The Dangers of Stopping Smoking
Browsing the internet will reveal plenty of examples. Here’s one I came across recently. It’s a YouTube video by a certain Dr Eric Berg. He’s not a doctor in the usual sense of the word but a chiropractor. Chiropractic is an alternative theory of medicine invented in the late 19th century in America that has no recognised scientific foundation. It’s based on the notion that diseases are due to misalignments of the spinal joints and that they can be treated by ‘adjustments’ applied to the spine.
The video has the curious title of ‘The Dangers of Stopping Smoking’. Dr Berg tells us he’s going to talk about ‘stopping smoking too suddenly’. That’s odd for a start. How else can you stop if not suddenly? If you’re a smoker who wants to stop, you smoke your last cigarette and that’s it – you’re a non-smoker! By the way, what’s the difference between stopping smoking suddenly and stopping smoking too suddenly? Never mind, according to Dr Berg, you have to stop ‘correctly’. He goes on:
Because what I have observed with many many many people [makes rapid hand clapping motion] that are chronic smokers and they stop very suddenly, they start getting waves in the stomach, that’s high levels of adrenal hormone, they start having problems with the heart, blood pressure health problems…nicotine is a drug that triggers certain body chemicals…chronic smokers with a lot of nicotine start to trigger the adrenals to the point where you can feel relaxed when you’re smoking because nicotine opens up the arteries around the heart…and it also relaxes the bronchial tubes so when you breathe in the smoke you feel like you can breathe better…Etc.
Perhaps Dr Berg would enlighten us as to exactly what observations he’s actually carried out. In any case, all this is a gross oversimplification of a complex matter which he appears to have derived from a muddled understanding of pharmacology and physiology. It’s all armchair theorizing and some of it is just plain wrong. For example, nicotine constricts rather than relaxes the bronchial tubes and one cannot separate the effects of nicotine from those of the smoke itself. Smoking is well known as a risk factor for heart and lung disease and if someone has already got narrowing of the coronary arteries or a lung disorder smoking can only make it worse.
Never mind. He’s got a way to prevent all these ‘issues’: vitamins and other supplements.
Perhaps we may get some more realistic advice from the American Lung Association. Their website starts promisingly with a section headed Learn Five Secrets to Quitting Smoking. But then it’s immediately downgraded to These five tips to help you on the path to success. Well, what are these pearls of wisdom? Here they are, with my comments:
- It’s never too late to quit. All right.
- Learn from past experiences. How is that supposed to help?
- You don’t have to quit alone. But you do!
- Medication can help – This is discouraging by implying it’s so difficult that you need a prescription drug.
- Every smoker can quit. They’ve more or less said that already in 1. But they add:
Each person needs to find the right combination of techniques for them and above all, they need to keep trying.
You don’t need a technique, let alone a combination of techniques, to quit smoking; you just need to quit.
I think the problem of so many approaches like these to smoking cessation is the ‘trying’ business. You don’t need to try to stop. This really means you’re failing to stop and is nothing more than an excuse to keep smoking: ‘I smoke – but I’m trying to give up’. This is not the expression of a desire to stop smoking but a statement of an intention to continue.
There would be far greater success in stopping smoking if people stopped trying to stop – and just stopped!
Text © Gabriel Symonds