On Quitting Smoking

The claim that smoking kills and is in fact a form of voluntary suicide has great evidence behind it.  If we are against suicide, we can’t consistently advocate smoking through our own behaviour.  It would be like being okay with someone who attaches a device to their body that injects a small amount of poison into their bloodstream a few hours everyday.  The poison stays in the body’s cell tissues, but doesn’t kill the person until years in the future.  Then, they suddenly die of cancer.  If we think this would be wrong, we should also think smoking is wrong since it is an analogous case.
However, the smoker’s key point is that she feels that she can’t stop.  This is importantly a “feeling,” and it is a very strong and valid one.  The body’s dependence makes it hard to imagine life without nicotine.  My father went through the same thing when he quit smoking after smoking for 35 years and every smoker must face this feeling.
How then does one quit? By using alternatives.  My dad hated Nicorettes gum so he would chew Juicy Fruit every time he got a craving for cigarettes, slowly decreasing the number of pieces of gum he would chew each day until he barely needed them at all.  Lollypops can work, but can also cause canker sores, which are no fun.
Another question to ask is why one began smoking in the first place? Often it is because friends introduced us to smoking, we tried it and picked up the habit as a result.  A key point though, is that smoking relaxes the smoker.  This is a chemical reaction in the brain initiated by the nicotine.  This means that the core reason smokers smoke is because it provides relaxation.
This leads to another question: if we don’t smoke, how can we relax? Many things can prove helpful: music, reading, playing videogames, and being mindful of the breath.  By the last point, I mean simply focusing on your incoming and outgoing breath until you relax (which only takes as much time as it takes to smoke a cigarette!).  This latter technique can be very powerful indeed.
It is important for the smoker to bear in mind that she can indeed quit, she need only bear in mind (1) why she  smokes, (2) how she can quit (e.g. using gum or a lollypop or a toothpick you just hang in your mouth for a few minutes or mindfulness of the breath) and (2) what alternatives to smoking can provide similar effects.

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