Confessions of an occasional smoker

I thoroughly enjoy smoking. Like I thoroughly enjoy strawberry-and-cream pavlova, hiking, and reading a novel in one sitting.

Just not every day. In fact a packet could last three months if I share it.

The problem with smoking (unlike the other pleasures) is that it's mortally addictive to most people, so cigarettes cease to be about pleasure, and become about need. Apparently only 2% of us are able to take cigarettes or leave them.

For most smokers, addiction defines life. I once went touring in Ireland with a boyfriend who was a smoker, and for the first time realised how limiting addiction could be: non-smoking B&Bs wouldn't have us (and that's most B&Bs), certain car hire companies were out of the question, we could never chill over a coffee in a Dublin café because he couldn't have a coffee without lighting up and there are no smoking cafes.

Writing in the Mail & Guardian around this time last year, author Jann Turner said about her addictions: "It took me months to understand and accept that recovery was not about controlling myself; it was about surrendering to the truth that I am powerless over drugs and alcohol."

 I'm thinking each of us ought to look at those elements in our lives which render us powerless, whether they're addictions or not, and try to understand them.

If smoking's your thing, rational argument about cancer, heart disease and smelliness probably hasn't swayed you so far. To strengthen the argument, we've rounded up a list of things cigarettes do to you that you might not have known:

  • Smoking raises your risk of type 2 diabetes. That's partly because it can lead to insulin resistance – and insulin resistance messes with your natural weight management, so smoking can also make you fat. And it makes your body store fat in erratic patterns.
  • It reduces your chances of having a son – lots more girls are born to smokers. That's if you even manage to conceive. For guys it can lead to impotence and it can affect everyone's fertility.
  • Smoking increases your risk of early blindness due to age-related macular degeneration.
  • It makes your skin age faster.
  • It could make you lose your teeth due to gum disease.
  • The cancers it's been linked to include bladder, colon, kidney, cervix and pancreas.

So before you develop some hideous disease that involves proctologists, you could find yourself looking prematurely old, toothless, with tunnel vision, carrying a lot of weight in odd places, and with a hit-and-miss sex life. Nasty.

C'mon. Give it up. 

(Heather Parker, Health24, December 2007)

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