Would you do it if it were harmless?

It’s a resounding “No!” from me, and yet, if you’d asked me the same question just a few years ago, my answer would have been a triumphant “Yes!” It’s quite a common question on quit-smoking forums, and it usually goes something like this: “Would you start smoking again if it were entirely harmless?” It’s an interesting proposal because it makes the person who has quit think about the potential of returning to smoking.

A large number of people, particularly those having only recently quit, respond affirmatively. I suspect that this reaction is caused by the fact that early on, quitting smoking is a chore. It takes time and energy to refrain from smoking and, therefore, the idea of finding a safe way of going back to their habit provides them with welcome relief. This may be one of the reasons why companies touting electronic cigarettes as a ‘safer’ alternative to tobacco smoking are so successful, but I digress.

What does harmless mean, anyway? No more cancer? No more COPD? No more strokes or coronary heart disease? No more asthma attacks? No other smoking-related illnesses? For a deeper look at what smoking does to your body, see this article from CDC. If smoking were harmless, all those problems would be gone, and the world would be a happier place (insert deep sigh of sarcasm here).

But, let’s pretend for the sake of argument that the potential for illnesses has successfully been eradicated. There would still be a number of other considerations, such as the expense, the tobacco tar that covers everything, the bad smell (including second-hand smoke), the butt ends and empty packs littering the streets, not to mention the slavery of it all. I’m sure I have forgotten some of the other harmful side-effects of smoking, but for me, the slavery was probably the thing that annoyed me the most. I’m a very independent person, who dislikes being controlled by anyone or anything, and yet I allowed myself to be a slave to cigarettes for over twenty-five years! To me, that was harmful behavior.

“Ah, but you asked, Would you do it if it were harmless?” This is true, so let’s get rid of the expense, the tar, the bad smells, the litter, and the slavery at the same time. What are we left with? Fresh air. It’s a resounding “Yes!” to fresh air from me, and I’ll even high-five you for it!

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