Would you do it if it were harmless?

do-not-enter-600755_1280

It’s a resounding “No!” from me, and yet, if you’d asked me the same question just a few years ago, my answer would have been a triumphant “Yes!” It’s quite a common question on quit-smoking forums, and it usually goes something like this: “Would you start smoking again if it were entirely harmless?” It’s an interesting proposal because it makes the person who has quit think about the potential of returning to smoking.

A large number of people, particularly those having only recently quit, respond affirmatively. I suspect that this reaction is caused by the fact that early on, quitting smoking is a chore. It takes time and energy to refrain from smoking and, therefore, the idea of finding a safe way of going back to their habit provides them with welcome relief. This may be one of the reasons why companies touting electronic cigarettes as a ‘safer’ alternative to tobacco smoking are so successful, but I digress.

What does harmless mean, anyway? No more cancer? No more COPD? No more strokes or coronary heart disease? No more asthma attacks? No other smoking-related illnesses? For a deeper look at what smoking does to your body, see this article from CDC. If smoking were harmless, all those problems would be gone, and the world would be a happier place (insert deep sigh of sarcasm here).

But, let’s pretend for the sake of argument that the potential for illnesses has successfully been eradicated. There would still be a number of other considerations, such as the expense, the tobacco tar that covers everything, the bad smell (including second-hand smoke), the butt ends and empty packs littering the streets, not to mention the slavery of it all. I’m sure I have forgotten some of the other harmful side-effects of smoking, but for me, the slavery was probably the thing that annoyed me the most. I’m a very independent person, who dislikes being controlled by anyone or anything, and yet I allowed myself to be a slave to cigarettes for over twenty-five years! To me, that was harmful behavior.

“Ah, but you asked, Would you do it if it were harmless?” This is true, so let’s get rid of the expense, the tar, the bad smells, the litter, and the slavery at the same time. What are we left with? Fresh air. It’s a resounding “Yes!” to fresh air from me, and I’ll even high-five you for it!

Quitting vs. Having Quit!

mark-516279_640

When some people stop smoking, they refer to it as ‘quitting.’ If offered a cigarette they may say “No thanks, I’m quitting.” Similarly, they may say that “Quitting is difficult,” or “It feels lonely when quitting.” I sometimes fall into the trap myself, saying things such as “You need to be on your guard when quitting.” However, there is something fundamentally wrong with talking this way, and I’m not just pedantic!

The reason it is wrong is because quitting smoking is an event, not a process. When you say that you are kayaking, swimming, running, jumping, solving a problem, arguing with someone, or doing whatever, the assumption is that at some point you will cease that activity. In the same way, saying that you are quitting smoking implies that quitting will end at some point! It may all seem very futile on the surface, but deeper down it can have implications because it sounds so tentative. When someone tells you they are swimming, you fully expect them to stop swimming at some point. When someone tells you they are quitting smoking, it appears as though they’re making an attempt to no longer smoke, but it’s unclear at what point that process ends. It’s not definitive enough!

To be clearer, we should refer to having quit from the point we stubbed out our last cigarette. We are not quitting. We have quit. We should say “No thanks, I quit,” “Refraining from smoking again is difficult,” “It feels lonely now that I have quit” and “You need to be on your guard after you have quit.” I emphasize this way of thinking because it reinforces the fact that the event of quitting has already passed. You have already quit! There is no endpoint in sight, no time by which you will revert to smoking, and no time or circumstance to measure when you have succeeded. You are already a success! The goal from that point onwards is to learn to live without smoking.

Just to finish off, quitting smoking is not an object either. You can lose your car keys, but you cannot lose your quit. 😀

Cigarettes vs E-Cigarettes – The Lesser of Two Evil Evils

death-399148_640

I don’t know much about all the carcinogenic materials contained in tobacco products, but it has been widely reported that cigarettes contain around 4,000 distinct chemicals, of which many have negative effects on the human body. Electronic cigarettes, on the other hand, are often claimed to contain far fewer toxic agents than cigarettes. However, there are currently no FDA regulations or conclusive studies on the contents of e-cigarettes. Therefore, any claims to the effect that e-cigarettes are safer than traditional cigarettes is purely marketing speak.

The types and quantities of toxic agents that currently exist in e-cigarettes are largely dependent on what each manufacturer decides to include, knowingly or unknowingly. Your guess is as good as mine. Until such time as there has been sufficient testing, and implementation of rules and regulations, there cannot be a serious comparison. Don’t be fooled by the claims that e-cigarettes are safer than traditional cigarettes. After all, poison is poison, and carcinogens are carcinogens. Leave the expertise up to the experts!

In the meantime, my advice would be not to trade in one for the other, but to get rid of both!

e-cigarettes – What I really think…

e-cigarette

e-cigarettes with a lower-case ‘e’, because it’s trendy. They’re everywhere, but why? Partly because traditional cigarettes are less and less acceptable in today’s society, partly because e-cigarettes seem attractive for various reasons, and partly because government policies about e-cigarettes are still weak.

Down with pungent tobacco smells and up with silky-smooth flavors such as strawberries, peach, cranberry, vanilla, lilac, lavender, or if you prefer a more manly flavor, how about mocha, dark chocolate, pipe tobacco, or leather? You get my point.

There’s never been a better time for unscrupulous businessmen and budding marketeer’s to start fobbing off ‘safe alternatives’ to good old tobacco and nicotine. Worse, there’s never been a better time for cowboy entrepreneurs to recruit vulnerable youngsters into starting on a journey of recurring revenues for the manufacturers. Convert the wannabe quitters and engage the youth the while they’re still young enough!

So, while I sit here quietly trying to convince a few people to quit smoking tobacco, I find that there is a bigger problem looming on the horizon. ‘Big business’ is now manufacturing, marketing and advertising dubious alternative products to smoking traditional tobacco, and quite successfully I might add. There’s plenty of money to be made in this new industry which is largely based on a known model: get ’em hooked and reel ’em in.

Hopefully, like me, you’ll realize that this is all a passing phase. The governments will step in. They will be informed by the appropriate scientific bodies of the dangers of smoking electronic cigarettes. There will be strict regulations put in place, and some people will no doubt go to jail for fraudulent activities. Finally, e-cigarettes will become safer over time.

In the meantime, I will go on helping those who wish to quit traditional cigarettes. Just don’t ask me if vaping e-cigarettes is a viable solution to quitting smoking. In my opinion it is not, because it is simply replacing one addictive habit with another.