Most people know that smoking is addictive, and that this means that when someone tries to quit smoking they experience physical withdrawal sensations that can be really, really unpleasant. Of course, it is not actually the smoke itself that is addictive, but rather a chemical contained in the smoke – nicotine. It is nicotine that smokers are addicted to, and it is nicotine withdrawal that makes quitting smoking so difficult.
To try and combat the difficulties of nicotine withdrawal, smokers are now offered a choice of nicotine replacement therapies. These therapies – referred to as NRTs, for ‘nicotine replacement therapy’ – are designed to give smokers a more realistic chance of quitting the habit, by replacing their nicotine ‘fix’ usually found in a cigarette with a less harmful way of ingesting nicotine. This can come in the form of slow-release patches that are applied to the skin, from inhaling nasal sprays or from chewing gum.
The idea is that if a smoker attempts to quit nicotine ‘cold turkey’ – in other words stops taking it completely – they are less likely to succeed in their attempts to stop smoking. As the withdrawal from nicotine can be unpleasant, the idea is that by gradually reducing the amount of nicotine someone ingests rather than stopping it altogether allows people to gradually wean themselves off their reliance on this addictive chemical.
But does nicotine replacement therapy work? Some studies have shown that smokers are more likely to quit if they use a form of NRT in the weeks after they stop – one study reported that out of 100 of people quitting smoking, 17 who used NRT were successful, compared to only 10 in the group who didn’t use NRT.
But other studies show that the long term effects are not as strong, and relapse rates for people who use nicotine relpacemernt therapies are very high.
It may be a help, but on it’s own, it is not likely to be enough to get off cigarettes for good.
For years, smokers groups have complained about one thing in their singular voice: the continued raid on cigarette duty by successive governments, which has almost doubled the cost of a packet of cigarettes over the past 20 years. With every new budget that is announced, a few cents or pennies are customarily added on to the already well-burdened smoker, and the smokers rights groups protest again.
In reality, governments have nothing to fear from taxing cigarettes at astronomically high levels. Smoking is bad for health; the health of smokers, through direct contact, and for non-smokers who may become victims of passive smoking. Therefore, if a government adds extra taxation on to cigarette duty, they can claim it is in the public interest – that by making cigarettes more expensive, smokers may be more likely to quit. It’s one tax that no one can argue with on the grounds of health and protecting the public as a whole; smokers rights don’t come in to it.
It is therefore pointless to argue. If you, like many smokers, feel trepidation at the announcement of a new budget and have steadily watched the cost of smoking increase several-fold over your lifetime – accept it. You really have no other option. In the United Kingdom, tobacco taxation brings the government treasury nearly £9 billion per year – and they’re not going to stop now. With the health argument on their side, no government is going to be the ones to make it easier and cheaper to smoke; so if you want to carry on smoking, accept that higher and higher taxation is a certainty you cannot avoid.
In the cycle of a smoker’s life, they will usually have more than one attempt at quitting. Only a small percentage – sometimes given as low as 15% – of smokers actually manage to kick the habit on their first attempt, and the norm is three to five attempts before finally managing to banish the demon cigarettes.
To some, knowing the difficulty involved in quitting smoking, there is the natural conclusion that to prepare yourself you should cut down on the number of cigarettes you consume. So let’s be clear: cutting back on cigarettes does not work, does not have any particular health benefits and could actually decrease your chances of quitting altogether in the future. Here’s why:
- You’re battling for little reward.
When you cut back, you will experience some of the withdrawal symptoms involved in quitting smoking. If you’re going to be going through withdrawal, what’s the point of stringing the process out? Quit altogether first, and you only have to go through it once, rather than twice; when you ‘cut back’ and when you stop altogether.
- If you find cutting back unpleasant because of the withdrawal, you’re less likely to be willing to quit altogether.
Sometimes, ignorance is bliss. If you know how unpleasant withdrawal can feel, you’re going to be less likely to quit altogether and go through that withdrawal all over again.
- You’re not improving your health.
Smoking at all is damaging to health, so for as long as you continue to smoke on a daily basis, your health is going to suffer – no matter how many cigarettes you smoke.
