Smoking probably has its origins in the incense-burning ceremonies of various religions, but became a “social norm” in the 1600s. It’s unreal how much is packed into a pocket-sized cigarette; approximately 600 ingredients, that when burned through the process of combustion create 7,000 chemicals! At least 69 of these chemicals are known to cause cancer.
- Currently, 15 out of 100 (15.1%) US adults smoke cigarettes. This has declined from 21/100 (20.9%) in 2005! Major progress. But we can do better!
- Considered a pleasurable activity by those who engage, cigarette smoking is the leading cause of preventable death and disease in the US
- Smoking accounts for more than 480,000 deaths every year. That’s 1 in 5 total deaths
- Smoking causes more deaths each year than the following causes combined:
- Illegal drug use
- Alcohol use
- Car injuries
- Firearm-related incidents
Personal Story / Psychology of Smoking
This subject strikes a chord for me. Regretfully, for about two years in college I fell victim to this habit. It started as a social activity triggered by drinking, which led to sober smoking as an escape from what I considered “stress.” Then, it transformed into nothing more than a habit. I didn’t even like it that much… it was just something I needed to do. I wasn’t smoking a pack a day, but I definitely “needed” to have anywhere from 1-3 cigarettes, depending on what was going on. I told myself this small amount wasn’t enough to harm me…that I’d only partake for a little while. This is the activity of an addicted mind…justifying and creating disillusions at every corner.
What’s critical to look at is the psychological background of this addiction. While there is a large metabolic component involved, the psychological aspect is arguably just as important. Common reasons people begin smoking include stress release and a way to avoid dealing with issues. Additionally, trying to fit in is a big one…which underlies a lack of self confidence. Mass marketing by tobacco companies of the past certainly didn’t help, as they spent large sums of money to promote cigarette smoking as the “cool thing to do.” Thankfully, there is much stricter regulation today.
My question is: why aren’t we exploring less toxic and more beneficial avenues for stress release? Physical activity, faith, reading, and interpersonal relationships come to mind. Why jeopardize our health with a known carcinogen, when we could be focusing on longevity? One hypothesis is humans inherently succumb to temptation, and often don’t plan for the future. We want immediate satisfaction without considering the consequences. This is exemplified by the fact that smoking makes you feel quite horrible right after you’re done, but the 5 minutes of satisfaction are apparently worth it.
Non-Exhaustive List of Harmful Effects
- Higher incidence of heart disease
- Damage to blood vessels that makes them THICKEN and grow NARROWER
- Higher heart rate and overexertion of heart
- Increase in blood pressure
- Higher incidence of heart attack and stroke
- Higher incidence of lung disease and other respiratory illnesses, including lung cancer
- Greater incidence of cancer of the nose, sinuses, voice box, and throat
And yes, cigars are just as harmful, if not more.
Smoking vs. Oral Health
- Higher risk of oral cancer
- Slow and sometimes completely impaired healing (after extraction, implants or other surgical procedures)
- Higher risk of periodontitis (gum disease), which leads to tooth loss
- Tooth stains
- Bad breath
Smoking vs. Training
To fully understand the effect of smoking on training, one must comprehend how critical oxygen is to muscle. During exercise, muscle demands oxygen to create more energy. This is why breathing and heart rate goes up, to pull more oxygen to muscle.
Because a smoker’s heart needs to work harder to achieve adequate circulation of blood, and has impaired blood flow due to thickening of blood vessels…there is less blood flow traveling to muscle. This means less oxygen and vital nutrients. Overall, this leads to less energy during workouts as muscles will begin to produce lactic acid rather than energy, leading to quicker fatigue.
Oxygen also plays a critical role in the recovery process, which would be impaired in smokers.
Less energy and poorer recovery leads to inferior performance and growth, separating you further from your goals.
Conclusion and Quitting
The Nicotine found in cigarettes is highly addictive, without a doubt. But the fundamental issue is a lack of willpower and ability to alter habits. Everything we do is a result of habit. But we can alter bad habits. Smokers should realize it IS possible to quit with proper planning and introspection.
Something needs to replace the pleasure associated with smoking.
Analyze: Does the habit align with the rest of ones goals?
Analyze: Does the habit positively affect family, friends, health and longevity?
What worked for me was a deeper interest in health and bodybuilding, and a psychological analysis of what I was doing to myself. The habit doesn’t align with any of my goals, and takes me further from a lifetime of contribution. I strive to be an example for others…of which smoking certainly doesn’t align. Simply put, it contradicts everything I’m about.
Perhaps you resonate with this or can help someone else who needs to hear it. Let’s continue the decline of smoking in the United States by staying informed and supporting one another along the journey!