If you are a smoker, you probably have a dim recollection of the first time you ever tried a cigarette. Remember how you coughed and choked? Perhaps your body was trying to send you a simple message: Don't, smoke! if you listened to your lungs and rejected smoking, you are much better off now than the millions who are cutting days off their lives each time they light up;
We live in a topsy-turvy society. We have drug controls, yet the law permits the Western World's two biggest killers -tobacco and alcohol-to be used as often as desired by young adults. When it comes to drug use, tobacco is one of the worst choices of all.
There is virtually nothing that is appealing or pleasant . about tobacco smoking. Your first experience generally produces a sickening feeling. You cough, sputter, feel nausea, and may even vomit. Tobacco does not make your head feel good, nor does it produce psychic entertainment. About all it does is make your breath, furniture, clothes, home, and the air around you smell foul (to the increasing annoyance of others). Consider those little burn holes in clothes and furniture, the discolored fingertips, the tobacco in pocket linings, and that chronic cough in the morning, then ask yourself: Why smoke at all?
The answer is simple. You are hooked, and hooked good, just as a junkie gets hooked on heroin. In fact, tobacco is the most habituating, addictive over-the-counter drug currently used, by man. If you don't believe it, think back to the time you tan out of cigarettes and had to get dressed at one a.m. on a cold, rainy night to search for an all-night store or vending machine. If you didn't, you might have started looking for l long butts in the ashtray. It's frightening what addiction will do to otherwise sane, responsible people, but cigarettes will do it every time. Next time you take a plane flight watch the action in the smoking section when the No Smoking sign goes off.
You can practically hear forty matches striking simultaneously! It may be pathetic, but. remember you are with addicts, nothing less.
Make no mistake about it. Tobacco is an addicting drug, Just an annoying bad habit, as many claim. It has a powerful hold on its slaves, who refuse to recognize it as serious and deadly simply because it is legally obtainable. Consider some of the statistics:
In the United States, 54 million smokers consumed 620 billion cigarettes in 1976, 84 billion more than they did in 1970, at a cost of $15 billion.
Since the 1964 Surgeon General's Report, which presented a devastating picture of cigarette smoking, only 13 percent of male and 3 percent of female smokers have quit.
Between the years 1970 and 1973, 870,000 new adults started smoking.
A few cigarettes can hook a potential addict. Studies indicate that 85 percent of adolescents who smoke more than one cigarette become tobacco addicts. , According to the American Cancer Society, 70,000 Americans will die of tobacco-induced lung cancer this year, twice as many as ten years ago.
The national lung-cancer-rate among women has doubled in the past ten years, and continues to spiral upward because of increased smoking among teen-age girls.
In America, 27 percent of teen-age girls are steady , smokers. Oddly, they believe smoking is sophisticated and a form of liberation. Many assume they will be able to stop without' difficulty at some point in the future. They may be in for a big surprise, however.
The surprise is this: Of the 61 percent of all smokers who have seriously tried to quit, 57 percent will still smoking five years from now. Tobacco use is a t habit to break-one of the toughest.
If you have not already started smoking, read on. Perhaps we will tell you enough to discourage you from ever doing so. Even if you already smoke, read on. Perhaps we will mention something that can start you on the road to quitting.
Tobacco has a long and colorful history. When Columbus landed here, he found Indians peacefully puffing away on the cured leaves of the Nicotiana tabacum plant, native to our shores. He, and others, brought the -stuff back to Europe, where smoking quickly became all the rage. By the early 1600s, thousands of tobacco shops could be found in London. Cultivation of the plant spread rapidly, too. Once Europeans became addicted, they found life without tobacco so difficult they planted seeds wherever they landed.
Although tobacco smoke consists of nearly five hundred compounds in its particles, it is nicotine, an alkaloid in the plant's leaves, that causes most of the acute effects of smoking. Extracted nicotine is a colorless, acrid, oily liquid. It has no medical use but has been used as an insecticide (it is, after all, one of the most powerful poisons known). The drug is named after Jacques Nicot, who introduced smoking to France while serving as ambassador to Lisbon.
