Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The Psychology Behind Smoking

So I had quit smoking in April this year, I was an unwilling participant but I am nonetheless, still proud of my accomplishment. Some things have changed a little in my personality so I want to uncover aspects of quitting smoking (besides the obvious health benefits).
I am going to try to undercover some changes in my moods and food cravings by dissecting a certain aspect of my life. I am going to see if quitting smoking had anything to do with my moods. I will discuss (1) the reasons why I started smoking and (2) why I continued smoking then going into (3) what got me to quit and (4) the ultimate consequences.

I remember right before turning 17, I was at one of my first parties (ever), I was a junior in high school, and desperate to fit in. After drinking, I remember that in between drinking and running around being obnoxiously drunk, I was with various girls smoking cigarettes on and off. It didn't seem to even matter to anyone. It was just something to do. Even as I turned 18 and started going out to bars and clubs. Since I wasn't old enough to drink, a way to kill time until some guy bought me a drink was to smoke cigarettes with my best friend.

In fact, it seemed like I made most of my friend by smoking cigarettes. Cigarette smoking is an extremely social activity. I can go outside of my dorm, sit at a bench, smoke a cigarette, and more than likely, I'll end up talking to a fellow smoker. In fact, within my dormitory, there was a sense of camaraderie between the cigarette smokers. We were always in each others company, since we were always outside at random intervals smoking a cigarette. Especially on a beautiful day on any given moment.
There was no reason for me to quit. All my friends smoked, we always hung out, we were such an eclectic group that we molded well together. In fact, this cycle happened two years in row, starting over with a new school year and a new dorm. My freshman year, I had a group of friends that always hung out at the tables or at the "Zoolah" (it was engraved in the cement so the name stuck) and my second year of college we hung out at the "trap tables" and called ourselves the "LCGC crew". My roommate even jokingly commented, "you make all your friends from smoking. If you didn't smoke, you wouldn't have any friends".
The problem with being a social smoker in college was that it also made other forms of substance abuse acceptable. Although most college students enjoy drinking and going out and experimenting with marijuana, it seemed to me that the students I identified with as cigarette smokers are also more likely to try other drugs, most popular of them was, acid, ecstasy, shrooms, adderall, and of course, weed. Occasionally, some tried cocaine. That is usually kept really quiet among a tight knit group.
However, it should be noted that many cigarette smokers start off as marijuana smokers first, then resorting to cigarettes (because of the social aspect and weed being unavailable).
I realize that on top of being physically addicted to cigarettes, I wasn't ready to give up the social aspect of smoking either.

So why did I even quit?
I went to another country, South Korea actually, and I am not as familiar with the language to venture off anywhere on my own comfortably. So, I went everywhere with my mom. My mom had been trying to get me to quit, unsuccessfully, since I would just start smoking when I was away from her. While in Korea, she made it her personal goal to help me to quit, although she didn't know the extent of how much I smoked a day (I used to smoke about half a pack - 10 cigarettes- to 15 cigarettes). My mother is a determined woman and extremely strict and she made my life miserable for three weeks. It was so difficult going into a convenient store and seeing that cigarettes were for sale at about $2 USD, especially with taxes on cigarettes in Florida had recently upped the price of cigarettes from $3.50 to about $6-$7. I never wanted to buy cigarettes so badly before.
Note: Cigarette companies in America realized that the heavy taxes on cigarettes and bad publicity (TRUTH commercials) is going to reduce their revenue, so in order to make up for the loss, have exported their goods overseas, targeting a bountiful overseas market in other countries.
I don't think quitting smoking was really all that effective on me since when I quit smoking I picked up another addiction, caffeine. Coffee was at a large abundance in Korea with coffee makers in every single restaurant and it was free. So I ended up substituting one addiction for another. By the time I left Korea, I went from having practically no coffee to needing 3 to 4 cups day. I feel that might have substituted caffeine with sugar, but that's up in the air.

So now finally, I am tobacco and nicotine free but I'm wondering... at what cost?

Without nicotine or caffeine in my system, my body is trying to compensate for the dip in sugar levels by having one crave sweet foods. Because of the dip in my sugar levels, I started craving sweet foods and also might have been the reason why I felt nauseous for most of my trip in Korea (my mother was so concerned for me and suspected that I might possibly be pregnant). In fact, one's metabolism is increased by smoking, so quitting smoking meant that I would put on an average of 4-10 pounds. I was told by a friend that smokin burned about 200 calories a day. Eating is a substitute for smoking, since it involves the hands and the mouth. I noted that I started to bite my nails and hangnails more after I quit smoking.

Other symptoms that can affect quitters is:
-Mild depression & sadness
-Anxiety (this one's a maybe)
-Boredom & loneliness
-Anger & short-temper (this one I'm sure of)

Now, me being the vain creature that I am, knows that quitting smoking does a great deal of good towards improving your appearance (mostly since it improves your blood circulation), so it would lessen my chances of getting wrinkles earlier, and most people know that quitting smoking reduces health risks, such as lung cancer, heart disease, and stroke. You save money, since the habit is quite expensive. Besides, cigarette smoking has been linked to over 400,000 deaths in the U.S. per year. Why take that risk? In fact, why even start in the first place if quitting is just as difficult and tumultuous?

I guess what I have come to in conclusion is don't start smoking.

Except maybe if you're at a bar and you can't get drinks and you're bored. Because I still do that and can keep in control. Just be really careful, because even that small step is a gamble.

-View the sources for this blog: HERE