Statistics shows that smoking kills one in every two people and steals their lives by ten years, so why is that our smoking addiction continues and globally the tobacco industry is still worth $430 billion?
With no countries that can be excluded, smoking has become a universal spectacle. There are no streets that can be walked without the exposure to a plume of smoke being exhaled. As reported, it has certainly become “more popular than sex, more addictive than religion and more deadly than warfare”. So why is that our smoking habits continue even with the knowledge of damage it causes, and with warnings that can be found plastered onto the front of cigarette packets, accompanied by repulsive putrid images of what smoking does to the interior body.
Investigations have shown people continue to smoke because it is seen as fun. The first cigarette we ever smoke is to join the “cool” movement and try to formulate a bold and grown-up characteristic who, as a result, becomes highly accepted. Smoking is also believed to mean that you are never alone. A cigarette welded to the hand has become an inch of companionship for life, as smokers state that smoking is like being with a friend. It is also clear that smoking brings people together as is so often seen through the drunken discussions of a delegated smoking area. This means that smoking has also become associated with personal memories. Lighters become a baton to be passed and lighting someone else’s cigarette acts as a friendly gesture that can prompt conversation. The smoke itself and the fire from a lighter or match has also been found to be an enticing appeal for smoking.
On a more personal level, smoking can be seen as a reward we give to ourselves whenever we want. Smokers believe smoking is a way to motivate themselves, help them think and reduce stress levels as they blow their troubles away. In a way, smoking has become the antichrist of meditation. People inhale and exhale to help them relax and ease tension, in order to bring themselves back to a sense of neutral. However in this form of exercise, they also invite along cancer to join them.
A Freudian approach is also relevant as smoking has been proven to be a type of oral pleasure. There is a direct correlation between thumb-sucking and smoking which brings satisfaction to any partakers. The feel of a full packet also provides satisfaction in comparison with an empty one that can leave individuals with feelings of deprivation and unease.
Additionally, individuals see smoking as a part of their identity. They smoke the brand whose taste they have become accustomed to and become identified with it. It becomes a representation of the person they are, which is also perceived because people have different smoking mannerisms. The action itself therefore acts as a way to summarize their personal characteristics.
People use smoking as a way to kill time and it has transformed into the modern day watch. Cigarettes give people something to do as they wait and can for some people reduce anxiety levels, which is why soldiers would sometimes prefer a cigarette to food.
Some studies show that smokers mainly suffer when quitting because of their feelings of sacrifice and it has been proven that smokers “exhibit poor self control in the face of immediate temptation.” However, we must not forget that nicotine is an addictive substance. When nicotine is inhaled it is stored in the lungs and released after a few minutes which is why the feel-good feeling it gives tends to linger. It releases dopamine and in turn people become hooked as brain pathways become rewired.
These are the reasons why, our addiction to smoking continues.
By Melissa McDonald