Smoking Happily for Sixty Years
Here we have the delusions of smoking in full flight, by a—I presume tongue-in-cheek—article by Allan Massie in the current edition of the entertaining Taki’s Magazine. He thinks it’s better to smoke and be happy—even if you die young from heart disease or cancer as a result— than from Alzheimer’s disease which he believes kills more old people than anything else. To support this surprising suggestion for dealing with the greying of society, he ‘confesses’ (as well he might): ‘I [have been] smoking happily for sixty years, and indeed have a Toscano cigar in my mouth as I write’. He also thinks there’s a downside to not dying of cirrhosis of the liver from excessive drinking, because one might then live long enough to develop dementia.
The idea that Alzheimer’s disease is the leading cause of death in the elderly seems to have been lifted from a Guardian newspaper article. Many people in old age experience some degree of cognitive decline, but Alzheimer’s is a clinical diagnosis—there are no objective tests for it in a living person. Anyway, is old age a disease? Clearly, Mr Massie has no notion of what it’s like to suffer from cancer, heart disease, or cirrhosis of the liver. (If you’re lucky enough to expire from sudden cardiac death that’s a different matter.)
Back to smoking. Mr Massie further appears to be unaware of the unfortunate fact that smoking and drinking are themselves risk factors for Alzheimer’s. He also uses this kind of convoluted and cockeyed (his word) reasoning to try to justify his own smoking.
What he evidently doesn’t realise is that he’s been in a drugged state for these sixty years, with nicotine, and that’s why he can’t even write his piece without a cigar in his mouth: he has to satisfy his constant need for the poison nicotine—an abnormal state to be in.
He thinks this is enjoyable, not realising that what he and all other smokers are trying to do is to relieve the discomfort of the withdrawal symptoms of the last dose of nicotine provided by the previous cigarette or cigar. The perceived pleasure of poisoning oneself tobacco smoke, therefore, is an illusion. I gave up smoking when I was a medical student and have been non-smoking happily for the last fifty years. Indeed, I have no cigar or cigarette in my mouth as I write.
I’m glad I no longer smoke, because apart from all the obvious reasons, new research has shown, unsurprisingly, that smoking damages the DNA in cells in the lungs, larynx, mouth, urinary bladder, and liver, which can lead to cancer of these organs even years after you quit. The risk becomes particularly marked in a person who smokes a pack a day for twenty years, but even lesser degrees of exposure to tobacco smoke are harmful, and doing this has been likened to playing Russian roulette.
Would Mr Massie like to stop smoking if there was an easy way to do it? If I had the pleasure of meeting him and had the opportunity of putting this question to him, I wonder what would he say? Most likely he would say that he is quite happy being a smoker, thank you very much.
This is the tragedy of smoking. Being a smoker (synonym: nicotine addict) you don’t really want to stop. Not even with an almost guaranteed easy method. Nonetheless, if Mr Massie cares to contact me, I should be delighted to prove to him that he can easily be cured of smoking—without nicotine, drugs, hypnosis, acupuncture, gimmicks of any kind, or even will-power.
Text © Gabriel symonds