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Why Do We Smoke Essay, Research Paper

Why do we smoke

By Bryan Hesters

After listening to 2 solid weeks of classroom lecture on all the negative side effects that smoking causes in the human body, I felt somewhat concerned that the habit that I have had for 10 years of my life might be a serious problem to my health, even at this young age. We spent a great deal of time discussing the negative side effects of smoking covering heart disease, cancer, and respiratory failure, but there was very little discussion given to how and why we started smoking in the first place and what steps we have to take to quit. I set out to find these answers to these questions and determine the best way to stop smoking forever.

?Smoking kills over 400,000 people a year — more than one in six people in the United States — making it more lethal than AIDS, automobile accidents, homicides, suicides, drug overdoses, and fires combined.?(1) It?s baffling to me that something so lethal is sold over the counter. Despite this outrageous number of fatalities, over 47 million people or roughly ? of the American Adult Population smoke more than a pack a day according to the Harvard Medical Journal. A vast majority of these smokers started in their teens and never quit or quit only to restart again in their mid 20?s. This is a prolific trend that continues today where, ?Each day, almost 3,000 young people start to smoke.? (1). Several sources have been targeted with blame for this trend, some of which include advertising, psychological factors, social support structure or peer pressure, and the likes. Despite Anti-Smoking campaigns targeting these specific areas, the trend continues. This continuance of status quo is largely because the anti-smoking campaigns of the rescent past have been primarily targeted at groups that are already smoking or will soon be. It is the opinion of Daniel Heller, a doctor of pediatrics at the Harvard Medical Center, that,?Anti-smoking advertising campaigns?may be extremely effective when they target children as young as elementary school age, are long-term, and consistently portray smoking as hazardous for adults and children alike.? (3) Much like the success of the ?just say no? drug program that was widely documented and proven when targeting this age-group, smoking adds should take the same approach to curb the trends of teenage starters in the US.

Smokers that start have a very hard time stopping. ?In one study, of the women smokers who said they wanted to stop smoking, 80% of them were unable to.?(1) Nicotine is felt, by many researches and scientists including the surgeon general, to be as addictive as heroin or cocaine. Nicotine, in fact, affects the same areas of the brain as these drugs and has similar effects. Nicotine is also similar to these drugs in that the body eventually develops a tolerance to them and requires more amounts of the substance to maintain the effects. Nicotine, however, has a much higher resistance level, thusly requiring even newly started smokers to accelerate their use to dangerously addictive levels. This tolerance and inherent addiction is what makes stopping smoking so difficult. When Nicotine is absent in the user, the individual experiences withdrawal symptoms. The pull of this addiction is so strong that, ?Even after years of nonsmoking, about 20% of ex-smokers still have occasional cravings for cigarettes.?(1) According to the Web MD website, a site supported by 3 of the leading medical universities in the US and the FDA, offers the following description and recommendation for those handling withdrawal.

Among the physical symptoms of withdrawal are tingling in the hands and feet, sweating, intestinal disorders, and headache. People often experience sore throats, coughing, and other signs of colds and respiratory problems as the lungs begin to clear. While people are enduring these symptoms they should treat themselves as if they were recuperating from a disease — which they are.

But the withdrawal symptoms also affect the mental and emotional states of those that are struggling to quit. Wild mood swings and feelings of irritability and unrest, as though they can?t quite get comfortable, are very common and should be expected. ?As foolish as it sounds, a smoker should plan on a period of actual mourning in order to get through the early withdrawal stages? (1)

With such strong forces working against the efforts to stop smoking, the question truly is what do we do to quit? There are charlatans and tonic vendors who have toted several methods throughout history that have come up as the ?sure cure? while others approved with the stamp of science. Which ones work? Why and how do they work? Nicotine Gum and Patches are the latest and greatest solution science has had to offer to the smoking community in hopes of making the success rate inch its way upward. The ideas behind these methods or ?replacement therapies? were to break the habit of smoking before you deal with the full brunt of the withdrawal from the drug itself. These products are now sold over the counter to anyone 18 years or older and come with instructions, calendar markers, support cassette tapes, and a positive planner for a smoke free life. Unfortunately, they range from $30 to $80 per week and are not supported by HMO?s. They also bring further complications in that prolonged use causes such side effects as increased risk of heart attack to insulin rejection. Despite the presence of nicotine, smokers still experience withdrawal symptoms and are still 45% more likely to cheat in the first week and 85% more likely to cheat by the second week, making the success rate only %10 to stop smoking for more than a single month. Another method of stopping is acupuncture, a Chinese holistic approach of using metal staples in and around the ear that actuate charkas that ease the withdrawal symptoms. There is no scientific evidence that has decided decisively how effective this method is. Hypnosis, or the sub-conscious suggestion of an outside party that uses a dream-like trance to convince his patients to stop, also has very little support or research in the scientific community. It is obvious this method has worked for many people, but is very expensive and cannot be quantified easily by researchers. There is another solution, not widely publicized, in testing right now. A company called Celanese has created a chemical that, when injected in the human body, intercepts nicotine before it gets to the brain. This drug, in effect, would force smokers to go through the withdrawal process once and then never again experience the effects of smoking, thusly eliminating the need for it. I could find no substantial information about the drug or when it would be available, but most reports indicate that it will probably not be much more effective than the methods available now.

In conclusion, smoking is an extremely addictive habit that usually forms in the early teen years. We should be targeting our children from the time they enter elementary school to prepare them for this temptation and encourage them to steer clear of this problem. There is no sure cure for smoking, and every method requires willingness, dedication, and will power. Smokers should recognize the serious health risks they are facing every time they light a cigarette and accept that quitting such an addictive habit will only come with some amount of discomfort. Never the less, smokers should attempt to quit! ?It is so difficult to quit that smokers should never feel inadequate if they fail.? (1) Every step in the right direction, even if you fall, will only make you stronger and bring you one step closer to your goal and to better health.



(1) http://my.webmd.com/content/dmk/dmk_article_40081

Nov 25th, 2000; 1998 Nidus Information Services, Inc. (Online)

(2) www.well-connected.com

1998 Nidus Information Services, Inc. Well-Connected Report: Smoking. September 1998. (Online) Well-Connected

(3) Daniel Heller, M.D., Pediatrics

Harvard Medical School; Associate Pediatrician, Massachusetts General Hospital; Active Staff, Children’s Hospital


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