Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Casual smokers.


Most people think it's nicotine addiction that makes it hard to quit the coffin nails. This is not true. Nicotine addiction lasts for just two to three weeks and the withdrawal symptoms are milder than a winter cold.  I honestly suffered far more from cold turkey caffeine withdrawal than from nicotine withdrawal. No, the hard part feeling deprived of the pleasure of smoking for the rest of your life. The fear is that you'll spend the rest of your life fighting the cravings for cigarettes.  The ban on advertisements is a help but the real temptation comes from casual smokers.

It's not the twenty-a-day person coughing and spluttering over a cigarette that makes me feel deprived of the pleasure of smoking. Nor it is the people who urgently dart out for a few quick puffs at every bus stop and spend long journeys twitching with a panicked need to smoke.  No, it's the casual smoker that makes me feel deprived.

The causal smoker is usually in decent shape and can be spotted lounging around bars and outdoor restaurants enjoying a smoke with a meal and friends. These are the people who "only smoke in pubs" or "only have a few during the weekend."

I have tried being a casual smoker. I tried only smoking in the evenings after work, but the cravings got progressively stronger during the day and soon made me miserable.  I tried only smoking during the weekends but I ended up staying up late chain smoking for three straight days before eventually resumed full time smoking. (Sure, it's Monday but there's only three left in the pack. Might as well finish them and remove temptation). I tried cutting down but this is one of the hardest methods possible; it takes more will power to cut down than it does to stop outright because you are always watching the clock, always craving the next cigarette.

According to the science casual smoking should not be pleasurable. The very first cigarette tastes foul because a cigarette is full of poisons which our bodies tries to reject. But nicotine is one of the fastest acting drugs known to man and leaves the blood stream after just 30 minutes creating a craving for more nicotine. The actual pleasure in smoking lies in satisfying that craving. This is why my favorite cigarette was always the first one of the day. It gave me a 'lift', brightened up the day. It was like a veil being removed from my eyes. The sky and ground appeared sharper and I felt more awake. But this pleasure was from satisfying my hunger for nicotine.  Once this hunger was satisfied, usually in three drags of a cigarette,  I was in the same mental state as non-smoker who was not addicted to nicotine.  The subsequent cigarettes were not enjoyable at all.  So in other words I smoked to feel like a non-smoker. Then the cycle would begin again only over time we build up some resistances so need to smoke more and more to satisfy the same hunger.

But casual smokers don't fit this theory. They get, if they are to be believed, genuine pleasure from smoking and yet are not addicted to nicotine. I would love to prove that casual smoking is a myth; that all casual smokers must eventually become fully addicted, or that casual smokers are just in denial over how much they do smoke. Unfortunately this doesn't seem to be the case. Some people can  just take or leave cigarettes.

It's ok for me to hate these people, right? Maybe just a little bit?

The remaining 40% includes social smokers, as well as a group known as "chippers," a term originally used to describe intermittent, nonaddicted users of heroin. These smokers, who remain something of a medical mystery, have smoked up to a pack a week for years, or even decades, without becoming dependent on nicotine. When they stop smoking for a day or two, they suffer none of the cravings, irritability, and other withdrawal symptoms that torment addicted smokers. It’s unclear why this is; it may be that the way their brains are hardwired leaves them less susceptible to addiction. 

Not all social smokers are chippers, but there is certainly some overlap between the groups. Katherine has noticed that she has always had a different relationship with cigarettes than some of her friends who smoke more heavily. "Even when I’ve had 10 cigarettes in a night, I don’t think I’ve ever thought, 'I better not do this because I’ll get addicted,' which drives real smokers crazy," she says. "Even when I first tried cigarettes, in high school, I could see that for my best friend smoking was a different thing than it was for me. Her smoking kept increasing, and I just was never like that." [link]

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