By Mary Elizabeth Salzmann
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Physical addiction is the minor part of the smoker’s problem, however, and one that has long been the subject of myths. So we need to set the record straight. Nicotine’s relative weakness Although the eﬀects of nicotine are immediate, the addictive properties are weak when compared with many other addictive drugs. For example, most smokers sleep right through the night without a cigarette. Similarly, thousands undertake long-distance, non-smoking air travel. They can do without cigarettes, to which they are ‘addicted’, for up to maybe 20 hours (‘because I have to’), yet cannot manage without food for the period.
It also accounts for any pleasurable or beneﬁcial association between the immediate eﬀect of the cigarette and the behaviour related to it – such as lighting up after a pleasant meal, or when receiving a stressful telephone call to regain some feeling of control. Those positive associations, rather than the physical addiction, account for the psychological power of the ‘habit’. The other side of the coin is that the eﬀect wears oﬀ quickly – maybe within a quarter of an hour, and then you need another ﬁx.
They will usually argue that what seems like black is white, to an ex-smoker or non-smoker, to justify their continued behaviour. And they will resent any suggestion that they are deluded, brainwashed or acting irrationally. This is a common feature of any form of addiction, such as alcohol, heroin or gambling. A lot of self-deceit is involved, and 51 Don’t Stop Smoking Until You’ve Read This Book smokers themselves admit this – but usually only after they have kicked the habit. This does not imply any moral judgement.
Aa by Mary Elizabeth Salzmann