It is little wonder that people get confused about health. The messages are often contradictory. Worse than that, the messages may reflect vested interest, which is not declared. Many “news” stories are pushed by those who may have a product to sell or an agenda to push.
So it was that a survey reported that long-term smokers could take up to seven goes before successfully quitting. Around 75% of poll responders reported two unsuccessful attempts to quit. This prompted an expert to opine that nicotine addiction was as powerful as heroin addiction. Strong words and not likely to inspire smokers that they could quit unaided. The thrust of the report was to encourage smokers to seek help in quitting. In particular it referenced pharmaceutical aids, which could help smokers.
A pharmaceutical company commissioned the survey.
However, an earlier report showed that stopping smoking is not actually that difficult and that the vast majority did so without any assistance or stop smoking aid. This was shown in over 500 studies. The authors wondered why those in public health do not promote such information more. They noted that 91% of studies focused on interventions and assistance, yet 70% of quitters did so unaided.
Unless you have been living under a rock for the last 40 years you will know that smoking is not good for your health.
Smoking has been medicalized. It is not an illness and as such does not require “treatment”. Some people may need some support, to quit smoking but smoking aids like patches and tablets have not been shown to make any difference long term.
It is also worth noting that the biggest reductions in cigarette smoking occurred during the 1960s and 70s when there were no “stop smoking aids”.
In my view the problem is that people in public health like to portray the individual as helpless and hence in need of public health people. They have a strong aversion to telling people that the choices they make are their own responsibility. They see it as “nicer” to blame cigarette manufacturers rather than say the reason some people smoke is a choice they make. It is also then easier to portray smokers as victims of tobacco rather than individuals who have the power to choose.
Seeing yourself as a victim is disempowering. Hence if you are led to believe that you cannot quit by yourself, you are more likely to fail. In the studies on successful quitters many remarked that it was easier than they expected. The main reason they would have thought it hard, is because of messages telling them that.
Also the fact that it may take a few goes to succeed is not a problem. It is said that Thomas Edison had 10,000 failures before inventing the light bulb. There is no issue with not succeeding if you learn the lessons and apply them next time. Eventually you will succeed.
So to those of you who want to stop smoking, the news is actually good. You can do it if you want to, even if it takes a few goes. It will almost certainly be easier than you have been led to believe.
Medical Doctor, author, speaker, media presenter and health industry consultant, Dr Joe Kosterich wants you to be healthy and get the most out of life.
Joe writes for numerous medical and mainstream publications, is clinical editor at Medical Forum Magazine, and is also a regular on radio and television.
Joe is Medical Advisor to Medicinal Cannabis Company Little Green Pharma, Chairman of Australian Tobacco Harm Reduction Association and sits on the board of Arthritis and Osteoporosis WA. He is often called to give opinions in medico legal cases.