Giving advice to smokers on how best to smoke is something of an odd proposition, but it’s advice that could save lives. We all know the health and financial implications of smoking as a habit, and most non-smokers would prefer to see the habit removed from existence altogether, but the fact remains: people smoke. Therefore it is only sensible to offer advice to smokers in the hope that, while they are smoking, they are doing as little damage as possible to their health.
The absolute key issue of so-called ‘safe smoking’ (a juxtaposition in itself) is filters. In America, filters tend to be white to match the color of the cigarette tube itself – while in the UK and European, filters are usually orange. These sponge-like bits of kit are used to inhale tobacco through, and are essential to minimizing the already considerable risk of a smoking related illness.
Filters help to cut out the levels of the toxic chemicals that are contained in cigarette smoke. They can’t remove them entirely, but an effective filter can at least lessen the impact.
This becomes an issue if you prefer to self-roll your cigarettes. It is possible to buy filters, which you can insert in to a cigarette paper as you roll it, but these usually make cigarette rolling machines difficult to use. It may be more time consuming, but in terms of your health it is best to hand-roll cigarette papers and tobacco so you can insert a filter in to device yourself. In the long run, ignoring filters altogether will cost you more than a few extra minutes per cigarette.
The vast majority of smokers are well aware of the possible health implications of their habit. That might be difficult to understand – why would someone knowingly cause harm to themselves? – but it’s fairly difficult to be blind to the health risks of smoking. With anti-smoking messages now appearing on cigarette packaging and a continued drive by governments and states to cut down the number of smokers, being unaware is unlikely.
However, one issue that tends to get ignored is that of passive smoking. There is an unfortunate truth in that smoking not only affects the smoker themselves, but anyone they may be near when they smoke. Even if you are a non-smoker, if you live or regularly socialize with a smoker who smokes in your presence, then you could be at risk of smoking-related illnesses as well. As the smoke is expelled from the cigarette and smoker, if a non-smoker is nearby they cannot help but also inhale some of the substance.
No one is entirely sure of the effects of passive smoking, as many cigarette-related illnesses can manifest for a variety of reasons – there is no “you only get this if you smoke” illness. However, the statistics indicate that passive smoking is a very real threat, with non-smokers who regularly spend time around cigarette smoke up to 50% more likely to get a smoking-related illnesses than a non-smoker who does not socialize with smokers.
If you live with someone who smokes, to avoid this it is best to try and ask them to smoke outside. If that isn’t possible, compromise on them smoking near a window, and ventilate the house often by opening all windows.
For nearly a decade now, various states across America as well as numerous European countries have introduced what is referred to as a “smoking ban”. Here’s everything you need to know about these bans:
- What is a smoking ban? Are people just not allowed to smoke at all?
That’s not quite the case. A proper name for these bans would be “smoking in public places ban” – but that’s a little wordy! Most of the bans in American states and various countries around the world prevent smoking in public places. A public place is usually defined as somewhere like a bar, restaurant or office workspace. If a ban is in place in a particular area, smoking inside these buildings is prohibited.
- Is it any type of smoking?
Yes, all smoking – filter cigarettes, pipes, rolled cigarettes – is banned.
- Why do these bans exist?
It’s a health concern, primarily the concern raised about passive smoking. The theory is that non-smokers can still suffer from smoking-related illnesses, such as cancer, if they regularly breathe second-hand smoke in. The ban is to protect the public health.
- Does these bans infringe on a smokers civil liberties?
This is still a question of debate, but there has been no significant legal challenge on a human rights level to provide a precedent. If such a case were winnable, smokers rights groups would probably have challenged the bans in court by now.
- What happens if I smoke inside a building where a ban is in place?
It depends on the state or country you are in. Penalties range from an on-the-spot fine right through to arrest, and the establishment you smoke in will also be punished.
Smoking is an addiction. That sounds like a simple statement that can be taken as read, but when you are trying to convince a smoker to quit, it’s something you really need to understand. Smoking is often referred to as a ‘habit’, when in reality the stronger term ‘addiction’ is far more realistic. Smokers become physically addicted to nicotine, the chemical found in cigarettes, and can experience uncomfortable and often painful physical symptoms of withdrawal when they try to quit.
The reason this is pointed out is that convincing someone to quit smoking for good is a difficult road, and only by understanding what you are actually dealing with can you have a chance of beating it. A tiny percentage of smokers – less than 10% – manage to quit on their first attempt. Most will take three or more attempts, and some may take over 10 attempts over a number of years to finally kick the addiction for good.
