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The Forum > Article Comments > Gone in a puff of smoke > Comments

Gone in a puff of smoke : Comments

By Simon Chapman, published 30/12/2004

Simon Chapman argues that many smokers still cling to old myths that they will somehow escape the dangers of inhaling.

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Whilst in no way disagreeing with Professor Chapman's main message that the holiday season and New Year is a good time to give up smoking, it is surprising that the professor chooses to frame his message in terms of the ignorance, stubborness or stupidity of smokers, and omits to mention the most important reason that many smokers continue to smoke and find it so hard to give up - they are seriously addicted. Many older people smoke because they must. It is said that addiction to nicotine is as strong as or stronger than addiction to heroin. That is, smoking is a medical problem like heroin addiction, not a personal character failing or some foolish indulgence. Perhaps finding a way of giving smokers some practical help in fighting a serious chemical addiction would be more productive in the long run than beating them around the head with their alleged stupidity.
Posted by grace pettigrew, Thursday, 30 December 2004 12:40:34 PM
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Grace, I think all the article i saying is that its amazing smokers don't accept how bad smoking is for them. My view is that they do realise, but have developed a severe case of denial over time.

As to the claim that giving up smoking is harder than giving up herion, I think this is totally false. Herion is an opiate - it causes extreme pleasure. The pain of withdrawal is the pain of missing that pleasure.

Nicotine is not pleasant. It is a cheap poisonous stimulant. The real mystery is how smokers convince themselves that they actually enjoy it - has any smoker ever enjoyed the first puff of their first cigarette?

Addiction to smoking is not a serious chemical addiction. In fact the physical withdrawal symptoms are gone within 3 days - try telling that to a herion addict doing cold turkey. The mental addiction is something else. Have built up such a severe mental denial about smoking, most smokers find it very hard to let go. The most effective ways to give up smoking, such as hypnotherapy, do not use nictone replacement at all, but focus on breaking the mental dependancy.
Posted by gw, Thursday, 30 December 2004 3:10:10 PM
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Bravo Grace! Smokers generally aren't stupid, they surely know that smoking is killing them. They're just worried that the pain and difficulty of stopping smoking will kill them quicker still! As anyone addicted to anything will tell you - Stopping is easier said than done. All the snide asides aimed at the mental capacity of smokers isn't going to alter that fact. I'm an ex-smoker who gave up because first bub had some chest problems. Even with a motivation as strong as that, it was the hardest thing I've done in my life.
Posted by bozzie, Thursday, 30 December 2004 3:25:04 PM
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Thank you Bozzie, as you would know ex-smokers have a much better appreciation of how very addictive nicotine is than non-smokers.

Spending precious research funds in asking smokers why they smoke, and then making lists of these "reasons", in order to make smokers feel guilty or stupid, is a complete waste of time. Smokers will tell you anything you want to hear in order to rationalise their habit, and these rationalisations and "denials" are meaningless in addressing the problem.

GW may believe that nicotine withdrawal is less painful or difficult than heroin withdrawal, but this is opinion not fact. Notice how many ex-heroin addicts continue to smoke heavily - perhaps because nicotine is the harder drug to kick?

GW, you might also believe that smoking is so unpleasant that nobody could possibly enjoy it after the first cigarette, but you are wrong. Most smokers really do like the effect that nicotine provides, "calm, cool and collected" as the saying goes, but at the same time, they hate the dependency and fear the medical consequences. People are so bloody complicated aren't they?

With respect to your claim that psychological interventions like hypnotherapy are the most effective in breaking the habit, do you have any proof of this, or is this just what you would like to believe? My understanding is that chemical substitutes like Zyban have encouraging success rates for long-term smokers, but the dangerous side-effects prevent widespread application. It is my lay understanding that Zyban, a powerful anti-depressant, mimics the effects of nicotine on the brain's pleasure centres, a bit like methodone mimics the effects of heroin...
Posted by grace pettigrew, Saturday, 1 January 2005 11:03:42 PM
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Professor Simon Chapman is undoubtedly this country's the most prodigious analyst on progress of the war against tobacco. He runs an important website which is an invaluable research window into the global campaign to stamp out smoking. But I am disappointed that he persists in the vilification of nicotine addicts through the cheap deployment of conveniently assembled statistics, particularly at this time of the year. Recent articles penned by the good professor trumpet the news that smokers are now less popular than non smokers at dating agencies. It goes without saying that there are a number of other less eligible social groups that would also have a tough time hooking up through commercial matchmaking services but this is the sort of comparative detail that keeps passing Chapman by. Indeed, none of this sort of "smokers are coming last in life" style of rhetoric is especially helpful to anyone but anti-smoking campaigners. Yes smoking causes fatal diseases; it is a licensed consumer product that serves no other purpose in society than to create deadly dependencies generating revenues that our federal government remains well and truly addicted to. If we count Australian smokers on a state by state basis against the level of per head funding for the quit campaign, the federal government's gross hypocrisy looks even darker.

The most interesting news of all is that after years of public health campaigns, the number of residual smokers still lighting up has reached a plateau and does not seem to be shifting downwards.

We need to face these sorts of facts and stop congratulating ourselves on the success of a socially engineered health campaign that has nevertheless consistently failed to reach a large and dangerously neglected section of our community. Today's smokers, the dateless losers Chapman counts in his triumphant parade of statistics are those who have slipped below the radar of the quit industry's middle class healthist appeal. Too many low income single mums, long term unemployed, depressives, inmates in her majesty's prison system, immigrants, Asians, returned service men, and youth are still lighting up against all the well worded advice of the many public warnings. The question of why such trends are occurring at this point in history should be causing urgent reflection within the quit industry. Has the anti-smoking initiative has become distracted from its real purpose by the anti-passive smoking campaign? Instead of focusing on unraveling the dark pathologies of commercially sanctioned addictions and developing more accurate support to assist nicotine addicts to give up permanently, we've condemned smokers to society's doorstep. That's fine, but the consequence is that non smokers are now tacitly convinced that those out in the cold habitually puffing away are there out of some sort of vulgar anti social personal choice. This misguided socially engineered concept has encouraged public empathy to become twisted into socially sanctioned condemnation. Is it time we quit congratulating ourselves on the disappearance of smokers and started actually helping them?

Jane Rankin-Reid
Posted by Jane RR, Tuesday, 4 January 2005 12:51:50 PM
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