that quitting is the right thing to do. Please, stick with it. Power through it. If you need nicotine gum or a patch to wean yourself off it and in the process bring your mood back to "normal", do so. You might even find help in a local support group.

Quitting smoking is a good thing to do for you and your family. Stick with it. And surround yourself with people who are supportive, not this clown.

Not quite on the same scale, but I quit caffeine cold turkey one summer as part of a general health habits change. About a year later, my co-workers told me that I was not my normal pleasant self for much of that summer. But they never said anything about it. They knew I was trying to get myself into a healthier lifestyle and let/helped me get through the adjustment. This is the kind of person you need around you right now.

  • 71
    I downvote this because it doesn't address the OP's problems. While I agree that quitting smoking is a right thing to do, this is not a forum for medical or ethical advices. If it wouldn't be the right thing to do, would you still post the same answer? The only reason this answer receives upvotes is confirmation bias of the users.
    – kukis
    Commented Jan 30, 2019 at 11:31
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    I upvoted because it IS addressing the problem with a potential solution: ignoring them and seeking out more positive people. It may not be the most viable solution, since the offender is on their team. The reasons for why to ignore them may be a bit more medical or ethical, but the answer still could work.
    – zr00
    Commented Jan 30, 2019 at 15:14
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    I regret I miss the 25 rep to do downvote for the reason given by @kukis....
    – Surb
    Commented Jan 30, 2019 at 19:24
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    @zarose It's a potential "solution," but it's one that doesn't address the fact that the asker is part of the problem, to the detriment of the asker's work environment. Was the comment the perfect way to respond? Maybe not. But the asker likely isn't innocent here.
    – jpmc26
    Commented Jan 30, 2019 at 23:02
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    Calling someone fool only because he doesn't want to get punished for someone else choices is kinda rude.
    – Mołot
    Commented Jan 31, 2019 at 10:56

Without witnessing the comment, I suspect it was meant as a joke. Don't take it seriously. And as every joke, it probably has a grain of truth. So it's a hint you changed your behavior in a bad way. Work on the latter.


What do I do?

You continue the path, it will pass.

This isn't the right forum for medical advice on how to deal with the irritability but there are plenty of ways to reduce or eliminate it one way or another.

You just need to explain to your co-worker that this is what you are doing and if you don't go through with it now you'll be trying again and again in a few months, hopefully that makes them rethink their attitude.

I quit smoking about 5 years ago while I was working in an environment where around 50% of people smoked and we had a lot of down time where we'd pretty much sit around and chat on night shifts smoking like chimneys. When I quit I got the same thing you did (as well as the negative comments like "he'll never make it"). Stick to your decision, trust me it is the right one.

PS: For the record for my final quit what worked in the end was mist sprays. I calculated my daily nicotine intake when I was smoking, doubled it in the form of mist so in essence I was getting more nicotine in. Held that steady for about 3 months while I got used to being a "non-smoker". Then very gradually decreased the nicotine over another 6 months. Wasn't easy but after umpteen-dozen previous attempts this one worked for me.

  • While this isn't the right forum for medical advice, it is an excellent forum for giving some advice on who the asker could approach about getting medical advice on it.
    – jpmc26
    Commented Jan 30, 2019 at 23:05

I agree that the comment was probably meant as a joke, IMO a rather insensitive one. That said, there was probably a grain of truth in it, because you are more irritable at the moment, and they probably prefer the less irritable version or you.

My additional suggestion is for you to apologize (in a general way) for your current enhanced irritability, as a way to let your co-workers know that you are going thru a hard time at the moment and would appreciate their patience and support.

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    By admitting that you recognize the issue and thanking ahead of time for support you are likely to create good will, on average. With few exceptions I've found that people will be willing to work with you through hardship as long as it's clear you're making an effort to be nice too. And of course it helps that the irritability is temporary. +1 Commented Jan 31, 2019 at 6:04

This answer may seem obvious, but it's really what you should do if you want them to stop.

