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Tobacco smoking

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Tobacco smoking, most often associated with "coffin nails," or cigarettes, is a foul, disgusting habit that stains your fingers and teeth, costs a fortune, and tends eventually to cause nasty lung and heart diseases.[1]

As drugs go, tobacco has a ridiculously low buzz/harm ratio. And nicotine is actually at least as addictive as heroin or cocaine.[2] And delivered like crack.

Contents

Who wins and who loses?

Inherently sexy and rock'n'roll!

Smoking not only fills the coffers of the death industry but also those of the government through high tobacco taxation[3]. At the same time it is also profitable to the pension providers because they don't have to pay out so much to those who die before their time, and also the health insurance companies who can charge higher premiums for smokers. It is estimated that some 15,000 children in the UK end up with asthma as result of their parents' tobacco addiction.[4]

It is also immensely irritating to non-smokers who may be in the vicinity.[5]

What's in it for the smoker?

The nicotine provides both stimulant and relaxant effects in one go. (That other site has the full list.) The really addictive element is inhaled through the lungs and straight into the brain - even weeks or months after your body has finished withdrawal from the drug, your brain remembers and craves the hit.

Unsurprisingly, users rationalize smoking as a relaxing and deliciously addictive pastime. Most nicotine addicts claim to be aware of the health risks posed by smoking, but aren't really worried until they approach 50, or until they get cancer[6] - whichever comes first. Other favored arguments by proponents are personal freedom (of the tobacco industry to make money) or the "Ah, but X is worse" fallacy.

Logic doesn't work here. Either they're addicted and know the dangers, they're addicted and in denial or they're in the business and want to keep the money rolling in.

While it has been alleged that cigarette smoking makes one look sexy and glamorous, in truth only people who are already sexy and glamorous look this way when smoking. No robust findings have been published on smoking's effect on how fabulously sexy one is. (If you're smoking during sex, get a decent water-based lubricant.)

Tobacco is one of the very rare occurrences of a situation (perhaps the only thing similar is the advertising for marmite) in which the producers of a product are paying[7] for advertisements attempting to get people to stop using the product.[8]

For those who absolutely must fill their lungs with gook, pot smoking is much more fun, but, according to some, more dangerous.[9] Marijuana is, however, not correlated with lung cancer like tobacco smoking is.[10][11][12] The possession of marijuana is also illegal in many countries, with punishments ranging from a small fine to execution. So, at least you get the thrill of being a genuine rebel.

Advantages of smoking

A cigarette, with an attached cancer-causing "filter".

If you smoke, you need no longer pay any attention to the putative health hazards of:

  • Air pollution (that you don't create)
  • Radon leaking up into your house
  • Pesticides in your food
  • Volcanic dust

Think of it like consolidating a pile of small debts into one big debt. But dumber.

Disadvantages of smoking

If you really need to be told that smoking is bad for you and extremely stupid, you should probably be on a wiki that cares more about the hard of thinking.

Who should smoke?

Nobody. You might hear some people claim that smoking can help alleviate symptoms from maladie du jour, but just remember: bleach would be a perfectly good antibacterial if it didn't also kill the patient. There is nothing that smoking could treat that would offset the harm done by smoking... that said, smoking has some known effects that some people might idiotically consider for self-medication.

People with mental disorders and schizophrenics in particular have heavy rates of smoking.[13] While some of them use this to "self-medicate" by reducing the movement side-effects of anti-psychotics, or producing a sense of well-being as a coping mechanism, the high rate of smoking in schizophrenics and other mentally ill patients has resulted in 30 percent more heart disease and 30 percent more respiratory disorders than the general population. A doctor would be ill advised to recommend smoking as any advisable course of action for any patient with a mental disorder.

Nicotine has been found to provide limited help with cognition (memory, attention and thought organization) impairment in patients suffering from schizophrenia,[14] but since nicotine is still less than ideal even without the carcinogenic burning vegetable matter (e.g. it correlates with Alzheimer's[15]), scientists are at work on drugs similar to nicotine to provide the benefits without the dangers. Smoking is however still not in any way recommendable to schizophrenics for helping with these cognition impairments because the positive effects are short-lived as resistance sets in very quickly, while the high addictive nature of nicotine results in a quick dependence upon the drug even though positive benefits have already been exhausted.

In short, even if you're schizophrenic, you might only find temporary relief of cognition impairment, but once the positive effects have fully faded away, you're now addicted to a deadly poison that is killing you. So, don't smoke.

It is well known that smoking causes an increase in blood pressure,[16] which is just one of the many reasons why doctors recommend people quit smoking, as raising blood pressure is typically a bad idea for almost everyone. However, some conditions result in symptoms of chronic low blood pressure (hypotension), and while this is typically regarded as a fortunate situation, in some cases low blood pressure can become so drastic that it starts becoming symptomatic, i.e. dizziness and fainting. But since doctors typically only deal with acute hypotension due to shock or blood loss, most treatments for symptomatic hypotension focus on treatments that are really only available in hospitals on an emergency basis. Thus, people struggling with chronic low blood pressure and inadequate healthcare might be tempted to self-medicate their condition with smoking, and unlike the case with schizophrenics, this relatively beneficial raising of the blood pressure does not quickly disappear, and would actually work as a long-term solution... You know, if it weren't for the lung and heart problems, cancer, and other generally lethal consequences of smoking.

