Everyone knows that smoking is very bad for them (nevertheless around 28 percent of adults still smoke). It causes irreversible serious damage to peoples’ health as a respiratory problems, hearts disease and cancer. Smoking directly causes over 100,000 deaths in the UK each year and contributes to many more.
Of these deaths, about 42,800 are from smoking-related cancers, 30,600 from cardiovascular disease and 29,100 die slowly from emphysema and other chronic lung diseases.
Although many still find smoking helpful and relaxing. Let’s have a look at some reasons:
First of all let’s take a look on biochemistry a physiology of smoking. Nicotine is a poison, a paralytic, and a stimulant. You light a cigarette, inhale deeply, and then exhale, long and slow. Within seven seconds, the deep breath of the inhalation has increased the flow of blood and oxygen to the heart, and the body relaxes. Not because of the cigarette, but due to the long slow inhalation and exhalation! A simple deep breath of clean air does the job. Unfortunately another action is already taking place. Within moments of the initial inhalation, nicotine is stimulating pleasure centres in the brain – the same centres targeted by cocaine. Nicotine biochemically alerts the liver to release sugar into the blood stream. The elevated blood sugar brings a physical uplift. At this very moment the nicotine is also stimulating the nervous system, causing the release of adrenaline into the body. Adrenaline produces an increased heart rate and respiration doubling those feelings of tension and being wired. By now, you are desperate for another cigarette, which, you insist, will be relaxing!
Secondly you may think that smoking helps you to reduce a stress. Cigarettes take the stress out of life (relaxation) and help relieve tension and stress. The benefits of smoking are to help smokers calm down and reduce anxiety and stress. When you visualize or think of relaxing what comes to your mind? It’s usually a slumping of the shoulders effect, taking a short break from work or study while having a cigarette.
Thirdly Nicotine stimulates the brain to release ‘dopamine’, which is associated with pleasurable feelings, and you quickly develop regular smoking patterns.
Eventually, as a smoker you need increasing levels of nicotine to feel ‘normal’. What is actually happening is that, as the nicotine content in your blood drops below a certain level; you begin to crave for a cigarette. This craving makes you feel ‘stressed’ until the craving is relieved. The relief felt when this craving is finally satisfied is the feeling that you commonly mistake as ‘relaxing’.
This is actually a case of mixed signals; nicotine also affects neurotransmission (NT). NT is the fluid which transmits signals between nerve endings. Nicotine, in the case of smoking, turns the warning signal that the body has been exposed to stress into the opposite signal, that the body is more relaxed.
Although the above is ‘generally’ true we have to accept that some people only smoke when working to a deadline, some only ever smoke 2 a day, and so on.
Another point of view can be a Freud’s psychoanalytical theory, where smoking is a powerful erotic sensitivity of the oral zone. Oral pleasure is just as fundamental as sexuality and hunger. It functions with full strength from earliest childhood. There is a direct connection between thumb sucking and smoking. Although Freud’s theory is now being overwhelmed by modern psychological schools, it still helps to explain why people when given up smoking having such a big need of chewing or sucking (substituting cigarettes with sweets and chewing gum).
Finally you may feel that smoking is uplifting, helps with concentration, keeps you on your toes and gives you mental strength but opposite is true. Feeding the nicotine addiction will obviously reverse these effects and make you feel calmer and so because of this, you begin to associate smoking with feeling relaxed.
In reality, what happens is that within hours or even minutes of the last cigarette you will begin to feel the effect of nicotine withdrawal. You are likely to have trouble concentrating and may feel grumpy or agitated.
As a smoker you might think that smoking is relaxing you. However, lighting up a cigarette anytime you feel stressed or under pressure is very unhealthy and maladaptive coping strategy. Stress management techniques such as thinking about happy events in the life, deep breathing and stretching are much better ways towards a calmer, healthier, happier and more productive life.
Quitting smoking is a return to relaxation, calmer, healthier, happier and more productive life.