Cigarette tobacco contains about 1.5 percent nicotine; the smoke from an average cigarette yields about 6 to mg of the drug. :Cigars contain appreciably more nicotine, averaging 120 mg each, twice the amount needed to kill a normal human adult if he chose to eat it.
In addition to nicotine, variety of other toxic substances - can be found in cigarette smoke, including cyanide, "tar;" and carbon monoxide. None can be completely removed or isolated, and all can do significant damage to the smoker. Cigarette smoke contains about 1 percent carbon monoxide-cigars about 6 percent--by volume ... the same foul stuff your car exhaust emits. Some medical experts would like to see carbon-monoxide content listed - on cigarette packages, since it varies from brand to brand, as do "tar" and nicotine.
Tobacco can be chewed; snuffed, or smoked in cigarettes, cigars, or pipes. Smoking is today's preferred method, although chewing and snuffing have been popular in times past, particularly before the invention of the automatic cigarette-making machine early in this century.
What prompts us to smoke tobacco in spite of the fact that it tastes terrible, irritates our throats and lungs, and may even kill us? Again, addiction is the reason. Tobacco addicts must constantly provide their brains with nicotine. One cigarette produces only a thirty-minute supply. It is then time for more, and the cycle goes on and on. Most smokers consume fifteen to twenty-four cigarettes per day, a minimum of one each
waking hour. No other drug is taken with such frequency. Yet if you called a smoker an addict; he would respond with a sense of indignation. Don't allow that to keep you from delivering an occasional sermon, though, far even though the law permits him to damage himself, you have an obligation to raise his level of consciousness to the point that he can face up to his tobacco problem.
facing up is not easy, so be understanding. Realize that the smoker-addict who tries to quit will experience withdrawal symptoms. Though not as bad as those faced by a heroin addict, they will cause a good deal of suffering in many cases. Among the effects of nicotine withdrawal are irritability, headache, cramps, anxiety, insomnia, nervousness, diarrhea, sweating, palpitations, impatience, energy loss,. drowsiness, dizziness, fatigue, lightheadedness, constipation, loss of concentration, tremors, depression, and a feeling of emptiness and hunger.
Several stories are told about people who have tried to quit smoking. Perhaps the most famous is about Sigmund Freud, the father of modern psychology and a twenty-cigar-a- day smoker. Even after he developed cancerous sores on his palate and jaw he could not break the habit. When doctors removed part of his jaw as a result, they told him continued smoking would cost his life. The best he could do was quit once for twenty-three days before, reverting back to his foul smoking habit, which continued until he died of cancer.
Another tale comes out of Synanon, the famed drug rehabilitation facility. In 1970, to instill complete self- discipline among the two hundred heroin addicts in residence, a strict no-tobacco-smoking policy was put into effect. The end result: One hundred addicts left the program because they could not handle the loss of nicotine Some said it was tougher to give up than heroin.
Rather than recognize nicotine as the addictive culprit, smokers often believe the "act of smoking" (holding the cigarette, putting it in the mouth, etc.) is the most important part of the habit. Not true. Those who use other smokables, such as opium, hashish, or marijuana, still keep smoking tobacco. Smoking is no more than a method for the smoker. addict to ingest nicotine. The old nonsense "I just light them up and let them burn down in the ashtray" is just that--non sense! A smoker sneaks in puffs because he has to get his fix, even at the cost of losing his sense of smell or taste. He also continues in spite of the myriad physical dangers of tobacco use.
What are these dangers, specifically? First and foremost is the threat of death. Each year, in the United States alone, a quarter of a million people die prematurely as a result of tobacco use--more than four times the number of Americans killed in the Vietnam war, enough people to fill the stands at the Super Bowl for the next four years, and ten times the number of people killed annually in automobile accidents.
