What and Why? 

Anyone who knows what tiredness feels like and has often found themselves over-eating to stave it off, can begin to appreciate the anguished feelings of someone dependent on tobacco and beleaguered for it.

It is inconceivable that you do not know smoking is bad for you. If you still do it, there is a powerful reason. You probably started when you were too young to appreciate the dangers and now find yourself in a steep-sided trap you cannot easily escape. The hectoring manner and self-righteous attitude of some anti-smoking campaigners is certainly unhelpful and under-estimates the difficulty of your position. Society offers few respectable outlets for anguish and does nothing to help you replace this one with something as affective for soothing your nerves.

The facts are less clear cut than many care to admit. Tobacco smoke is no doubt very stressful to the skin of your mouth and lungs, and certainly increases your susceptibility to bronchitis (see bronchitis and cancer), other things being equal. But they are not directly and inevitably linked as cause and effect. Heavy smoking is, in some countries, associated with much less lung disease than we have in northern Europe and America, if diet is good enough to compensate (see food for health). Your smoking acquaintances no doubt bear this out, varying greatly in their physical tolerance of their habit — some ailing on very little, others old and in good shape despite their smoking.

The main problem is that you cannot help sharing your smoke with others and the children among them are much more vulnerable than you are. This is a pity since you do not really need the smoke any more than they do. It is nicotine you are after, which you could get at the same price and just as easily in much more socially acceptable ways. It will continue to restrict your circulation and increase your risk of a stroke or coronary but only as much as it does already.

What can I do?

Advice to maintain and maximise your health

1. Replace all your cigarettes with nicotine chewing gum. The 2mg size will be sufficient unless you are used to thirty or more cigarettes daily. Start with 10-15 pieces daily, the fewest that satisfy your cravings. The chewing technique is different though. Swallow your saliva, then chew the gum until you taste nicotine; pause to let that soak into your tongue and cheek before swallowing again or the nicotine will be destroyed in your stomach. This way you can get impressively long relief from one piece of gum. Then gradually lengthen the life of each piece — something you cannot really do with cigarettes. This gradually reduces your daily dose of nicotine and creates the possibility that you can give it up altogether.

2. A healthy diet will taste better when smoke stops ruining your appetite, and goes some way to helping you cope without nicotine. Supplement this with 2000-3000mg Vitamin C daily and lots of Brewer’s Yeast; note that the other supplements for stress may also help. Avoid simply increasing your use of alcohol and coffee, which would not be any real advance. If you eat more and become overweight that is, for the time being, a lesser evil.

3. Identify the source of your nicotine dependency: Now the real work begins. You have to discover what you are using nicotine for. If it were just a habit you could easily have given it up long ago. If you are very attached to the cigarette itself you need the image it creates: what is the matter with the real you? If you use it to soothe away frustration and emotional pain are there no other ways you can do this? You can start by breathing better and using lavender essence in your bath to help you relax. Fragador (Weleda UK Ltd) is a wholesome remedy you can try. Look up a local yoga or relaxation teacher, or ask your doctor for referral to your nearest clinical psychologist or community counsellor for assistance. Otherwise the chewing gum is the end of your line for the present.

5. Nicotine may at the moment help your concentration or mental stamina, which is fine so long as it lasts. You are for the present adapted to it, in the stress sense. Unfortunately this adaptation will not last forever but will gradually become less and less satisfactory. When it is finally exhausted you will be forced to do something about it with weaker resources than you possess now. If you can summon up the will, now is the time to act.

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