Reflect on the illness inside a mind that looks upon nicotine as a "friend." Imagine a friend that's always there, never lets us down, that calms us during crisis (or so we thought), that never argues, a loyal and trusted companion more dependable than a dog.
Pretending that our addiction is our pal comes easily, at least until honesty arrives.
Like table salt, nicotine cannot talk. Not a word. Unlike a dog, it never, ever demonstrates affection or is happy to see us. Nicotine's most dependable attribute is in keeping us dependent upon it, its ability to briefly silence the wanting created by its ever declining presence.
"My Cigarette, My Friend" is likely the most famous "friend" rationalization buster ever. Written by Joel, in it he asks, "How do you feel about a friend who has to go everywhere with you? Not only does he tag along all the time, but since he is so offensive and vulgar, you become unwelcome when with him. He has a peculiar odor that sticks to you wherever you go. Others think both of you stink."
As Joel notes, nicotine addiction is about surrendering control. It's about putting life on pause when replenishment time arrives. It compels smokers to find an acceptable place to feed, even during bad weather. It's about being forced to stand in line to buy more, about needing gradually increasing amounts of money to feed a never-ending need.
As a nicotine smoker, it deprives us of engaging in prolonged vigorous activities. "Your friend won't let you," writes Joel. "He doesn't believe in physical activity. In his opinion, you are too old to have that kind of fun. So he kind of sits on your chest and makes it difficult for you to breathe. Now, you don't want to go off and play with other people when you can't breathe, do you?"
Our "friend," notes Joel, "does not believe in being healthy. He is really repulsed by the thought of you living a long and productive life. So every chance he gets he makes you sick. He helps you catch colds and flu." "He carries thousands of poisons with him, which he constantly blows in your face. When you inhale some of them, they wipe out cilia in your lungs which would have helped you prevent these diseases."
"But colds and flu are just his form of child's play. He especially likes diseases that slowly cripple you - like emphysema. He considers this disease great. Once he gets you to have this, you will give up all your other friends, family, career goals, activities - everything. You will just sit home and caress him, telling him what a great friend he is while you desperately gasp for air."
"But eventually your friend tires of you," notes Joel. "He decides he no longer wishes to have your company. Instead of letting you go your separate ways, he decides to kill you. He has a wonderful arsenal of weapons behind him. In fact, he has been plotting your death since the day you met him. He picked all the top killers in society and did everything in his power to ensure you would get one of them. He overworked your heart and lungs. He clogged up the arteries to your heart, brain, and every other part of your body. In case you were too strong to succumb to this, he constantly exposed you to cancer causing agents. He knew he would get you sooner or later."
Our cigarette, e-cig, cigar, pipe, chew, dip, snus, gum or lozenge was simply the means by which nicotine entered our bloodstream. It is no more a friend than is a stainless steel spoon. "Friend," asks Joel? Cigarettes are "expensive, addictive, socially unacceptable and deadly."
Yes, expense, time demands, and social unacceptability are common to all forms of nicotine delivery. While each poses different levels and types of risks, the form of delivery does not alter the super-toxin nicotine's risks, including its #1 risk, its ability to keep us its slave until the day we die.
It's increasingly common to see those hooked on nicotine replacement products or e-cigarettes to award their form of delivery hero or savior worship status. Clearly, the risks posed by nicotine alone are vastly less than smoking's. However, nicotine's continued use, in any form, is unsafe.
If you have Internet access, go to www.PubMed.gov. PubMed is the U.S. government's medical study search engine. Search the word "nicotine." My search on August 29, 2008, produced 10,205 journal articles having nicotine in the title.
At endnote 118 I cite titles to a few of the nicotine medical journal articles published during August 2008, when this chapter was written. As you can see, it isn't necessary for anyone to resort to scare tactics or exaggeration regarding nicotine's effects upon the body. The truth is frightening enough.
While personifying any chemical inflates emotional attachments to it, doing so doesn't alter that it's still only chemical. What it could alter is your confort level around others, feeling more comfortable being with fellow nicotine addicts who won't make you feel guilty about your next nicotine fix.
Friends? What I'd encourage you to sleep on is the number of people in your lifetime who passed on creating meaningful relationships with you, because of the stink of your hair, skin and clothing, your breath, because of your endless cycle of replenishment interruptions, or because they realized that your chemical addiction would always be elevated above them.