Even before it kills, smoking can make your life a miserable affair. Not long after you begin smoking, such problems as a nagging cough, shortness of breath, and elevated heart rate will be experienced. Production of saliva will be increased, lung tissues dangerously irritated, and bronchial secretions noticeably elevated. Constricted blood vessels, increased blood pressure, slightly enlarged pupils, and a generally over stimulated central nervous system may also result. Increased smoking can cause tremors, stroke, paralysis of breathing, heart damage, visual impairment, kidney dysfunction, reduced appetite, cancer of the lungs, mouth, esophagus, pancreas, urinary bladder, and larynx, or even emphysema, where the lungs lose elasticity and retain abnormal amounts of air.
Even if you escape illness, you face the risk of burning or asphyxiating yourself and loved ones by smoking in bed or being careless with alit cigarette. It happens all the time-just ask your local fire department.
Pregnant women should avoid smoking. Smokers' children may weigh less at birth than those of nonsmokers, and when babies are under 5 pounds at birth, mortality rate rises. Babies may also be nutritionally deprived, since absorption of food through the gastrointestinal tract is noticeably reduced by smoking. Smokers experience a higher rate of premature births. Those planning to breast-feed should cut out cigarettes, as nicotine can be passed along to a child through its mother's milk.
Now that we have made you aware of tobacco's dangers (maybe you have even lit up a couple while reading this), you may be curious about how to deal with your addiction. The truth of the matter is that we can't offer much encouragement. But although statistics show that breaking the habit is extremely difficult, that does not mean you shouldn't try In earnest.
All kinds of plans have been suggested for reducing tobacco use. Some say federal subsidies to the nation's 400,000 tobacco growers should be ended. Though that is something to consider, it is doubtful it would reduce smoking. Others advocate banning models in cigarette advertising (we tend to pattern ourselves after models) or a ban on cigarette advertising completely. Intact, 40 percent of current smokers surveyed said they would favor a prohibition on all cigarette advertising, currently budgeted at about $300 million annually. That might help future generations, but would -do little to help existing addicts left with their nicotine cravings, advertising or no advertising. Another plan calls for reduction of tar and nicotine in cigarettes by 50 percent. Although this sounds good in theory, if the craving prevails, smoker-addicts will probably double consumption.
One plan that makes sense for future generations is school education about smoking and the dangers of tobacco ad. -diction. Such educational. efforts must be undertaken at an early age, in kindergarten or first grade, when children are-" taught about illness and germs. All romance should be .; stripped from- smoking. It should be stressed' repeatedly that smoking is a no-no, as we presently do with addictive drugs ,such as heroin. (Heroin takes fewer lives than tobacco.) Unless we successfully stigmatize tobacco, it will continue to appeal to many. The business of selling cigarettes is big business indeed, and, as we witness so often,, the best interests of our population are often subordinated to the desire for profits
If you want to stop, you can attend a smoking clinic. Although they have not been around long enough to document any long-term success, first results seem to indicate that they do help some people.
New products being tested include nicotine chewing and high-nicotine-content cigarettes, which may cut down the amount of smoke inhaled---a halfway measure at best.
Cutting down is a common route, but often it does not work. Believe it or not, the most effective way to stop smoking is to stop in a "cold-turkey" (complete withdrawal) fashion. Although we don't claim it is easy, it requires lea willpower than cutting down. A little preparation will help if, you try this method. First, make up your mind you are never going to touch another cigarette. Tell friends and coworkers about your plan, asking for their help and support. Warn t you will be more irritable than usual, but ask them to with you. Ask fellow addicts not to smoke around you. M not keep cigarettes in the house or let yourself sneak one when you go out to walk the dog. Do not let outside pressures influence you to start smoking again. Hospital waiting rooms are full of healthy people chain-smoking because some friend or loved one is ill down the hall.
If you fail, don't give up. Try again . . . and again. It is worth it. You can add years to your life and prevent pain and suffering if you succeed.
If you are unable to stop completely try some halfway measures to minimize potential damage. Switch to a low" tar"/low-nicotine cigarette. Death rates for smokers of these cigarettes have dropped 16 percent. Don't smoke a. cigarette past the halfway point. Use a filter that partially blocks out "tar" and nicotine, such`' as One-Step-at-a-Time or Aquaffllter.
If you have not started smoking, don't. If you do smoke, try to quit. Tobacco never created heroes or movie stars--just slaves to its addiction.