June 22, 2014

E-cigs, smoking, addiction and nicotine. The facts.

Filed under: Rants! — Tags: , , , , — Ann @ 8:45 am
Um, yes it is.

Um, yes it is.

A certain San Francisco radio personality brags that she quit smoking months ago, when in fact she’s switched to e-cigarettes. Another friend tells me on the phone that she “hasn’t smoked a cigarette in ages!” — but all she did was switch over to the electronic variety. The insidious aspect of these new nicotine delivery systems is that they lull people into thinking they’ve given up the habit when in fact they’re still as addicted as they ever were.

Here’s why.

I smoked over a pack a day for 20+ years. When I finally quit in my mid-30s, I quit cold turkey. I’d been reading an article about a little girl with cystic fibrosis whose mother had to hold her upside down daily to clear the mucus from her lungs and I thought, “Here’s a child who would do anything to have healthy lungs, and I’m voluntarily destroying mine.” I quit the next morning. And oh, it was hard. I carried around Jacquelyn Rogers’ “You Can Quit Smoking” book with me everywhere I went, so I could frequently refer to it for motivation. At the time, people still smoked at their desks in offices, so I brought carrot sticks to work and chewed them all day long. After a week or so the physiological craving subsided, but that’s when the tough work began: dealing with the emotional/psychological addiction. In short, I was depressed. I felt I’d lost my best friend. I couldn’t imagine doing anything without my cigarettes: how could I get through work, how could I drive? How could I face the day? In those days I spent two weeks each summer at a cabin in Lake Tahoe with my family. That first year, I distinctly remember wondering how I was going to get through my vacation without smoking. And I remember one awful day, sitting outside on the deck of the Tahoe cabin, sobbing because I couldn’t smoke. That’s nicotine addiction.

Because, before quitting, I had used cigarettes for everything: when angry, to celebrate, when anxious, while reading, with my coffee, with my wine, to wake up, after meals, to help with boring commutes, to deal with grief, everything. I never felt my feelings — I had cigarettes to do that for me. Nicotine is no different from any other drug in that aspect — it’s used by smokers to self-medicate.

On the other hand, if you’re using e-cigarettes to help you quit, more power to you. Unfortunately, only one-fifth of people who tried e-cigarettes as a stop-smoking aid succeeded in quitting long-term, according to a recent study published in the journal Addiction. However, quit-smoking rates in general are dismal (according to drugfree.org, 35% of American smokers tried to quit last year and only 6% succeeded) — but millions have beat the odds. According to the New York Times, only 19% of American adults smoke, down from 42% fifty years ago. That’s a lot of successful quitters.

The bottom line: if you’ve decided to give up cigarettes forever, good for you. Quit cold turkey if you can, or use every aid at your disposal if you can’t — e-cigs, hypnosis, patches, lozenges, gum, prescribed antidepressants, acupuncture, individual or group therapy, whatever works. Just please don’t fool yourself into thinking you’ve given up the habit until you’ve actually given up the habit. If you’re still reaching for something to suck down into your lungs, you’re still a smoker. If you’re still nicotine-dependent, you’re still an addict. When you are no longer a smoker, you’ll know it. And you’ll feel a rush of freedom like never before.

August 18, 2013

Do you get it yet? You have to stop smoking, now.

Filed under: Rants! — Tags: , , , , , , , — Ann @ 10:20 am

This says it all.

I lost a friend to lung cancer last week. In the 1980s, she was my director for a number of community theatre musicals. On March 18th of this year I received an email from her through that theatre’s Yahoogroups list, thanking all of us for birthday wishes and signed, “Love to all!” It’s five months later, and she’s dead. A vibrant, life-loving woman in her 70s, gone.

Maybe people in their 20s, 30s and 40s (according to Gallup, the largest group of smokers) think that when they’re older they won’t treasure life as much. How can we make young smokers understand that, at 75, they will want to live active, energetic lives just as passionately as they do now? Maybe that cognitive leap isn’t possible. Tobacco companies are banking on that inability to see as a 20-something just how desperately you will cling to life as an elder — and just how worthwhile life will be.

When I heard what my friend had died of, I Googled “what is it like to die of lung cancer?” and read an About.com article with growing horror. Nonstop coughing, gasping for breath, increasing weakness, decreased appetite and weight loss, confusion and, of course this: “It’s very likely that you will experience pain in your final stages of lung cancer.” Severe pain, as the cancer spreads to your chest and spine bones. If you smoke, think of someone you love very much experiencing those symptoms. Unbearable, right? Please love yourself enough not to want the same for you.

And, by the way, I’m not just, well…blowing smoke. I get that puffing can be awesome and quitting can be hell. I was a pack-a-day smoker for 20 years before quitting cold turkey at age 35. I was motivated by an article I’d read about a little girl with cystic fibrosis whose mother had to dangle her upside down and whack her back several times daily to clear her chest so the girl could breathe. I thought, “That little girl would give anything to have healthy lungs, and I’m voluntarily harming mine.” I quit the next morning.

If you want stop-smoking tips, message me. I will help.

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