The Worst Lies I Told Myself as a Smoker
Acknowledging them was the first step to quit.
Four years ago, I was smoking a pack a day. Obviously, I was aware of the harmful effects caused by smoking — it is impossible to ignore them when they are printed in the packets! — but still, I fed this addiction for almost ten years. Why?
I constantly told myself strong arguments to trick my own mind into not feeling guilty for what I was doing to myself. I also realized that I frequently heard the same statements from other smokers. I believe there is a set of misconceptions smokers share as common-beliefs.
In order to process my own battle with nicotine, I decided to write down the worst lies I told myself for years and to explain why they are not true. If you are a smoker, I am certain you have said some of them at one point or another.
”I only smoke at the parties”
Heavy smokers tend to envy occasional smokers. They only smoke when they really want, they don’t spend a fortune on it, and they are not harming their health. But they’re actually not that different. Lifelong smokers are simply more aware of their addiction because they cannot stop even after realizing they do not enjoy it anymore. Casual smokers have fewer reasons to stop, so they continue to damage their health and live at the borderline of getting hooked.
After quitting, I remained an occasional smoker for 3 years. I told myself: “smoking is like eating candy or having a drink. As long as I only do it once in a while, it is not harmful”. I’ve now realized this is not true.
I understand now how nicotine addiction works and how every cigarette creates the need for the next one. One single cigarette has immediate effects. Sugar and alcohol have instantaneous effects too, but the act of eating and drinking is natural for human beings — even for animals.
This is an extreme opinion, I won’t deny it. I have my ears pierced which is also an unnatural act, but it is not harmful to my body. During my process to ultimately quit the occasional cigarettes, I put the whole action of smoking into perspective, and now there is something about the act of deliberately inhaling toxic smoke directly through my lungs that causes me repulsion. To help you understand how a worldwide socially accepted habit can actually be ridiculous, I would recommend you to watch the following comedy sketch:
After watching Bob Newhart’s sketch you might realize the only reason we don’t laugh when someone lights up a cigarette is that we are used to seeing it as perfectly normal behavior. Because of commercials, culture, and incoherent laws, we consider shooting heroin a disgusting and problematic behavior, while smoking is a powerful and rebellious thing to do. Thankfully, today, this conception is finally changing!
“I am a stressed person“
Now that I am a former smoker, I feel cigarettes were the biggest stress factor I’ve ever had in my life. “What if the place I’m going to doesn’t sell cigarettes”? “Do I have enough”? “Do I have my cigarettes with me, right now”? “Will I have time to smoke before the event starts”? “Would it be ok for my friend to let me smoke by his window, or will I spend the whole dinner craving a cigarette”? “Where am I going to smoke now since it is raining”? “Will my teacher smell the smoke on my hair”? “How am I going to endure a 3-hour flight without smoking”?
I dare say most people have stressful lives. A demanding boss, a toxic family, or managing two-part times can take down the nerves of everyone. But that is the case for both smokers and nonsmokers. But beyond all of that, smokers also have to deal with nicotine withdrawal at all times!
“Smoking takes away the worst years of your life ”
Society seems to want us to believe old age is a sort of terminal disease. However, age itself is not a curse. Sickness is. And, if there is a way to increase the probability of reaching a healthy old age, it’s by maintaining healthy habits throughout life.
Smoking is not only harmful to our health but also accelerates ageing in many ways. Namely, it has an antiestrogen effect that tends to bring menopause forward by several years, it speeds up the hair thinning process by damaging hair follicles and affecting hormones that regulate hair growth, and it’s strongly related to erectile dysfunction.
If we add an increased risk of heart attack, cancer, and respiratory diseases to that list, we quickly understand that smoking does not take away the worst years of your life: it anticipates them and makes them worse than they should be.
“I could die from lung cancer but I can also get hit by a bus tomorrow so why quit?”
Many smokers believe lung cancer is a long-term effect and there’s only a mere chance that cigarettes lead to that end. However, studies show that it is more of a certainty than a possibility. In fact, the only reason studies state that “Up to two-thirds of long term users of tobacco will die from a tobacco-caused disease” and not “all smokers will die from smoking-related causes” is because some smokers die from some other premature cause, namely getting hit by a bus.
Therefore, quitting will considerably increase my chances of having a quick and painless death in an unfortunate accident, instead of a slow and torturous one; and I am very happy with this choice.
“I can quit at any time if I want to”
I don’t believe I ever said this one, but I heard it said many times by my smoker friends. I associate this quote with someone who is a chain smoker and quits for a week during family vacations. When he returns to work, he also returns to cigarettes and boasts how he is controlling his addiction and can quit at any time.
The last time I spent “cigarette time” with someone telling me about his ability to quit I asked:
“If you can quit, why don’t you just do it for good? That is what everybody else is trying to do!”
The truth is that smoking is a physical and mental addiction. No one that would be free from it would deliberately decide to be addicted.
I also cannot think about any other habit people feel the need to impress others about how long they can go without doing it. For some reason stating “I also love to paint, I can go on for weeks without doing it” looks like an excerpt from a farce.
“Smoking is just a bad habit”
I mentioned it before but it bears repeating: smoking is not a choice. People tend to start to smoke at a young age and get addicted. They continue even though they know it is one of the worst things they could do for themselves, even when its harmful impact is in cigarette packs to remind them every time they lit a smoke.
I also believe I kept this bad habit for choice. However, I always considered the smoke smell in my fingers, clothes, hair, and home to be unbearable. I never smoked inside my house, only by the window. I even used some tricks to minimise the smell: I’d pin my hair, alternate the hand holding the cigarette, chewed a gum immediately and sometimes even changed my t-shirt afterward so it wouldn’t leave any smell on me. I never told my parents that I smoked, I hid it from my singing teacher, and I always felt ashamed when I was the only smoker in a group. Does this look like the description of an enjoyable habit?
“I could never give up the first cigarette in the morning and one after a meal.”
If you can’t buy your favourite brand, and can only get a brand that you find distasteful, would you stop smoking? You don’t need to answer. I know you won’t, because this has happened to me too.
I couldn’t stand the flavour of regular cigarettes, so I only smoked menthol cigarettes. Therefore, when I heard about the plans to ban menthols in my country, I thought of quitting. I didn’t. I just forced myself to get used to another brand.
I also hated RYO tobacco, cigarillos, and cigars. But if I ran out of cigarettes someplace I wasn’t able to buy them, like at a wedding or a private party, I would accept any of those alternatives.
Of course, the after-meal cigarettes are a classic. They seem to be enjoyable because during the meal the nicotine craving increases. Smoking stops the crutch. That is the one and only pleasure from getting a cigarette: ending the nicotine crave. Unfortunately, this pleasure is nothing but an illusion because each cigarette increases the nicotine levels in the blood, that are gonna inevitably cause a new withdrawal feeling sooner or later when they fall again.
I used to believe I enjoyed the taste and smell of cigarettes. I was certainly lying to myself because the reason I was chewing menthol gums all the time was to reduce my bad breath. In fact, cigarettes don’t even have a taste, because they’re not edible. There’s some reason why we can’t find cigarette-flavored ice cream: No one smokes for the flavor, everyone smokes for the nicotine.