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Saturday, 6 January 2018

Why do people smoke?


I have the odd fag occasionally, but I'm hardly a chain smoker. Growing up, my parents were fiercely anti-smoking, particularly my dad. I can understand why; smoking is extremely harmful to one's health. It can cause lung cancer, bad breath, mess up your teeth, a chronic cough, and is all round damaging for your immune system. Plus it's highly expensive. So why do people do it?
With me, I had a drinking problem and was never interested in fags. Thought they were pointless; they don't get you drunk or high. I smoked weed for a bit, and then before I went to AA I spent two months sober. I walked into a vape shop and decided I would try vaping because it's flavoured and you can buy ones without nicotine. I bought one and enjoyed it. Ironically, that led me to want to buy some cigarettes.

Vaping, like smoking, is soothing. You're breathing in and out, which calms down the nervous system. For someone with extreme anxiety and panic attacks, it does help to relax. Needless to say, one is perfectly capable of doing breathing exercises and meditation without relying on ciggies. Overtime, smoking is actually said to increase anxiety rather than decrease it, and more cigarettes are needed to get the same effect. Furthermore, smoking is not a mind-altering substance. Nicotine is a stimulant, and it does give a brief and subtle 'high' for a few minutes, but it doesn't alter your perception. Which in that context, makes it psychologically safer than alcohol or weed or shrooms. Other drugs change your perception of reality. Nicotine doesn't.

But it's extremely addictive. All across the UK, millions of people are addicts without knowing or admitting it. Nicotine is one of the most addictive substances on the planet. That's what makes it very dangerous, and this is how people continue. Most people start smoking because their friends do it, or their curious and want to try it to see what all the fuss is about. It's something that is often associated with the 'cool kids' who go and smoke in between school lessons to be rebellious. (Though I don't remember the popular kids at my school being major smokers). You try it once and it gives you a nice relaxing buzz, so you try it again and again. Before you know it you're spending all your money on cigarettes. 

Because I'm an on-and-off smoker and have an addictive personality, I've made sure to 'stop' myself before getting onto it. However, if I smoke two or three cigs a day for a week, I can feel myself starting to shake a bit or tense up or long for a cigarette. That's usually when I stop. I have very sensitive lungs; when I was drinking I had a chronic cough. Because alcohol and cigarettes are bad for the immune system, they lead to people getting coughs or colds more easily. Second-hand smoke is also bad for those around you. On the 1st of July 2007 it became illegal to smoke in public places in the UK, including bars, restaurants, cafes and the like. 

Smoking used to be glamorized in old movies. It was seen as something the wealthy did; go into bars, have a whiskey and a cigarette. The man would light one up then light one for his girl. Or the men would smoke cigars. I'm guilty of this; when I scroll through guys on Tinder, for some reason I find a guy who has a cig in his mouth attractive. If I'm physically attracted to him I'd probably find him attractive whether or not he had a fag or not. Maybe it's because smoking has been glamorized so much over time that we've come to associate it with sex appeal. But in reality, nothing has inherent meaning, humans evoke meaning and context onto things. There is nothing inherently glamorous about smoking.  When you look at the health risks, it's rather the opposite. 

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