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 was surprised by his question and immediately thought to myself, “Are you living under a rock? YES, it’s still a thing!”
After suppressing any assumptions about his intentions, I 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.
With smoking banned in so many public spaces, it’s easy to think it isn’t such a problem anymore.
Plus 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.
But much of this is a guise for a challenge that many are still experiencing. It’s just that it’s become increasingly hidden because people feel judged, restricted, and even shunned by their smoking habit, making them reluctant to seek help from their doctors.
Because this is what else 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 medical help.
- 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.)
Is smoking still a thing?
Yes. I would say it is.
And I see it affecting people’s psyche just as much as their physical body.
The First Step: Quit the Shame & Get Support
I am on a mission, not just to help people quit smoking and feel healthy and strong; I want people first to quit feeling ashamed for reaching out for help.
After all, smoking is just one of many forms of unhealthy behaviors that usually start quite innocently - maybe though peer pressure, like it was for my friend, or because of past advertising, or a stressful situation.
But because of how addictive nicotine is, it can easily end up becoming an addiction and a habit from just one drag, as well as used as a crutch to cope with things like day-to-day stress or simple social situations.
So it’s not actually about the smoking itself.
It’s about digging around in a supportive way to find out what drives that behavior, helping you understand the health implications, putting in place ways to manage the withdrawal from the addiction, and creating new healthy habits that stick.
And throw yourself some compassion too! Nicotine is powerful stuff. It crosses the blood-brain barrier and messes with your dopamine pathways. If you’ve been smoking for a few years, then your brain has been conditioned to respond to nicotine and can take some retraining.
Create A Life You Can Feel Proud Of
I have never met anyone who tells me that they are proud to be smoking. And I believe that everyone deserves to live a life that they are proud of.
My job is to share hope with people, support them and help them see what is possible with the right mindset, support, and plan.
I don’t have the magic pill, but I do have a lot of tools.
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?
Tell me in the comments or if you want to keep it private, message me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To Your Best Health,
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