If you are struggling to support a smoker who continually goes back on their word – in your eyes – and starts smoking again, try and keep positive. Acknowledge, both to them and to yourself, that this is a marathon rather than a sprint, and by being continually upbeat your smoking friend or family member can be assured of your support.
Never, ever cast doubt on a smokers desire to quit just because they have failed before – doing so can make them angry, defiant and less likely to quit than ever before. Keep things in perspective, and see every failed attempt as one step closer to the final, successful, smoke-free life.
As a non-smoker (or an ex-smoker, depending on your situation), you probably find the entire concept of smoking distasteful. That is, after all, why you may be seeking to help a smoker quit their habit for good. To you, the reasons are obvious; smoking is not only bad for a smokers’ health and appearance, but it has financial repercussions, too. It should seem like an argument you’ll win easily, especially when statistics about how half of smokers want to quit are bandied around. It looks like an argument you, and a few well-learned truths about smoking, are destined to win.
However, what you must understand if you are trying to convince someone to quit smoking is this: smokers like smoking! That might sound like a ridiculous statement, but it’s something many people who try and convince a smoker to quit absolutely forget. A smoker may wish they had never started the habit and may want to quit, but in essence they enjoy the experience of smoking; and that’s why they do it. They probably know the downsides already, and have still chosen to smoke.
It’s important you don’t underestimate how much people can enjoy smoking, and particularly the social aspect of it. When you are presenting your case, don’t ever be harsh to a smoker, or try and shout at them in an attempt to make them quit the habit. Instead, acknowledge this is something they enjoy – even if you can’t see the benefits – and take a softer, more understanding approach. Using a gentler method of convincing, you are far more likely to succeed.
While dissuading people from quitting smoking is never a good idea, when presenting the reasons as to why a smoker should quit, it is important to be factual. If someone suspects any aspect of your reality talk is not actually true, then they may doubt the things – such as the substantial health risks associated with smoking – that are actually true. Any kink in your argument armour can cast doubt on the truthfulness of your entire statement, so if you are trying to persuade someone not to quit, don’t fall in to the trap of making false statements.
When it comes to smoking, one of the biggest lies told by those convincing smokers to quit is that “smokers raise smokers”. The idea is that people who smoke will inevitably, even if not deliberately, encourage their children to become smokers when they are open – and thus perpetuating the cycle of lung and health abuse for a new generation. It’s a statement that can have quite an impact on doting parents, who immediately redouble their efforts to quit in the hopes of saving their children from a life of nicotine addiction.
In reality, however, smokers do not raise smokers: in fact, studies and statistics show the opposite is true. The children of smokers – particularly if both parents smoke – are less likely to smoke than those raised in a non-smoking house, largely because they have been exposed to the unpleasant side of smoking, such as the smell, their entire lives. So resist saying to a smoker in an effort to convince them to quit, and focus instead on the financial and health implications of their habit.
When smoking is discussed, most people seem to have in mind the image of filtered cigarettes as the main item that people use to consume tobacco. For some unknown reason, other types of smoking – such as using a pipe and rolling your own cigarettes – do not attract quite the same amount of disdain as their orange-filtered cousins, when in reality all are as bad as each other. Any way of consuming tobacco, nicotine and the associated chemicals that are inhaled with every breath should be frowned upon.
It is not just non-smokers who focus their energies on regular cigarettes. Some smokers, particularly younger ones, believe that there is a definite separation between self-rolled cigarettes and pipes when compared to regular cigarettes. Sometimes, this belief stems from the fact they are ‘less harmful’ – a worrying, and untrue, distinction.
It is not tobacco itself – the crisp substance that is used to fill cigarettes, pipes and rolling papers alike – that is the problem with smoking. The issue is the chemicals that are inhaled in to the lungs; the manner in which these chemicals are inhaled is largely irrelevant. No smoking apparatus – be it a filtered, standard cigarette, a pipe or a rolling paper – is ‘better’ than the others. The only main difference is to cost, with tobacco for pipes and rolling papers tending to be cheaper, but the health benefits are non-existent. The fact remains that any type of smoking can be damaging to health, so switching to a different method of smoking is nothing but a waste of time.