Why I Smoke?
mind and my world put cigarettes in my mouth.
He strikes a match and
the tip of the Marlboro burn a golden ember. He breathes out a
cloud of smoke. Magic. I urge my father to form a smoke rings so
that I could
poke my tiny fingers through them.
Together, we pollute the room with laughter and cigarette smoke.
It was on that afternoon I knew-I too would
Ridiculous but true. I began experimenting
with cigarettes at the tender age of 11. I was ignorant of two
things: how to inhale smoke and the ill effects of smoking.
Perhaps I wasn't hooked then because 1 didn't finish my
cigarettes, and before I was 12, I had stopped yearning for the
deliciously dangerous tension of locking my bedroom door to
marvel at my own smoke rings.
I picked up another stick in college. I was a
teenager, invincible. There were no rules prohibiting students
from smoking on campus, inside buildings or passenger vehicles.
It was a free country. And I was, for the first time, living my
own pseudo-independent life. Belonging to a group, which is
fundamental for survival in school, was made easier by offering
cigarettes to fellow students in exchange for a wider circle of
friends. Little by little the fondness for forming smoke rings
put me in the company of coffee-crazed intellectuals, alcoholic
liberals and a few hungry poets.
My list of friends grew, and so did my excuses
to smoke. Curiosity fell, and in its place were complex factors
that I discovered in previous attempts to quit. Psychology,
emotion and social influence conspired to form a tyranny that
made me smoke whenever I:
Studied for exams. A
study showed smoking provides a "smoke screen" from external
stimuli or distractions, thereby allowing the mind to focus.
The truth is nicotine promotes the release of
adrenaline, the "fight or flight" hormone that improves focus on
immediate tasks. Activities that required concentration like
reading, writing and playing billiards made me fall for the
"mental alertness" that cigarettes brought. However, some
respondents showed that difficulties in retrieving memory could
be attributed to smoking. This was true. I didn't always fill in
all the blanks on my test papers.
Sought relief from stress after exams. I mindlessly gave myself the pleasure of a
cigarette whenever I walked out of exam rooms. Perhaps a yoga
practitioner would tell me that it is merely the conscious act
of breathing that makes the bad habit so relaxing.
The truth is when a
smoker lights up and nicotine is delivered to the brain, it
activates the "reward pathways," parts of the nervous
system associated with behavior
necessary for survival, such as eating.
They bring pleasant
and happy feelings because
the brain encourages survival
behavior. Sadly, the brain can be confused into looking for a
Wailed for a
theories on growth and development say that unpleasant childhood
experiences reveal themselves later in life. Perhaps waiting
triggered memories of abandonment, and I smoked because I needed
to be pacified. Perhaps I was stuck at an early stage in life
where I was left alone and the ritual of sucking on a cigarette
returned me to the oral pleasures of breast-feeding and,
I could go on and on. My reasons for smoking
could be validated by science and psychology. I could claim that
I am simply my father's daughter. The warnings on cigarette
labels are not enough to stop my 10-year addiction and I didn't
realize those years had passed by. 1 smoke and I am not proud of
But there are even more reasons to quit.
If I had saved my money instead of buying
cigarettes, I could have shopped more. I could have sent myself
to language school which could have been fun-learning, after
all, is always fun and exciting. I did have fun learning how to
make smoke rings. But to unlearn things takes more than
knowledge. It takes courage, discipline, surrender and a lot of
I can deprive myself of cigarettes for 20
minutes. If I could only stretch those minutes to 8 hours, I
would rid my blood of carbon monoxide. If I could last 3 days
without a cigarette, I would breathe better and smell better. I
would taste things better and appreciate food more. If I could
manage to stay away from cigarettes for the next 10 years, my
risk of getting a stroke could be close to that of someone who
never smoked, How about that!
Perhaps I smoke
because it brings back fond memories of my father. Maybe I smoke
because I am fascinated with creating smoke. All I know is that
someday, I will have to make a choice.
SMOKERS BEWARE! NO BETA CAROTENE FOR YOU!
A study of 12 different clinical trials, together
involving 104,196 people, has found that smokers who
take betacarotene supplements have an increased risk
of developing cancer- up to a 10% increase.
Although the type or cancer caused is varied, those
of the lung, bladder, head and neck and upper
gastrointestinal tract are the most frequently
observed. Chief Cancer officer advises smokers to
steer away from this supplement. "We know that this
stuff (beta-carotene) induces cancer or, at least,
is associated with a higher incidence rate.