*I am in no way endorsing smoking & I am only talking about nicotine cigarettes*

Smoking is known around the mental health community as a coping strategy, but when does this strategy become destructive? A persons health and personal experiences are dependant on whether or not smoking is destructive. We all know that smoking causes cancer, turns the lungs black, and is absolutely awful for someone’s overall health, however, shaming a smoker who suffers from a mental illness or even just a hard time in their life is counterproductive and will likely result in tension within your relationship and/or an increase of smoking.

People start smoking for dozens of reasons, usually starting with a desire to feel calm which is the immediate effect of the nicotine within the lungs. Some people start smoking because of peer pressure or to look ‘tough’ and then become dependant on the drug. Other people are from an earlier time and didn’t know the effects of smoking until they were already addicted. Whatever the reason, people who continue to smoke in modern society use the drug to cope with something in their lives. It is no longer used out of boredom (we have the internet now!), it’s known health effects are clear to every consumer with pictures and warning on the cigarette packaging, it’s not socially promoted and it’s usually socially unacceptable (such as smoking indoors). People who continue to smoke with all of these prevalent factors are using the drug to cope, take a break, and try to relax. There is never an appropriate time to shame a smoker or make the smoker feel guilty for their habit. To help a friend stop smoking, make sure they know all of the health effects and give them solid reasoning based on science NOT personal means. “I won’t marry you until you stop smoking” is not acceptable and loosely translates to “I don’t want to marry you.” The only acceptable personal reasoning would be quitting something yourself and taking the journey together prior agreed upon.

How many people die from a tabacco related disease per year?

Everyone is addicted to something be it TV, eating, nicotine, caffeine, alcohol, or narcotics. When someone is suffering from a mental illness in which their prior means of coping were more destructive than daily smoking is when you should use the therapeutic technique of “taking the lesser evil.” Some of these strategies could include self-harm such as cutting, narcotics, eating and/or purging in excessive amounts, drinking excessively, gambling, shopping in excessive amounts, or having unprotected sex. Taking the lesser evil allows the patient to have control of something in their life that does not affect their functioning level (doing daily tasks such as showering). Please be mindful of where this person is in their journey to recovery if they just stopped injecting daily narcotics but still pick up a cigarette…take the lesser evil. Maybe in a couple years after this person is fully recovered, you can approach them about smoking.

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How many of all deaths are from tabacco?

This is a big topic for me because people constantly shame my smoking, meanwhile, I have quit several of my personal demons including self-harm, narcotics, alcohol, and binging and purging. It’s insulting and devalues the hard work I’ve done to get my life on the right track. It’s basically like running a marathon and then someone asking you for 5 more miles….“almost there!” Give a person time and in the end, if someone knows the consequences of smoking and continues to do it…they want to and that is their decision to make – not yours.

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