Your experience of in a sense squelching your desire by watching smokers smoke is not strange at all. It is one of my most strongly recommended pieces of advice. When you are alone thinking about a cigarette, you are fantasizing. You are not even seeing the smoke or really smelling the smoke, you are recalling the sensation of fixes from the past. But when you see a person smoking, you get to witness the real look. The smoke, the smell the real way the smoker appears as he or she is sucking in his or her face desperately trying to elevate nicotine levels to ease up the withdrawal you know he or she is feeling. Then if on top of this you visualize the smoke that isn't coming out and the processes that are happening throughout the poor smokers body, it can reinforce youw own desire to stay smoke free. It will get to the point that you view these people with pity as opposed to viewing them with any form of envy. They are not in an enviable position in any way, shape of form. To stay happily on the side you are on now, an ex-smoker in control of your addiction--simply remember to never take another puff!
P.S. Go read the thread, "watching others smoke
," I think you will appreciate it.