I often wonder why people keep smoking given the fact that there is so much information about the problems associated with it. Everybody knows by now that smoking is not good; even a smoker that is not worried about his health if asked whether he would encourage his kids to smoke he would say: of course not! But even so, people keep on smoking.*
If we ask any smoker why they smoke the main answer will be: because they enjoy it, because it helps them relax, because it gives them pleasure. And of course it seems this way, it really appears that smokers enjoy their cigarette…but the reality is that they actually do not.
The aim of this short note is to present a different view to the generally accepted belief that there is actually real enjoyment in smoking. This is a very difficult thing to prove, as difficult as it would be to explain to an illiterate person watching a sunset that actually is not the sun the one moving, but because the information presented here is so amazing I really believe that, at least, it will make us wonder.**
Although there may actually be some other benefits to smoking, like a social element amongst smokers or that some people genuinely enjoy the taste of smoke in their mouths (although this is actually quite rare), when people say that they enjoy smoking they are referring to the physical reaction that their body gets from the nicotine, to that quick rush to the head followed by a momentary gratification. There is truth to this; there is a real ‘rush of pleasure’, but only with the first hit on the first cigarette of the day. And so what about the rest? Here is the big lie: All of the smoking that follows is only to maintain a comfortable level of nicotine in our bodies; and that is it. Not real pleasure associated with it.
I will try to explain.
There are actually two reasons why people smoke: 1) brainwashing 2) Nicotine addiction
From our earliest years our subconscious minds are bombarded daily through media, movies, TV, magazines and now the web with information telling us that cigarettes relax us, give us confidence, courage and that it is a fun thing to do. (During the 50s and 60s it was done directly through advertising; nowadays it is mostly indirectly through very intelligent and tricky ways, like for example (and there are many other ways) by paying large amount of money to big public figures to show themselves in public enjoying their cigarette.
We have been taught to believe:
– That smokers choose to smoke
– That Smokers enjoy smoking
– That Smoking is cool and sexy
– That smoking relieves boredom and stress;
– That smoking aids in concentration and relaxation
– And that it takes willpower to quit ***
Kids start smoking not because they choose to but because of the thousands of kids and adults they see everywhere who are already doing it. We hear that it’s a bad habit that will eventually make us sick and cost us a fortune, but we cannot believe that all these people we see smoking everywhere are not enjoying it. Otherwise, why will they do it?
There are two main reasons boys start smoking. One is peer pressure. The other one is because they want to appear tough – it is the Humphrey Bogart/Clint Eastwood/Bruce Willis image. With women, the main reason is their desire to be the modern, independent, free young lady.
One of the many sad aspects of smoking is how hard we have to work in order to become hooked. The thing that starts the trap is not that cigarettes taste so marvelous; it’s that they taste so bad that our young, innocent minds are reassured that we will never become hooked. We think that because we are not enjoying them we can stop whenever we want to. This is the trap. The first cigarette/s makes us addicted to nicotine and then together with the belief gained from the media that we are actually enjoying what we do, we become smokers.
Nicotine, a colorless, oily compound, is the drug contained in tobacco that addicts the smoker.
It is the fastest addictive drug known to mankind, and it can take just one cigarette to become hooked. Every puff on a cigarette delivers, via the lungs to the brain, a small dose of nicotine that acts more rapidly than the dose of heroin the addict injects into his veins. Nicotine is a quick-acting drug, and levels in the bloodstream fall quickly. As soon as the smoker extinguishes the cigarette, the nicotine rapidly starts to leave the body and the smoker begins to suffer withdrawal pangs (withdrawal pangs are the group of psychological and physical symptoms that appears when a person stops taking a drug or chemical substance on which he or she has become dependent.)
There is no physical pain in the withdrawal pangs from nicotine. It is merely an empty, restless feeling, the feeling of something missing (which is why many smokers think it is something to do with their hands). If it is prolonged, the smoker becomes nervous, insecure, agitated, lacking in confidence and irritable.
