When Smoking Was a "Choice Addiction"
by Joel Spitzer
It was cheap, well under 50 cents a pack. It was readily available. You could smoke it any where, any time you wanted. It was respectable. Your friends did it, your relatives did it, your co-workers did it, your boss did it, your doctor even did it.
There was no social stigma attached, to the contrary, you were viewed as sophisticated, smart, tough, enlightened, or even healthy and robust as you deeply sucked in drag after drag. You never felt threatened by it—as far as you knew, it was safe.
You never felt withdrawal, you seldom felt nicotine poisoning. When you could smoke any time you want, you were able to balance nicotine at optimal levels never facing extremes. Without facing extremes, you never recognized the consequences associated with using an addictive substance. You smoked because you liked it. For a while you knew you could take it or leave it.
But in 1964 things started to change. It was then the first Surgeon General's report was released. For the first time, the public was made aware about the early known dangers of smoking. The link to lung cancer was firmly established and the risks of heart disease were becoming apparent. Those who actually read the report and understood the implications of the early studies were the first to begin to stop smoking.
Among the first groups of people to reduce smoking among their ranks were physicians and dentists. As more time passed and hundreds and then thousands of studies were reported, the link between smoking and premature death was becoming firmly established. Greater numbers of nonmedical professionals were joining the ranks of ex-smokers. All of a sudden, the act of smoking was not viewed as an intelligent behavior. Smokers were not shunned, but they were no longer admired for their smoking behaviors.
Many American were attempting to quit but could not. For the first time, they were beginning to realize they were no longer smoking by choice. They were now hooked. They knew for medical reasons they should quit, but without understanding how to treat addiction they did not know how to stop.
While they may not have been happy about this realization, they still felt comfortable smoking (unless they had developed crippling effects). After all, they could still smoke at the regular intervals necessary to avoid the consequences of nicotine withdrawal syndrome. They were now drug addicts.
But nicotine addiction still had major advantages over any other addiction. Sure, it literally killed more people than all other addictions combined, including alcohol and heroin. But it was still legal, accessible, and relatively socially acceptable. These are important attributes for a drug of addiction. For, even though the long-term effects are lethal, the immediate short term effects are relatively comfortable, if not down right pleasurable.
What other drug could you self administer 40 plus times a day getting the little pharmacological fixes with each and every hit that a smoker gets from every puff? Smokers still didn't face the chronic withdrawal syndromes other addicts faced from being unable to deliver ever larger amounts of a substance required by the increasing tolerance associated with addiction.
The biggest slam to effect the smoker was the danger associated with second hand smoke. Nonsmokers, who make up the majority of the population, were becoming intolerant. Work places, homes of friends and families, public meeting places and even the smoker's own home were becoming smoke free.
No longer could the smoker deliver the ever increasing needed fixes necessary to avert nicotine withdrawal. Now the smoker is either oversmoking or undersmoking all day long. He oversmokes so he can get as much nicotine as can possibly be tolerated to get him through multiple hours before he can get to his next fix. He undersmokes for numerous hours when he is restrained by no-smoking rules and regulations. Chronic withdrawal or chronic poisoning is the norm experienced by today's smokers.
So, today, the smoker does not only have to worry about the slow crippling effects of smoking or the long-term lethal effects. He or she must be concerned about the day to day drudgery experienced by maintaining an addiction which is socially unacceptable and, hence, not allowed for many hours every day.
Smokers today are suffering from oversmoking and undersmoking. They are scorned by many. They should be pitied by all and envied by none. The memories from the hey day of smoking are a fantasy in today's reality. The reality of smoking is a tortured life and a slow death. Don't get trapped in life of addiction - Never Take Another Puff!
About the Author: Joel Spitzer has provided smoking cessation and prevention services since 1972. Having started as a volunteer speaker and then a professional staff member of the American Cancer Society, he became smoking programs coordinator for the Rush North Shore Medical Center in Skokie, Illinois. Today Joel provides smoking cessation and prevention services for the Evanston and Skokie Health Departments while also serving as director of education at WhyQuit.com, a totally free online nicotine dependency recovery forum that declines donations. To view Joel's complete library of articles, download his free quitting book, or watch his video quit smoking lessons visit whyquit.com/joel.
WhyQuit's basic "how to quit smoking" video
Have you read our free quitting e-books?
Read both and experience the "POWER" of knowledge!
(Click each book's image to learn more about it before downloading)
Learn More About Smart Turkey Quitting
- WhyQuit.com - WhyQuit is the Internet's oldest forum devoted to the art, science and psychology of cold turkey quitting, the stop smoking method used by the vast majority of all successful long-term ex-smokers. Left to right, WhyQuit is organized under three headings: (1) Motivation, (2) Education and (3) Support.
- "Never Take Another Puff" - Imagine a free 149 page stop smoking ebook that's registered more than 4 million downloads and was written by a man who has devoted 40 years, full-time to helping smokers quit. Never Take Another Puff (NTAP) was authored by Joel Spitzer, the Internet's leading authority on how to stop smoking cold turkey. It is an insightful collection of almost 100 articles on every cessation topic imaginable.
- "Freedom from Nicotine - The Journey Home" - Written by John R. Polito, a former 30-year heavy smoker and WhyQuit's 1999 founder, Freedom from Nicotine (FFN) is a free 240 page nicotine dependency recovery book that documents the science underlying nicotine dependency and successful cessation. Whether hooked on cigarettes, e-cigarettes (e-cigs), bidis, kreteks, a pipe, hookah or cigars, on dip, chew, snuff or snus, or on the nicotine gum, lozenge, spray, inhaler or patch, FFN provides a comprehensive yet easy to follow road-map to freedom from nicotine.
- Joel's Library - Joel's Library is home to Joel Spitzer's "Daily Quitting Lesson Guide." The Guide walks new quitters through the first two weeks of smoking cessation, recommending daily videos to watch and articles to read. Joel's Library is also home to more than 100 original short stop smoking articles, to his free ebook Never Take Another Puff, and to his collection of more than 160 video stop smoking lessons.
- Nicotine Addiction 101 - WhyQuit's guide to understanding nicotine dependency.
- Freedom - Looking for a deadly serious and highly focused education oriented support group? Home to Joel Spitzer, Freedom is the Internet's only 100% nicotine-free peer messageboard support forum. Explore Freedom's hundreds of thousands of archived member posts on how to quit smoking.
- Turkeyville - Visit WhyQuit's Facebook cold turkey support group, where the primary focus is the first few days and helping new quitters get started. Yes you can!
- Nicotine Cessation Topic Index - An alphabetical subject matter index to hundreds of nicotine cessation support group discussions, article and videos.
- 40 Quitting Tips - Key cold turkey nicotine cessation tips on how to stop smoking, vaping, chewing or sucking nicotine into your body and bloodstream.
Written by Joel Spitzer on April 18, 2007 and page last updated November 24, 2012 by John R. Polito