If you’ve been looking into how to quit smoking for any length of time, you have probably acquired plenty of facts over the years. The evidence of the harmful effects of smoking on health and well-being, for example, is now unequivocal. And ‘harmful’ is a rather euphemistic way to put something on the scale of a major war, with as many personal tragedies.
Relatives and friends enduring the horrific final stages of lung cancer, emphysema and other smoking-related diseases are only too aware of the personal suffering and tragic waste of life.
Smokers and non-smokers alike share these pains when it affects their family or work place. Children may suffer particularly when relatively young parents or grandparents are affected. A UK study of over 10,000 survivors of heart attacks showed that smokers in their 30s and 40s suffered five times as many heart attacks as non-smokers.
At a personal as well as global level the case against smoking is well documented. But most readers will have made the decision to quit anyway – or at least desire to do so – and simply want help in actually doing it.
It seems that only the large cigarette companies, faced with record litigation, continue to attempt any self-justifying case. Less apparent though, governments around the world have come to depend on cigarette tax revenues, and most act more sluggishly in prevention and cure than their health warnings might suggest. Even with the full scientific facts at their disposal, some governments remain strangely mute amidst the acrimonious debate and the rising power of consumer movements.
Most intelligent smokers realize that powerful advertising, and mixed messages from governments and the media, support the smoking status quo because of an imbalance of vested interests. But that doesn’t stop any smoker from doing what they want to do once they are informed. The ‘science and technology of smoking cessation’ speaks for itself.
The USA suffers thousands of deaths every year through road accidents, accidents at home and at work, murder and manslaughter, suicide, poisoning, overdoses and HIV infection. Smoking kills around six times more people than all these put together.
Public attitudes in western countries are increasingly polarized against the smoker. The state of California – a trendsetter in the USA, if not the world – has banned smoking in public places. The UK has very recently followed suit. This is part of a trend in which the range of public non-smoking environments, such as restaurants and shopping malls, gradually increases. Both smokers and non-smokers vote with their feet, of course, in cases such as restaurants.
The trend towards a total ban, rather than a separate, ventilated, non-smoking section, for instance, seems irreversible. As the barriers get higher, in many cases backed by legislation, smokers have to invent ever more ingenious self-justification for their ‘pleasure’.
Social pressures don’t make it easier to give up, however. They just add to the stress and low self-esteem of the embattled smoker and his or her consequent need for another fix.
Shock advertising programs don’t seem to work and are often counterproductive, especially among teenagers. Even full, technical awareness of the cancer, heart disease and other medical facts doesn’t make much impact. You can still see smokers puffing away at the main entrance to hospitals and company offices. General medical practitioners themselves don’t set a good example either, when it comes to smoking statistics.
The exception in the medical profession, interestingly, is those who specialize in smoking-related diseases and see the consequences at closer hand. Paradoxically most smokers accept the antisocial – and even the inevitably evil – nature of smoking. Yet they remain hopelessly dependent on the habit, although in most cases not for want of trying.
Thus increasingly latter-day smokers live a lie, more in the way we associate with alcoholics and addicts of hard drugs.