Thoughts on Why We Smoke and What it Takes to Quit

Anne Mitchell Health Guide
  • As you read this article, keep in mind that at least one person is dying every minute in this country because they smoked. Others are dying because they lived or worked with someone who smoked. Some of these secondary victims are children. Some of them are unborn infants.


    Not all of the adults who die of smoking are old either. Because more people are starting to smoke at a younger age, when lungs are still maturing, lung cancers are also appearing earlier.


    The average age someone starts smoking is 13. Again, that’s the average age. This means that some may start when they are younger than 10 and others not until they’re 16 or 17. 
We think of 13 as too young to drive, to vote, and perhaps even to date. So why are they smoking?

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    Well, for one thing, they see adults like us smoking. They want to appear “mature.” Their parents and teachers tell them not to, so it becomes a point of rebellion. They see friends and classmates smoke. They see smokers in movies and movie stars who smoke. They probably even have family members who smoke.


    In the United States alone, over 3,000 children become new smokers every day. Think back to why and when you started. As a kid, did you ever wish for the day when you would be free to smoke wherever and as often as you liked and not have to sneak or hide? Did you look up to adults who smoked?


    Some kids may even begin smoking by telling themselves they’ll only do it for a little while, maybe a year or two. Unfortunately, smoking is perceived by many young people as a choice one makes in a free world. The advertising industry fuels this notion by using models that appear healthy and attractive, even invincible to smoking’s harms. These “happy smokers” supposedly express their individuality and love for life through their choice of cigarette brand.


    There are even activist groups devoted to smokers' rights. The cigarette cartel tells us it’s a decision adults choose to make. They claim they are just filling a demand.


    What they don’t tell you is that once you start smoking, the choice factor rapidly disappears. You become compelled to smoke. Your brain becomes addicted very quickly - some studies say you can even become addicted after your first cigarette. You are getting an immediate rush with very little effort. You soon want more and the rationalization begins. After all, you’re just smoking one cigarette at a time. How much can one cigarette hurt?


    Well, a smoker doesn’t stop at one cigarette, of course. A smoker makes sure that they have more for later. Makes sure there will be an opportunity to smoke later. Feels the craving for another cigarette not too long after having the last. May even, when under stress, quickly go through a whole pack (I know I did!).


    Smokers smoke to feel calm, to perk up, to concentrate, to relax, to celebrate, to commiserate, to talk on the phone, to drive to work, to socialize, to be left alone, to be creative, to kill time, to stave off hunger, to finish a meal, to enjoy coffee, to get through work, and just to be. In other words, smokers smoke whenever they feel they need to and for whatever reasons come up.


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    Smoking becomes such a large aspect of your life in part because, in order to feel normal, you need to ingest nicotine at a regular rate. You may even be addicted to some of the 4,000 other chemicals in cigarettes.


    If you are struggling to quit smoking, think about how many people you know who have already quit. Think about all the other people who will try again today to quit. You also have what it takes to become an ex-smoker. Every day, people like you are discovering that they can indeed live without cigarettes. In fact, it’s the only way to live.

    If you need a little help getting started, please take a look at Preparing to Quit Smoking.


    Excerpts from Give It Up! Stop Smoking for Life provided with permission from author and publisher.

Published On: February 24, 2009