Friday, January 19, 2007

Barbara Branden on Smoking

OK - last Objectivism-related entry for today, I promise! But reading on the internet for the original post, I ran across this interesting page on Barbara Branden's site. It has to do with smoking and her belief that it isn't really addictive.

I'm posting this here because I've always felt the same way. Admittedly, I was never a really heavy smoker, nor did I make a habit of it for that long. It was something I swore I would never take up. I enjoy running - and though I'm out of shape now, I wasn't always, and I will be back in shape by the middle of the summer. Smoking and running obviously don't mix, so it's nothing that I ever want to do permanently and had intended never to do. But when they put the smoking ban here in Bloomington into effect, all my hatred for the anti-smoking movement boiled over and I started doing it just to piss people off on campus. I found I really enjoyed it, so I kept at it for a semester or so.

What was interesting to me was the total lack of craving. I was never addicted. At all. Sometimes I would want cigarettes, but this wasn't any more pressing than wanting a cup of tea or a shower. And when I quit, I just quit, and it never bothered me.

Branden writes about this from the point of view of someone who smoked two packs a day for 50 years and had great difficulty quitting. The basic argument (which she gets from a book) is that smoking isn't actually addictive - that people have been misled into thinking it is. Whatever addictions people have to cigarettes are psychological more than chemical.

I can't exactly follow her to the conclusion that there is nothing in a cigarette that is physically addictive. The way I understand it, there are lab studies to back up those claims. But I agree that a review of the evidence is probably in order.

I think this for a couple of reasons. First, I've met a lot of people who quit smoking, and there's great variation in how much difficulty they report. But the main constant seems to be that those who have trouble with it have a whole host of other nervous habit traits that go hand-in-hand. They're obsessively neat, they have a constant need to fiddle, oral fixation, whatever. All truly addicted smokers I've met have independent neuroses it seems to me. Meaning I'm not convinced it's really the chemicals in the tobacco that explains their inability to quit. Second, the anti-smoking movement is so blatantly irrational that it's downright offensive. I have absolutely no trouble believing that the kind of people who self-identify as anti-smoking crusaders would lie, cheat, and misrepresent to get their way. There is simply no obvious explanation for the vitriol that smoking inspires in some people. They claim they're worried about public health, but that simply cannot be true (since there are any number of other harmful things out there, such as alcohol, that they don't get equally worked up about, and since many of them, indeed, indulge in these very things). They claim they're worried about protecting non-smokers from second-hand smoke, but this also simply cannot be true, as many of the restrictions they support go a good deal further on that point than is really required. I don't know what motivates them to behave as they do, but clearly it has nothing to do with rationality or their stated aims. Such are exactly the kind of people who fabricate results and/or exaggerate the conclusions of independently supportive studies.Finally, I've noticed that most of the cases of people who successfully quit "cold turkey" are people my grandfather's age (indeed, he's a case in point). You hear a lot about people in their 70s who decided one day, after decades of smoking, to quit, smoked their last cigarette, and never looked back. But I know of almost no one in my own generation that can tell a similar story. Which means: the "problems" people face quitting are probably products of their culture more than anything. People from the generation before 70s (when everyone got in touch with their mothers and their needs and started making a living providing people with excuses for their worthless sloppiness) haven't been conditioned to blame all their problems on other people. They may have grown up in the red 30s, but the general ethos of the independent American was still around them in a way it isn't around us today. More to the point, they grew up before we were innundated with anti-tobacco propaganda that would have done Hitler (himself a fierce non-smoker, by the way) proud. No one told them that quitting would be the struggle of their lifetimes, that they would require endless seminars and gimmicky help kits. They didn't know it was going to be hard...and so it wasn't.

Well, I'm not an expert on this, so no doubt someone will want to tell me what a boob I am for pushing this theory. I don't care - something in my gut tells me I'm right. If you wanna quit smoking, just quit already. Stop giving the government fodder to further control the lives of your fellow citizens with your whining.

I made this very point - namely that addiction is always a choice - in last semester's Philosophy class. Needless to say, that made everyone really angry. Further needless to say, I think all the people who got angry are morons.

Thanks.

3 Comments:

At 7:46 AM, Blogger noahpoah said...

It wouldn't surprise me if there is an interaction effect here - the addictive chemicals in cigarettes may have a much stronger effect in 'neurotic' people than they do in the non-neurotic. Whatever makes people neurotic may also make them susceptible to chemical addiction.

 
At 7:03 AM, Blogger mud said...

I read one source which said that a high percentage of people who had been sexually molested as children had associations and "flashbacks" arising from the smell of tobacco smoke. Now that we know the extent of sex abuse, it would seem reasonable to think that some of the vehemence of the anti-tobacco folks might come from this factor.

 
At 7:04 AM, Blogger mud said...

I read one source which said that a high percentage of people who had been sexually molested as children had associations and "flashbacks" arising from the smell of tobacco smoke. Now that we know the extent of sex abuse, it would seem reasonable to think that some of the vehemence of the anti-tobacco folks might come from this factor.

 

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