The Sneaky Smoker’s Challenge

It’s not quite a parent’s worst nightmare, but it’s surely not a good day when you catch your home from college twenty-something rummaging through your purse for a cigarette, because “Mom. We all know you sneak smokes”. You thought you were hiding it really well, but as it turns out, not so much. And now you’re busted.

Smoking used to be cool. Remember all those wicked fun ads for cigarettes when you were growing up? If you don’t, it’s because the FCC banned commercials that promoted smoking or cigarettes in 1971. There was the ruggedly handsome Marlboro Man, and the slim and chic Virginia Slims model (Virginia Slims sponsored the original women professional tennis circuit in the 1970s). For a while, tobacco companies ran ads on billboards and in magazines, but the last gasp for smoking happened when NASCAR ended their flagship Winston Cup series. What used to epitomize glamour and sophistication turned into a slightly seedy habit with terrifying health consequences.

What is it about smoking that’s so appealing?

It’s certainly not a sociable habit, like in high school when you chipped in with your friends for a pack. After the cigarette’s smokes, there’s a nasty aftertaste that all the gum and mints in the world can’t really erase, not to mention your clothes have a faint whiff of stale smoke. And you’ve seen the ads with former smokers trying to talk through their former tracheas with all that, why on earth do you still light up from time to time?

Changing nicotine for Exercise

Would you believe that the nicotine in a cigarette releases the same endorphins in your brain as alcohol or exercise? It’s true, so no wonder you feel so fabulous after that first or second drag. Nicotine hits your bloodstream in a hurry the thin membranes of your lungs send it to your brain in a matter of seconds, and the chemicals bind to receptors that release lots of neurotransmitters like dopamine into your system that feel good, got no troubles dopamine that makes you think it’s all going to be all right. If you think about it, you feel the same way after a great game of tennis, workout in the gym, or even a brisk walk. It’s the endorphins that let go in your brain that give you that great sense of well-being. And the endorphins don’t care how they get let loose, so all your body knows is that everything is all good. When you combine smoke with a drink or two, the dopamine rush enhances the effects of the alcohol. So two drinks can make you feel like you’ve had a few more (the buzz is buzzier) and the next day’s headache is the same as if you’d have four drinks instead of two, thanks to the nicotine rush. As in, what goes up must come down, and the fall is a lot harder than the trip up. Fortunately, with exercise, the way down is a lot smoother.

Look out for what you are inhaling

One big difference in getting your dopamine rush through exercise instead of smoke is the chemicals you unwittingly inhale with the nicotine. It’s astonishing what tobacco companies put into your cigarette to make it taste a little better, enhance the effects, and give that rush an extra boost. Stuff like tar you know, the stuff they use to pave roads and install your roof. And formaldehyde (remember dissecting in biology?), arsenic (rat poison), cadmium (battery acid), acetone (nail polish remover)…even lead, like in the batteries, you’re not supposed to throw away because they’re so toxic.

So when your kids are bumming smokes from you, clearly the first thing you do is discourage them from the habit. If you’re smoking openly and everybody knows you do it, that’s one thing, and you’re probably not as inclined to want to quit. But if you’re the sneaky smoker, maybe now is the time to decide to quit, and get your life back. It’s certainly not easy and takes a lot of commitment as well as the willingness to keep going when you backslide.

Here are a few things that will help you out along the way.

Understand that the nicotine is the culprit. It’s the thing that makes it all happen, and it’s totally addictive. It hangs around in your body a couple of hours, then drops off, and you crave another hit and then another. For most people, any nicotine in the body loses any effectiveness after about 72 hours, so if you can manage those three days, you’ll be past the physical cravings. The mental ones are a bit harder; if you’ve reached for a secret cig for stress relief for years, then it’s going to take some time for your brain to reset the source of the dopamine. Exercise is always good, and some people find that mindfulness helps overcome the craving for the nicotine. Most women fret about weight gain if they stop smoking, but the reality is that long-term they tend to lose weight.

One way to balance not smoking with an increased appetite is to keep healthy snacks handy celery, carrots, almonds so crunch on a celery stalk instead of a drag on a cigarette. While smoking and non-healthy living don’t really go together, it is true that your body will thank you when you replace the tar, nicotine, and arsenic with an apple or a carrot.

There are lots of effective methods to help you quit when you’re ready, and if you are tired of hiding in the garage for stress relief, then please contact us to not only help you find the sort of smoker you are (like the Seven Dwarves, there are seven kinds of smokers) but to help you find the right plan to help you quit.