Tell Them To Stop

You don't need to be rude or abrasive about this - and you should make it a point not to be - just tell them politely that you are trying to quit, and that you do not appreciate them discouraging your efforts. You also do not need an excuse for wanting to quit if pressed for a 'reason' - your health, your social life, your personal preference are all valid reasons to give, but you do not have to justify this choice to anyone.

It was pointed out in the comments that it sounds like these remarks are just 'jokes' at your expense - that being the case, you should make it clear that you do not appreciate these jokes, and ask them to stop. If you "grin and bear it" as some might suggest, they will simply keep making these jokes as if nothing's wrong - because you haven't indicated that they bother you at all. They might not like hearing it, but they won't know how you feel at all unless you say something.

They may still bother you about it, and they may even be very persistent in doing so - and each time, you should tell them to stop. If it begins to interfere with your work (but only if it truly interferes with your ability to work) then you can consider talking to your manager or HR about it - but otherwise, just keep saying "No".

Quitting is not always easy - there will always be people who want you to go back to a bad habit. Some will want to because they are part of it and don't want to quit, and some will just be jibbing you about your attitude. Telling them "No" is a full answer.

Be polite, but be firm.

  • 2
    Not sure why this is being downvoted? Whether the co-worker was joking or not is beside the point - the OP is asking how to deal with the situation, and this is a perfectly valid solution.
    – Steve-O
    Commented Jan 30, 2019 at 14:50
  • This is a good answer, even though I also think the coworker meant it in jest. Maybe even explicitly telling them something along the lines "I know you're just joking, but please be respectful and don't encourage me to go back to bad habits." Commented Jan 30, 2019 at 20:10
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    Probably a good idea to acknowledge their side too. Joking is often a way to address an uncomfortable topic. Asking directly for understanding is good, but less likely to be effective than coming in as a supplicant. Commented Jan 31, 2019 at 6:11
  • "people who want you to go back to a bad habit": IMHO they don't want this, but OP's irritation is causing their "joking remarks" as a way to let OP know how irritated they are. Also, OP saying "I do not appreciate you discouraging my efforts" will probably cause an argument when the co-worker responds with "Well I do not appreciate you being so irritating", Commented Jan 31, 2019 at 10:21
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    This is much better than ignoring them or SIMPLY being polite. The asker's rudeness/irritability isn't inexcusable, but it isn't justification for rudeness from their coworkers. The key is being polite yet firm. If it doesn't seem safe to go to manager or HR, finding a friend or other support to vent to would be a good way to at least get the feelings out in the open in a safe way.
    – zr00
    Commented Jan 31, 2019 at 15:15

Please ignore your coworker and anyone else who is making remarks. Show your colleagues that their behavior is having no effect on you. If pressed, just say something like "I am not smoking" and "please stop asking"

You have no need to justify anything to your colleague. What you decide to do for your health is a purely private matter, something your colleague has no right to dictate.

Your coworker can talk as much as he / she wants about how beneficial it would be to smoke, but at the end of the day, your conduct is controlled by you, so don't worry.

  • Beneficial for whom? For the co-worker! Ignore them
    – Mawg
    Commented Jan 30, 2019 at 8:34
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    If trying to quit smoking is making them so irritable that people are seriously suggesting they take up smoking again, they probably should worry. As you say, their conduct is controlled by them, but making the work environment unpleasant for everybody else is part of their conduct, and they need to control that aspect of it as well. Commented Jan 30, 2019 at 10:50
  • 1
    @Harper the person is only using they to refer to the asker and it's completely clear.
    – user64742
    Commented Jan 31, 2019 at 6:20
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    @Harper The uses of "they" and "them" all refer to the same person, I'm not sure how you'd get the impression it's supposed to refer to more than one party... Commented Jan 31, 2019 at 13:01
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    @Harper No, "they" is also a singular pronoun. Confusing? Yes. But that's the way it is. It wasn't quite as common in the past as it is today, and it may be extra confusing to non-native speakers, but you just have to deal with it. "Them" is just a gender-neutral singular pronoun, in addition to being a plural pronoun. It's used when the gender of the subject is unknown. Even in your example, "they" can only really refer to "Morgan", not the "angry mob", though it's definitely clunky either way.
    – Luaan
    Commented Feb 1, 2019 at 8:05

