I thought I might expand a bit on the particular habit of a smoking. I do this because HektikLyfe and Yolanda offered some comments that caused me to think further about it. These two blog authors are intelligent and perceptive writers.
When I was 15 and had been smoking for 3 years, I began having debates with The Cigarette. I did this because it was how I coped with mental conflicts. Some children and teens talk to a parent, or a close friend, or a sibling. I didn't. I was very insecure and was afraid of ridicule for my innermost thoughts. Instead of just talking to myself, I projected a persona onto an inanimate object (which would often represent the opposing view) and talk with it.
The Cigarette and I had many conversations over the years. And, instead of being a mentor or confidant, he was an opponent. He thought he was my Master, actually. And, in truth, he was. He was wily, confident, smug, and clever. I was a mere boy. And I had a firm habit of smoking by then.
The Surgeon General's report which announced a causal link between smoking and certain diseases was still 4 years away. But no one rationally doubted that smoking was bad for you. Cigarettes had the nickname of "coffin nails" for a reason. It was common sense. In 1947, a heavy smoking country singer-songwriter released a song that pretty much said it all.
From the New York Times, Oct. 13, 1985
Country-western songwriter and entertainer Sollie "Tex" Williams, a heavy smoker best known for his tune, "Smoke, Smoke, Smoke That Cigarette," died after a year-long battle with cancer, his daughter said. . . . her father, who was diagnosed a year ago as having cancer, smoked two packs of cigarettes a day, dropping to about a pack a day before he died. "He tried to quit, but he couldn't," she said.
I don't know if the following is true (so many things on the internet are made up) but I thought you might like it:
Huron Indian myth has it that in ancient times, when the land was barren and the people were starving, the Great Spirit sent forth a woman to save humanity. As she traveled over the world, everywhere her right hand touched the soil, there grew potatoes. And everywhere her left hand touched the soil, there grew corn. And when the world was rich and fertile, she sat down and rested. When she arose, there grew tobacco . . .
I suspect that this "myth" was made up by someone other than the Huron. Or, perhaps, misunderstood.
Cigarettes weren't invented until the early 1800s. They quickly became popular. Easier to carry than a pipe or cigars, easier to light, convenient. Before that, cigars, pipes, snuff, and chewing were the common uses. But there was already a concerted effort to restrict smoking.
As far back as 1858, the British medical journal Lancet published a debate over the unhealthiness of tobacco use.
So, it is not a matter of lack of knowledge that tobacco is bad for one's health that permits a person to take up smoking. We didn't need the Surgeon General's report in 1964 to tell us.
No, the reason we take up smoking is usually a form of peer pressure. More accurately defined, it is a desire to be like someone you admire. We humans seem to have an innate desire to emulate. The advertising industry has used this since its inception (I believe it is the third oldest profession, right after prostitution and politics). It's a very strong motivation. One we deny and encourage simultaneously.
This emulation desire is perfectly suited to developing habits. It is at the heart of fashion trends, idol worship (in the old and modern senses), political parties, cliques and coteries, gangs, and is at work even in families. Like most things human it is used for both good and evil.
I am getting rather long winded here so I will try to get to the point quickly. This emulation desire, this socialization of the habit of smoking, is why smoking is so difficult a habit to break. It is not the nicotine need so much (that is simply a reinforcer, an excuse) because that is completely out of the body after three days of not smoking. No, it is the psychological addiction that must be conquered.
First, the need to smoke by the individual must be understood. What makes a particular person smoke? What triggers the urge to light up? Once you begin to analyze your own smoking habit, you realize that there are many triggers involved. Another person lighting a cigarette. Having a drink. A cup of coffee. A meal is finished. The afterglow of sex. A close call. Being alone and sad, contemplative, maybe. Each of these triggered my urge to smoke. And I had to deconstruct them, peer into them, understand them before I could effectively fight them.
At 15, I didn't have an atheist's prayer.
A Night Unremembered
2 years ago