A colleague and I were walking into a restaurant and passed a group of people outside smoking. He turned to me and asked, “Is smoking still a thing even?”
I quickly worked through my thoughts, graciously 😉 suppressing any assumptions about his intentions...
Judgemental much there pal?
Oh does it bother you to see people smoking?
Oh, you’re so perfect. You think you don’t have a thing?
Are you living under a rock? YES, it’s still a thing.
...and calmly asked, “What do you mean?”
He went on to explain that when he was growing up, smoking was the “cool thing” to do. He smoked for about ten years starting as a teenager. He got scared when his grandmother died of lung cancer and finally quit after trying five separate times over a three year period. With the public smoking ban in Ohio, more and more places are going smoke-free. Plus, with so many health initiatives in workplaces, he wondered if people are smoking less these days. He was hoping fewer teenagers like him were being fooled into thinking it was “cool” and figured I would have a good feel for this as a family physician.
Okay. I get it now.
Like everyone, I have a particular lens as a family physician who has never smoked consistently (full disclosure: I tried it - and inhaled - in the backseat of a car in middle school and thought “Aahhh nice. This is why people get addicted to this.” and steered way clear of them and the girl that offered them to me after that. Oh and then I was really “cool” in medical school (ironic) and smoked on de-stressing weekend trips to the dance clubs.)
So I ask you, “Is smoking still a thing?”
Have things changed so much in the past years?
I do see a lot of things that might suggest a trend in that direction...
- Higher prices.
- Fewer places where smoking is allowed.
- More requests for stop smoking pills.
- Stricter laws limiting access to those under 21.
- Stricter laws on advertising tobacco.
What else do I see?
- Statistics that say that 23% of people in Ohio currently smoke.
- The smell of smoke when I walk into about 20% of the exam rooms in my office on the westside of Columbus.
- Requests for a stop-smoking pill, but lack of interest in chatting about the root cause of the habit.
- Minimizing the effects of smoking, thinking “It’s just a few cigarettes.”
- Struggle with the costs of living and medications in the setting of higher tobacco costs.
- “Health” insurance programs that don’t cover counseling or medication help.
- People who feel judged, restricted and even shunned and who are reluctant to seek help from their doctors.
- Overwhelm, anxiety, boredom and general unhappiness that drive people to smoke.
- Feelings of failure and loss of motivation after trying to quit (and 50+% of smokers try to quit smoking in a given year.
So, what are your thoughts? Is smoking still a thing?
I would say it is.
And I see it affecting people’s psyche just as much as their physical body.
I have talked to many people who tell me that they are not interested in quitting smoking and I respect that. My job is to share information with people, support them and help them make an informed decision that is best for them.
I have never met anyone who tells me that they are proud to be smoking. I also believe that everyone deserves to live a life that they are proud of. So my job is to share hope with people, support them and help them see what is possible for them with the right mindset, support, and plan.
I love to help people stop smoking!
I love to help people start to want to quit smoking.
I love to help people understand why they smoke and how they can get all the benefits of smoking in other ways. (If you think there are no benefits to smoking, think again. Otherwise, nobody would be doing it.)
I don’t have the magic pill, but I do have a lot of tools. I also need MORE tools, so you tell me…
Is smoking still a thing? For you? For your friends and family? Do you want to quit? What do you need to help quit? What have you tried that hasn’t worked? What have you tried that has?
What’s the single most important thing a doctor could do or provide that would help you want to quit or help you quit once you really want to?
Tell me in the comments or if you want to keep it private, message me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To Your Best Health,
PS--Please forward this to anyone you know that smokes. I would love their opinion too.
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