Since graduating from high school, I have been surrounded by people who have smoked cigarettes, each with a variety of reasons on why they do it, or why they couldn't quit. And being surrounded by it so often as I have, it is by some miracle that I have not become one myself. At nearly every job I have ever worked at, there has been at least one smoker that I have worked with, and on many of those occasions they were heavy smokers. Even while in college, my fellow students partook in the so-called "pleasures" of smoking. A majority of my best friends are smokers and even Ashley joins in a social settings on occasion. But, thankfully, I have not succumbed, and for good reason.
Many smokers admit that they have a problem, and use cigarettes as some way to cope with life: anxiety, stress, boredom, or using them as a way of relaxing. During my time in college, where I have, thus far, encountered the most stress in my life, I never once took a puff of a "deathstick," despite the incredible amount of stress I endured during my undergraduate tenure. I never saw cigarettes as a viable solution for myself, not to mention the fact that I had recurring asthma-related illness throughout my childhood and, as far as I can tell, no longer need to rely on an inhaler. Instead, I chose to suck up the stresses of my own life, the anxiety of not knowing what's around the bend, the boredom accompanied when I am unable to do anything, and so on and divert those "emptineses" in other ways. I worked on the computer, played video games, rode my bike, etc. I distracted myself, and reminded myself of the dangers of addictive substances, such as nicotine, for recreational purposes. I have, thus, grown to hate cigarettes with a passion, especially when I come from a meeting with people who are smoking and blow my nose, only to find that the normally clear remains in my handkerchief is now speckled with black soot from the second-hand smoke.
As I said, some of my best friends are smokers, and there is little that I could do to make them stop. We are too young and naive to see what it is that they are doing to our bodies, and subconsciously believe that nothing will hurt us - until we get old. But, it is a false sense of security as with every puff, the life-stealing sticks-of-impending-doom cause us to become more and more addicted, making it exponentially more difficult to break the habits they helped form, and compounding the irreparable damage to our bodies that will make life uncomfortable as we age. Moreover, they steal our money for a few minutes of pleasure, which, for some, costs more than a Starbucks white chocolate mocha with soy every day - literally burning our own money away for a collective few to profit from our addiction and impending doom (who, by the way, even have a hand in the business of trying to help you quit - further rendering you dependent on their so-called "help" to cure your woes). In fact, I see coworkers of mine who have succeeded in quitting, and others who have failed (or replaced smoking with another detrimental habit).
The reason I write this tonight is because of the sheer number of articles that I have come across in the last week about smokers and smoking, and the affects of smoking on your health and future. I read that people who are diagnosed with lung cancer as a result of heavy smoking can have tens of thousands of genetic mutations which have lead to the cancer's beginning. I also came across another article which briefly suggested that moderate alcohol consumption among non-smoking women could reduce the risk of Alzheimer's Disease later in life (key phrase here: moderate alcohol consumption). And in the extreme end of the spectrum, I ran across an article just today about a video that showed a 2-year-old boy who had become incredibly addicted to cigarettes that his father introduced him to at only 18-months!
There are a ton of news and scientific journal articles, diaries and life-accounts from a variety of sources that have untold numbers of warnings and persuasions against tobacco addictions, but it still astounds me that people still start smoking, or who have become so dependent on it that quitting is almost an unfathomable option for them and ardently oppose it. But the fact that so clearly stands out is why governments around the world have not moved to ban them. They provide absolutely no benefit for our health, and in fact lend themselves to cause more burden on the government when government-sanctioned studies are required to study their effects on the population, perform studies on the population of tobacco consumers, and even when having to provide health care to those who are suffering from the effects of tobacco use. It just seems crazy to allow such a devastating drug to continue to be allowed. But then again, perhaps we all are addicted to tobacco insofar as that it has rooted itself so deeply that its elimination would cause withdrawals within our very economy - withdrawals so severe that recovery may be damn-near impossible. Oh the demons we live with.
Update 1 (2010/06/14): Here's another article I found about smoking and its addictiveness and how its detrimental, regardless of how often you do it: "Study: A Cigarette A Month Can Get A Kid Hooked"