Thursday, November 14, 2013

Lead Us Not Into Temptation

Why do those who smoke, who have been harassed by terrifying ads of cancerous lungs and weeping parentless children, still smoke? 

My grandfather smoked. When the Surgeon General's warning came out in 1964, Ta showed it to him and begged him to stop. He did. Yet it has been nearly fifty years, and there are still smokers amongst us.
The price for a carton of cigarettes have skyrocketed over the decades, bans on public-puffing have banished smokers to chilly outdoor hidey-holes, and ciggies are still toxic, maybe even more so. Yet if one quits early enough, the chances of contracting a smoking-related illness are slashed considerably. 

So why do smokers still smoke? What primal, childhood-trauma, mental hand-wringing cause is there for those who fly in the face of fatal facts?

According to an article by Eyal Ert and Eldad Yechiam, it's very simple. Smokers have poor self-control. 

Er, that's it?

One theory before a recent study was that smokers are daring risk-takers, and that's why they smoke. But no. Smokers do tend to take risks, but why do they take risks? 

Because they just can't wait. 
So what accounts for smokers’ risky-looking behavior? Our contention is that smokers exhibit poor self-control in the face of immediate temptation — which can look like a willingness to assume risk.  
Smokers tending to indulge in risk has nothing do with being defiantly risky. They just can't hold out. Sure, I could develop a really painful and deadly disease one day, but man, this cigarette is so good right now

Yes, it's not just about smoking, there is nicotine addiction. But the authors of the article say that even so, smokers are very much capable of quitting. 

I have never smoked, that is true. But I adore eating. Always did. Plus I really love my sugar, like any red-blooded human being. Someone asked me recently what I do to maintain my weight, and she had the temerity to accuse me of "not liking food." I was quite offended. 

It's a cop-out to think that if someone isn't overweight it must be that they don't like food. Heck, I'd marry my pantry if I could. But I have other concerns beyond indulgence; my health, my clothing, my grandmother's wrath. Mostly my health.
I weaned myself off daily sugar (you'd be surprised what a "hit" orange juice provides), trans-fat baked goods, and large, entertaining portions, all the while reminding myself of the long view, of what the distant payoff will be. 

Today, not only do I feel great, I actually no longer crave a Stella D'oro Swiss Fudge Cookie anymore (once I would have sold my soul for one); I've trained my body to seek out roasted parsnips instead. 

But I am still all too fallible. Too many times I mentally threw caution to the winds and fell upon a greasy delectable offering, or went for fourths, not caring what thirty minutes to the future will bring. I have always, always regretted it. 

Does everything in life come down to discipline?   


Gavi said...

Yes, pretty much everything comes down to discipline (and delayed gratification). Patience is an oft-neglected, and potentially life-saving, virtue.

Tovah11 said...

I don't know why I cannot quit these things. They're horrible and it's shameful and I feel like I have to hide everytime I have a cigarette.

I know that at some point I will pay for this and yet it just pulls me in.

I think the longest I've ever quit was for a year A year that I didn't stink, a year that I could actually wear perfume that people could smell, a year of not looking like the biggest idiot in the world.

I beg anyone who has not started smoking to NEVER even try it!

Not counting the health perils, the damage it does to your skin, your clothing, your hair. It's not worth it.

Probably my biggest failing.

Princess Lea said...

Gavi: Not just a virtue, but it can be acquired with hard work.

Tovah11: It took a family member of mine ten years to quit. More than once he was on the wagon for a year, and then he fell off.

Then he began waking up in the night, coughing violently, unable to breathe. He was so terrified he quit, for good.

If you quit early enough, you can really reverse the damage to your health.

It is mind-boggingly hard. But if you could do it once, I am sure you can do it again. I shall root for you!