Over the past 25 years plenty of things have changed. We have suffered through economic hardships and financial blessings. As a nation we have followed 4 different presidents. We have also seen the commercialization of the Internet as well as the advent of social media and social networking. Another fascinating piece of information that has changed is the potency of cigarettes. The cigarettes that your parents smoked 25-40 years ago are not the same cigs we have today. The cigarettes of today have been reengineered to optimize the nicotine delivery. After all, it is the nicotine that keeps bringing the smokers back time and time again.
While time has changed almost everything around us, including the potency of cigarettes, the people that use cigarettes have changed as well. Smoking is no longer a blue collar or white collar habit. It is practiced by all walks of life. Further, studies are showing that more and more people are prone to cigarette use regardless of income level. In the same vein of thought, income level does not have a bearing on the stress level or the anxiety level of smokers. So in a world that is so riddled with stress triggers, how could it be possible that quitting smoking would be less stressful? Research is showing that this is the case. While many will procrastinate and put off the campaign to stop smoking, researchers are learning that this type of behavior is making it harder to stop.
The research is also showing that the habits of the current smoking generation are much different. Smokers are smoking fewer cigarettes than ever before and they are actually waiting longer between each cigarette. In essence the smoker is delaying gratification. While this might be related to fewer smoke friendly areas, some are suggesting that this might be the doing of the smokers themselves. Many assume that by delaying gratification they are keeping their habit in check. This is not true. Based on the chemical make-up of the brain this pattern is only reinforcing the habit further and actually making it harder to stop smoking.
Over the years many countries have tried to lower the number of smokers. The United States has done a remarkable job in trimming the growth of the smoking industry. However the majority of the gains have come in the 40 years prior to 2004. It was in 2004 that the smoking population was cut to 20.9%. This was a major win. However over the past decade that number has risen or fallen 1-1.5%. Basically the number has not moved in 10 years.
Sunday May 31, 2015 was World No Tobacco Day. It was a day dedicated to living healthy and walking away from the chew or the cigarettes altogether. However it has become painfully clear that while days like that might be a great idea on paper, they actually do very little to slow the tobacco industry. So what can be done to help the current smokers? Should the government spend more money on programs aimed at smoking cessation? Should the user be held to a higher standard and personal responsibility?
The argument has been made, even on the floor of congress, that tobacco companies be forced to lower the nicotine levels in cigarettes and other tobacco products. This would hardly seem like a great idea simply because they will redesign the units for better delivery again.
The best way to combat smoking is with a few easy steps. First, we need to remember that as a friend or family member to a smoker we need to hold them accountable. Allowing them to use statements like “I will quit tomorrow, or, ‘ I smoke when I am stressed,” will only prolong the hardship. These statements are false and they will only cement the pattern of behavior.
Secondly, and perhaps most important, you need to be aware of the smoking triggers. Try to avoid situations or people that make smoking easier. People that smoke will only make you desire to smoke more. Likewise, situations and environments that expose you to smokers will only make quitting that much harder. You also need to limit alcohol exposure since a high number of people tell researchers that drinking leads to more smoking.
Smoking is a habit that has been compared to heroin. It is a massively addictive substance that can and will kill you. It will ruin your life and rob you of all your money and energy. It is not a social experiment any longer. The days of social smoking left after you bought and smoked your 2nd pack. Cigarettes are designed to be addictive and they are incredibly hard to walk away from. But you can walk away from their cold clutches.