From your Guide to About.com Smoking Cessation, Terry Martin: Ellen is a member of our smoking cessation support forum here at About.com. She quit smoking over a year ago and now works to help young people avoid smoking by speaking to them about the dangers of nicotine addiction. The following is a speech she presented to a group of 16 to 18 year olds.
When you hear the word "addict" what comes to mind? Would you think of a dirty homeless person? Someone who walks around muttering to themselves? A person with no job, begging? What comes to your mind when you think of what an "addict" is?
I am a recovering addict, only my drug is legal. It is a cigarette. I never considered myself addicted to cigarettes
until I quit smoking. They are legal; they do not alter your perception of time or judgment; you can drive with them; you can do practically anything while smoking. And they are so glamorous!
Now, with the benefit of hindsight, I can see how I used those cigarettes for everything- much like any drug user does. You light up if you are happy, sad, mad, bored, tired and need to wake up, or relax to sleep. A person who uses illegal drugs will likely use them for the same reasons. What makes cigarettes different from illegal drugs? You do not accidentally overdose on a cigarette and it kills you, right? They might kill you eventually, but they do not usually kill immediately. You can take a "smoke-break" at work or school, and no one thinks anything of it. I know that feeling well, the one where you "need" to smoke that cigarette before you go crazy. Drug addicts think the same way. They "need" that fix to "feel right" again.
There are 599 chemicals in a cigarette
. Just one cigarette. Imagine that. Those chemicals make over 4,000 chemical compounds
when they are lit, inhaled, and exhaled. There are 43 known cancer-causing agents in cigarette smoke. Remember, that is just ONE cigarette. If one has that much stuff in it, imagine smoking a whole pack! Imagine breathing in a room full of smokers. There are things in cigarettes to make them taste better, smell better, burn faster and evenly, and help deliver the nicotine
into your system faster and more efficiently. Would you want to inhale ammonia
, carbon monoxide
, or cyanide
? You're inhaling that and much more if you are smoking a cigarette.
I started experimenting with cigarettes when I was about 12 years old. My friend and I would steal a cigarette (or two if we were lucky) from her parents and hide behind her garage and smoke. To hide the smell, we would burn a small pile of leaves. We would not always do it, just once in a while, for fun. Those times were just practice until I became a full-fledged smoker at the age of 15.
Cigarettes made a person "cool" back then. I suppose even now kids who smoke might look "tough" or "cool." I mean, all the "cool" kids smoked when I was in school, and to be recognized by them in front of other kids, made me look even cooler! That has not changed much, has it?
All I really heard about cigarettes was that they were "habit forming." To me, that was like biting your fingernails. It was suggested that they could cause cancer
, but when I started, there was not a lot of fuss about it. That and it was really, really hard to stop once you start smoking. So I thought "what the heck?" if I do get cancer, I will be like 60 or 70, and at least I will have lived a full life, right? At 15, 60 sounds like a long way off, doesn't it?
Through the years I never made a clear effort to quit. I did put them down for a while and "take it easy for a week or two" but since I was doing so good with that, I could "reward" myself by having a smoke. That is the way the majority of smokers see things. It is too easy to keep smoking. That innocent "habit" was accepted by everyone, and really, I never considered myself addicted. I chose to smoke; I saw nothing wrong with it. Besides, it was not as if I was doing drugs.Page 2 - Addiction to Cigarettes