Quitting

Stopping smoking is almost impossible for most. Nicotine is ridiculously addictive. The removal of nicotine's antipsychotic effects means that many quitters find themselves becoming crazy people for a time.

Nicotine patches or gum work for some people, but don't provide the hit.

Electric cigarettes (dispensing a still-dodgy nicotine hit without the immense amounts of intensely carcinogenic burning vegetable matter) are ostensibly less harmful than the fiery variety and are becoming quite popular, but many governments are making them even harder to get than cigarettes, which are still on sale bloody everywhere (except Bhutan). We're sure there's a firm evidence-based reason for this, as there usually is behind drug policy.[citation NOT needed]

Alternatively one can read a certain book, which has the effect of brainwashing the reader into believing quitting smoking is easy and the best thing you will do in your life by repeating an analogy about smoking being like wearing tight shoes all day to experience the relief of taking them off (a lot). This (along with hypnosis and other self-help programs and support groups) might rely on the placebo effect, but unfortunately, when it comes to any addiction without a convenient agonist (and nicotine doesn't have one), the placebo effect is in medical terms the only effect you can count on.

All that aside, the horrifying fact is that the pathways physical dependency emerges from are highly flexible, but not elastic. They adapt to a certain dosage schedule and respond (as any ex-smoker can tell you, do they ever!) when that schedule isn't met. The result for most narcotics (and certainly for nicotine) is a ratchet effect. The only way to go from the constant agony of withdrawal to the occasional agony of post-addiction is to stop introducing the addictive stimulus. Or, in even simpler terms, if you're addicted to nicotine to the point that you need a biologically significant amount in your system at all times, whenever you stop taking nicotine, you will undergo severe withdrawals. Once you're habituated, the severity and length of habit make only a minor difference in how nasty it is to break that habit.

What's worse, significantly undercutting the habitual dosage schedule is also highly unpleasant - and can only reduce the body's anticipated dosage schedule glacially. You are going to experience what many people rate as the worst experience of their lives, and levels of discomfort, unease, mental instability, and craving you literally have no way to imagine, for no less than a week. And that's being optimistic. (If you don't smoke or are only doing so "occasionally", best to avoid that, huh?) Any smoking cessation plan in which one actually quits smoking eventually ends in 1-2 weeks of withdrawal, months to years of situational cravings, and a lifetime with that much less respiratory damage, carcinogenic risk, and hand-over-fist expense to worry about.

There's medically just no way better than cold turkey. Unlike alcohol, heroin, and certain benzodiazepines, abrupt cessation is never going to kill you. (Don't go cold turkey from those after long-term addiction, please.) Nicotine delivery methods other than cigarettes as a quitting system will only kick the can down the road. They are, on the other hand, a good way for the people selling them to make money off of your anxiety, and their commercials look almost as scientific as the ones for shampoo. It's your call, isn't it?

Support

The best advice for supporting a quitter is to take it seriously. Help them avoid nicotine, even though everything in their body is incessantly begging for it. If they've given over the pack or carton they have on hand just in case, put a few degrees of separation between it and you. At the very least, never make it easier for them to lapse.

If you're a smoker, keep it out of the environment. Don't smoke around them, try not to have cigarettes on you when dealing with them if possible, and don't talk about smoking. If their quitting bothers you for some reason, suck it up and deal with it like an adult; if you blow smoke in their face or offer them one on the side like a giant Goddamn baby, you're basically angling to sentence them to more time in withdrawal, which is a lot like Hell only it's a real thing and there's no way to cheat your way out of it by being a nice person or pitching woo to a bearded man. Don't be Dennis Leary.

If you're not a smoker or a vicious prick, by all means make yourself useful, but don't get in their way. They're likely to snap at you, like everything else in the world, because their brains have temporarily replaced the 'response' part of stimulus/response with 'impotent rage'. Let them have it after they're out of the woods, by all means, but don't bother trying to beat it out of them - their reptile brain would swan dive into a family of bears for another smoke before being hugged to a paste and devoured, and you're no bear.

If you're a bear, why are you here? This is a wiki. There is nothing for bears here.

See also

Second-hand smoke deniers

External links

Footnotes

  1. netdoctor: Smoking - health risks
  2. Ask Yahoo!: Is nicotine really as addictive as heroin?
  3. Subject to change depends on the health care expenses incurred (if government pays for health care) due to the consequences of smoking.
  4. 15,000 kids with asthma
  5. Especially those with pre-existing attitude or lung problems
  6. Or emphysema, heart disease, chronic hacking coughs, etc.
  7. Mostly involuntarily, due to legislation or court rulings.
  8. Yes, they are daring you not to buy cigarettes!
  9. Lung damage from pot
  10. Study finds no cancer-marijuana connection
  11. Cannabis 'safer than alcohol and tobacco'
  12. Cannabis smoke less carcinogenic than tobacco smoke
  13. Most people with schizophrenia smoke tobacco, says research (myDr.com.au, 9 April 2001)
  14. Smoking away Schizophrenia? (Lisa Conti, Scientific American, 2007-11-28)
  15. Nicotine tied to Alzheimer's risk (Wendy Zukerman, New Scientist, 2010-04-14). This appears to supersede earlier reports that nicotine might help break up the amyloid plaques.
  16. Smoking and high blood pressure
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