As these are very common symptoms that many people have we really believe that they are part of our psychology; we don’t realize, and this is THE BIG LIE, that they are created by the nicotine. And so we light a cigarette and within seven seconds fresh nicotine is supplied to the brain and the craving ends, resulting in the feeling of relaxation and confidence that all smokers attribute to the cigarette.
We really believe that it is because of smoking that we feel more relaxed and confident but it is the nicotine from the previous cigarette the one that creates the feeling of stress and insecurity. What the new cigarette does is only to relieve that empty feeling. Then, only a few seconds later, the nicotine starts to leave the body and another withdrawal pang starts and a new cycle repeats itself, and then a new one, and another one, and another one…endlessly. It is like a dog chasing his own tale…a never ending sad story.
All smokers start smoking for silly reasons. Nobody has to. The only reason why anybody continues smoking, whether they be a casual or a heavy smoker, is to feed that little nicotine monster. The saddest aspect about smoking is that the enjoyment that the smoker gets from a cigarette is the pleasure of trying to get back to the state of peace, tranquility and confidence that his body had before he became hooked in the first place.
It is just like when we hear a persistent noise, like an alarm that has been ringing all day. If suddenly the noise stops, this marvelous feeling of peace and tranquility is experienced. But in reality is not peace, but the ending of an irritation. This is what the ‘pleasure of smoking’ is actually all about: to end an irritation created by the nicotine from our last cigarette.
It is actually worst than this because as with any other drug, the body tends to become immune to the effects of nicotine and so our intake tends to increase. After quite a short period of smoking the cigarette ceases to relieve completely the withdrawal pangs that it creates, so that when we light up a cigarette we feel better than we did a moment before, but we are in fact more nervous and less relaxed than we were before we started smoking, even when we are actually smoking the cigarette. And so the chain gets reinforced, the cigarettes become the masters, and we the slaves…
I know for sure that even after reading these explanations many smokers will find a way to reaffirm to themselves and to others that there is an actual sense of enjoyment in smoking: the apparent enjoyment of smoking a cigarette after a meal, or together with a beer, or while waiting for something, or in a moment of stress, etc, etc. This is the main reason why smokers find it difficult to quit: they really believe that they are giving up a genuine pleasure or a real life saver. But the truth about smoking is that there are only two reasons why anybody smokes: brainwashing and nicotine addiction.
It is a fact that not many people will be able to take in this kind of information and that is why the huge tobacco companies have no worries. And it is fine, we all have our own time and things are just the way they are. But there are always a few that do.
Things never change easily in any society but the absurdity of smoking is so evident that facts like the ones presented here are becoming more and more prevalent. Please, help to spread this message by sharing it with your friends, both smokers and non-smokers. ‘A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.’
* I believe that it is especially problematic for the eastern-European cities where the big multinational tobacco companies are still very much in power. I find it very interesting that in many other places in Europe smoking is not seen any more as that cool, sexy activity as it is seen here in Bucharest; in other places it is clearly seen, at least by a vast majority, as no more than an addiction. In places like London for example, it is so obvious to people that smoking is a plague that there are very few public places where one is allowed to smoke; even in parks there are special places where smokers are restricted to. But here in Bucharest with a simple sign that says ‘in this place smoking is allowed’ that is it, anybody can smoke.
** Most of this note is a very condensed summary of a very interesting book called: Allen Carr’s Easy Way to Stop Smoking. If you have any desire to stop smoking, I sincerely recommend you to read this book or check his website at http://allencarr.ro/ This short note can only offer a small glimpse about this hidden truth…but hopefully, and this is my aim, enough to open a door…
*** For sure there are many methods to quit smoking, will-power being one of their main tools. The weakness I see with most of these methods is that at the root of their logic they maintain (in a tacit, not explicit way) the belief that smoking is enjoyable and it is only because is bad for our health that we should not do it. This is fine, and may be useful in many cases, except that because the belief that I’m losing something good is maintained, the will-power has to be kept ad infinitum because my desire for the pleasure of a cigarette will not go.
The best part about the knowledge presented in this note is that it uses what I consider the highest tool given to human beings: our understanding. Through this knowledge we can realize that there is actually no benefit, no gain in smoking and so will-power becomes unnecessary; the only requirement is our intelligence.