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Who here besides me has one? Mine is rather intense (aren’t they all!).
I grew up in an all-smoking family (including both parents and all three older siblings), and by the time I was 8, I assumed that I too would smoke one day. I finally got the nerve to try it when I was 12; my sister was an excellent coach. After being a second-hand smoker since I was born, “smoking my own” agreed with me immediately. I never imagined when I was growing up that I would adopt smoking in my teens as a permanent part of my lifestyle. I tried it simply out of curiosity, certainly not intending or planning on becoming a regular and habitual smoker. And I am not above admitting that I not only liked it far more than I thought I would, but also that I very much underestimated the addiction which would soon follow. Having lost both of my parents to smoking related ailments, and my older sister now being diagnosed with Stage 1 COPD, I am certainly aware of the health risks of smoking. I’ll even admit that I’m an addict — using the Fagerstrom Test for Nicotine Dependence on Cigarettes, I score an 8 (on a scale of 1 to 10).
So why do so many of us continue smoking when most of us are intelligent, well-informed, and certainly aware of the long term risks of smoking? Perhaps leading the multitude of answers is because it feels good to smoke. I can vouch for that; damn good! In less than ten seconds upon the first inhalation, nicotine passes into the bloodstream, crosses the blood brain barrier and begins acting on the brain cells. The nicotine just ingested will begin to mimic one of the most important neurotransmitters, Acelytcholine. This action provokes the body’s excitation chemicals that include adrenaline and noradrenaline, which causes an immediate rush of stimulation by increasing the blood flow to the brain. This leaves smokers feels energized and alert. Within 20 to 30 minutes after the last cigarette, however, a smoker’s energy level becomes sharply reduced. That “charged up” feeling the smoker had minutes before begins fading away and the craving for nicotine quickly returns. Psychological dependence is a major factor that can prohibit a well-intentioned person from quitting smoking because nicotine has such amazingly powerful, reinforcing qualities.
Other reasons why many of us continue to smoke is that we find it easier to manage stress even though we know that smoking is risky and dangerous. Many of us in this day and age juggle family and work responsibilities, and lighting up a cigarette is a welcome substitute to wind down their day regardless of the repercussions involved. Many more of us, myself included, find that smoking helps to keep off those unwanted pounds, and there may be some truth to that notion. Nicotine speeds up the physiological functions, especially the rate at which the body metabolizes food. When smoking stops, metabolism slows down, food is burned more slowly, and the pounds start adding. That reason alone is strong incentive for many of us to continue smoking.