Let people know that you're quitting smoking and, while you'll do everything you can to not let it affect you, you appreciate that things are going to be different for people now. You could also (depending on your role) ask for management support to let you have some flexibility to work from other locations - for instance, if you can tell it's going to be a bad day or there're some stresses coming up (meetings, appraisals, etc.), that you have the time and space to destress without having to smoke. This could be working from home on a particular day, or agreeing that the time you once used for a smoking break is now time for you to go for a walk.

Above all, make sure people know that any irritability is due to your body adjusting, and it's short term while you acquire new strategies for dealing with stresses, and while your body gets used to the new reality.

  • 2
    Proper communication is probably a better technique than just "ignoring", no matter how short the adjustment. Commented Jan 31, 2019 at 6:06

Use it as motivation to stay quit

At least if you are the same personality type as I am, there is nothing that is more motivating than doing something out of righteous spite. If someone had told me something like that - I'd use every single syllable as motivation. Everytime I would want a cig, I'd remember that not smoking is annoying to that jackass, and take great satisfaction from not taking a cig.

If you can't beat them, kick them in the scrotum.

  • IMHO, it's not the smoking that is annoying the "jackass", but rather OP being irritating. Commented Jan 31, 2019 at 10:23
  • @SteveSmith Yeah, the latest edit is clearer on that perspective. I'd still use it as motivation though. If you have a tough job to do, spite will get it done. People do the strangest things because of spite, why not put it to good use.
    – Stian
    Commented Jan 31, 2019 at 10:54
  • So the OP is already a jackass to his coworkers. Coworker tells him to smoke again so he is less of a jackass. Your advice is for OP to kick his coworker (the victim) in the scrotum? Who's the jackass here again?
    – Jack
    Commented Feb 3, 2019 at 12:40
  • @Jack I am just saying that spite and negativity can be utilized for great success in quitting something addictive. If being a jackass can help you quit smoking, then I say go right ahead. It is better to not get lung cancer than everyone thinking you are such a darling. FWIW passive smoking is probably more harmful than a single instance of tibia to the scrotum. In any case, I think you perhaps missed the tongue-in-cheek thing on purpose - you read it verbatim and present to us a solid helping of fake outrage. I say pass, give it to someone else.
    – Stian
    Commented Feb 3, 2019 at 16:15

I quit drinking and smoking and friends kept making jokes for the next couple of weeks (some a bit longer), but in the end the jokes and comments stopped. People will get tired of making jokes and comments, so keep up the good work! Ignoring takes practice, the more you ignore your colleagues, the less you will be bothered. At the same time your mood will improve; being moody when quitting smoking is temporary. So keep up the good work!

  • @Patty This is the best answer. Wait a couple of weeks until the moodiness goes away. Keep it up! Commented Feb 1, 2019 at 21:25

I'd suggest you read Allen Carr's Easyway book. Not affiliated with it anyway, but it really is the only way to make it pleasant to quit smoking. What you're doing right now is using willpower, hence you are irritated because you feel something is lacking in your life.

There's a lot of misconceptions you need to change in order to make quitting pleasant. One of them for example is that you need to use willpower, or that it's normal to feel something lacking. But you can feel great about quitting if you go about it the right way.

The answer is to quit without becoming irritated. If you were happy about quitting, you would not feel irritated, you would feel heavy burden was lifted off your shoulders!

The co-workers tells you to smoke again, because they can sense you are agitated. Maybe it is even affecting them negatively. Even if they were just teasing you, and you were genuinely happy about quitting, you would shrug it off as a silly joke, and not make a big deal out of it.

Easyway book is the only way I know to quit without feeling agitated or feeling you lost a stress relief/crutch. Unfortunately I cannot change your misperceptions about cigarettes in a single post, hence why I can only point out the issue is that you have quit the wrong way, and refer to a book that can make you quit the right way.

