Becoming addicted to smoking means learning to want the pleasure of smoking, right? Today we have about 1 Billion cigarette smokers worldwide. Do these smokers know smoking is a terrible habit that harms their health? What motivates them to carry on puffing away?
Do we have a situation where 1 billion smokers are looking to quit but are too addicted and helpless to give up smoking? I’ve spoken to hundreds of smokers about this, fact is, most knew the dangers of this habit, but were unwilling to quit smoking. No matter the stats and facts I threw at them, it did not seem to move them, they saw smoking as part of their identity, and enjoyed it. Whether we accept it or not, many smokers enjoy the habit of smoking. If you speak to smokers and ask them what they dislike about smoking, they will say the ever-increasing price of cigarettes (sin-tax), followed by the social stigma attached to smoking. In fact, many smokers believe they were being treated very unfairly by their government.
Despite all the tobacco regulation and control, smokers continue the habit, not only because of addiction, but because they enjoy smoking. Simple. This has been a hard fact to accept, or perhaps regulators are in denial. If anything is going to be done for smokers its only right that you include them in the conversation. There’s no way you can be making key decisions about smokers and only let them be beneficiaries, without involving them.
Being a smoker and even being addicted to tobacco use does not remove the person’s free will. Addiction involves the discovery of a source of pleasure and the resulting pattern of wanting that pleasure often. Smoking is a voluntary response to an involuntary desire — or, in some cases, a matter of neglecting to use voluntary efforts to counteract an impulse. In that respect it resembles a great many other human behaviors.
If we want a hardcore smoker to quit, we need to replace smoking with something that is as enjoyable, or at least almost as enjoyable, as smoking. A lot of smokers have quit in the past through sheer willpower, finding joy in spending their money on something else, using many other motivations and methods. It would be easier to give up if smoking was replaced with something equally pleasurable and less harmful (for example nicotine patches & gum). Again, pleasure is key.
This is where the tobacco harm reduction approach comes in. Safer alternatives have emerged in recent years, like Snus, ecigs and heat-not-burn, that smokers enjoy but with fewer health risks. It is baffling that these products are being discouraged, quite inconsiderate. The take home message is, it would be far better to recognize that smokers enjoy smoking, and to start supporting genuine alternatives. Smokers have rights too, I may sound like I am pro-industry, I am pro-smokers, and believe that harm reduction is the best approach to ending smoking. Offering them the choice to ‘quit or die’, is not winning hearts and minds.