  • 1
    There is even an audio book of this. It really does help change one's mind set.
    – BossRoss
    Commented Jan 31, 2019 at 10:42
  • I very much doubt it all boils down to "if you're happy to quitting smoking". If this book works other factors are at play. Commented Feb 11, 2019 at 17:47
  • 1
    +1 for Allen Carr's Easy Way to Stop Smoking. It was a miracle, life-changer for me. I tried and failed to "quit" many times for years. I always felt like I was giving up something that I loved. Mr. Carr opened my eyes and changed my perspective, and it was as magical as you say. I tell people, he taught me about all the ways the tobacco corporations were manipulating me to make me their slave. Never again!
    – Lumberjack
    Commented Nov 19, 2019 at 22:01

I think it would be beneficial for you to take responsibility for the situation. I’m not saying you’re “in the wrong” or your coworkers are blameless. Fact of the matter is you’re all in it together.

First, acknowledge and apologize to your coworkers that you have been irritable lately and let them know that smoking has been difficult for you. This lets them know you understand that you all are in a difficult spot.

Then let them know you’re going to make a conscious effort about your mood. This lets them know you’re working on a solution.

Finally, thank them for their patience and support, even if you feel they have been very supportive. This lets them know they’re a part of the process.

If the comments like coworker’s don’t stop, either ignore them (as best as you can) or ask them to stop and let them know that they’re not helping the situation.


Your co-workers are secretly impressed that you have decided to give up smoking! This is their way of showing that they have taken it on board. You should see it as positive feedback. (Yes, I know, people are strange.)

Also, some of them are no doubt smokers, and they envy you for your iron will. Are these the ones who are giving you a hard time?

I was a 40-a-day man until I quit 25 years ago. My co-workers couldn't believe it, but their teasing was nothing but a positive incentive for me.

  • No man. All they see is that you used to be a cool dude. And now you turned into some guy that snaps for any reason. You're a perfect example of a person who underestimates the effects of drug abuse. Commented Feb 2, 2019 at 16:30

Call 1-800-QUIT-NOW (if in the US)

Call 1-800-QUIT-NOW (that is, 1-800-784-8669), if you are in the United States.

You will be connected to a coaching service provider overseen by your state government. After talking with you to write up a personal profile, they will help you develop a plan for quitting. This includes a variety of options and strategies for dealing with co-workers, family, friends, and other situations. They will help you craft specific responses to these challenges, customized for you individually. They will coach you through the process over time with periodic phone sessions.

A minimum level of service is provided free-of-cost, funded by the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement as part of the billions of dollars paid by the tobacco companies. You may qualify for additional support as well, through insurance or other benefits.

Let the pros assist you. Their techniques are informed by decades of medical research, scientific studies, and practical experience in tobacco cessation. Quitting is a complicated, ongoing process.

I worked briefly for one such service provider over a decade ago, so my familiarity with the program may be out-of-date. And program details will vary state-by-state. For more info:

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – user44108
    Commented Feb 4, 2019 at 6:29

The best way to avoid getting grumpy, and the best way to quit smoking in general, is to quit smoking by switching to vaping.

You can gradually lower the dose, in the span of a few months, preferably 8-12 months to be on the sure side. With the last 3-4 months vaping 0mg nicotine.

The only downside is that it requires quite a lot of reading. And possibly the need to mix your own liquid as it might not be readily available in your country. Especially the nicotine levels you might want (0, 0.5, 1, 1.5, 2, 2.5 mg etc).

If your co-workers are making jokes about your behavior at work you should take that seriously. Don't just expect your bosses will understand that you're trying to quit smoking. They might not understand how difficult it is to kick a drug habit.

  • 1
    Switching method of intake does nothing, it's still nicotine you're addicted to in the end. Gradually lowering the dose means you're using willpower to lower your intake, and you will feel deprived, hence grumpy.
    – Hylle
    Commented Feb 2, 2019 at 11:26
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    Well I disagree. Quitting cold turkey is better than gradually lowering the dose, or changing intake method. Gradually lowering the intake means you're afraid to lose your drug. Maybe you will get to a point where your intake is low or none, but most people will jump back to full intake at some point. Quitting can be instant and feel relieving if you understand you're not losing anything.
    – Hylle
    Commented Feb 3, 2019 at 20:21
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    Obviously nicotine is not one of them and the withdrawals pangs from nicotine are barely noticeable. It is psychological.
    – Hylle
    Commented Feb 5, 2019 at 10:42
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    The research paper you're referring to merely documents the internal struggle there is in smokers. They are literally in two minds, one wants to quit, another wants to smoke again. There's nothing about the "incredible physical withdrawals" from nicotine. Usually the side that wants to smoke again wins when you use the willpower method.
    – Hylle
    Commented Feb 5, 2019 at 12:16
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    I think you have misunderstood me, if you think I believe just having willpower is the answer. I believe the opposite. You are the one believing willpower is the answer, by lowering the dose gradually. OP would be irritated regardless at some point even if he was lowering dose gradually. This requires willpower. If you change your perceptions you can quit easily without using willpower. I recommend you read up on Allen Carr's Easyway if you still have issues with smoking. I quit nicotine, alcohol and cannabis.
    – Hylle
    Commented Feb 11, 2019 at 11:31

Obviously, don't start smoking again. But I would also suggest to the co-worker that a nice work environment might also be achieved if they stop smoking. If the co-worker thinks it's okay to suggest you start, it should also be okay to suggest that they stop.


Tell them that you will start smoking if they buy cigarettes for you.

And specify which brand you want (choose some very expensive).

  • 2
    Something this funny ought to be a comment. Commented Feb 1, 2019 at 1:55

They are saying this because they feel threatened by your actions. You have decided to put time, effort and willpower into quitting - they aren't at that stage and may believe that they don't have the strength to do what you are doing. They all know that smoking is bad for them and they would probably give up tomorrow if there was no personal cost to them, but there is and they haven't reached the point where giving up is more important than trying to bring you back into the group.

If you succeed, they will probably come to accept you as a non-smoker and stop baiting you. Who knows, you may start a trend, and you may actually save some lives! Keep trying, ignore their comments.


Nicotine yes, cigarettes no

Nicotine should be used as an nootropics and one must not inhale the harmful gases that comes with a cigarette or tobacco.

TL;DR Use Nicotine lozenges 1mg every alternate days. Never smoke. Be better everyday


That is an outrageous thing for your co-worker to have said, even if it was a joke. I would escalate this as a disciplinary matter.

What should happen is that their boss should take them aside, and tell them to apologize for it. You will know better than us how to make that happen in your office.

If you don't want to escalate it like that, the alternative is to wait until (if) they do it again, and then challenge them with something like "So you are saying I should kill myself so you can have a peaceful life? Would you like to apologize for that?"

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    No, it is not outrageous. It is not really close either. It is just douchebaggery, at worst. I'd save the outrage to situations where it applies.
    – Stian
    Commented Jan 30, 2019 at 12:40
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    Only a fool would go to HR to complain about other people when they admit they are being irritable with their co-workers.
    – Eric Nolan
    Commented Jan 30, 2019 at 13:47
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    @EricNolan Indeed. If ever there was a situation where HR is not your friend, this would be it.
    – Steve-O
    Commented Jan 30, 2019 at 14:51
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    @EricNolan Interesting. I never suggested contacting HR. Commented Jan 30, 2019 at 15:40
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    @MartinBonner OK, granted you didn't say literally "HR," but if you think raising this to your boss is any better... The co-worker might get a talking-to about inappropriate jokes, but you've also drawn attention to the fact that you are being seen as irritable, to the point that others are noticing. The co-worker may or may not get in trouble for what he said, but you're definitely shooting yourself in the foot.
    – Steve-O
    Commented Jan 30, 2019 at 16:20

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