Saturday, February 14, 2009

The Cold Hard Truth: Smoking is a Choice

I saw this story today from the Associated Press:

Later in the article, it states the following:

In closing arguments, Hess attorneys Gary Paige and Alex Alvarez said Stuart Hess tried for 40 years to quit his heavy smoking, even trying hypnosis. But they said the powerful nicotine forced Hess to continue smoking even as he underwent chemotherapy before he died in 1997 at age 55.

"People smoke because they're addicted, not because they choose to," Paige said. "Nobody wants to be addicted to cigarettes. It's as addictive as cocaine and heroin."

This is beyond ridiculous.

Before I begin to explain why it's ridiculous, please understand that to disagree with the conclusions of a jury and the attorneys quoted above is not to be void of compassion for the deceased. On the contrary, I feel that subscribing to the above beliefs (and that's what they are - beliefs) would be an insult to the millions of smokers and non-smokers in the world who have struggled with the habit or are seeking to quit. Why? Because if you believe the jurors and attorneys, smokers don't have a choice - they are "forced" to smoke... as in "the powerful nicotine forced Hess to continue smoking" until his death.

Now, I wasn't there at the trial, so I don't know what evidence was presented that allowed jurors to conclude that Mr. Hess never willingly purchased, lit or smoked cigarettes of his own free will, and that, in fact, the nicotine was fully responsible for his habit.

However, having worked with many, many smokers in my hypnotherapy practice, I can say with the utmost confidence and sincerity that people smoke because they choose to.

If you don't believe me, use your imagination for a moment. Let's play "what if" and see what we come up with...

What if Mr. Hess had been denied access to cigarettes completely? That's right... he would have suffered for a while, before the poison was completely removed from his system and the habit was broken. Then, he would have felt better.

How can I be so sure of this? Well, what else would have happened?

If smoking were as addictive as cocaine or heroin (and there is evidence that cocaine is not as addictive as it is commonly believed to be), why do 99% of the smokers I meet admit that they often sleep 6-8 hours at night without so much as a single "craving?" Why are they able to get on an airplane and fly overseas without smoking for 10-15 hours, without going into convulsions? Heroin addicts can't do this. Smokers can.

"People smoke because they're addicted, not because they choose to," Paige said.

Let's re-work that statement and make it true:

People smoke because they choose to, not because they're addicted.

Of course, if that were the case, it is highly unlikely that Mr. Paige would receive as big of a payday.

This isn't a question of right or wrong on the part of Big Tobacco (note that this Stop Smoking Hypnotherapist is actually siding with Philip Morris on this one). Everyone knows they're deceptive and irresponsible. It's a question of personal power and responsibility.

The moment we accept that "the powerful nicotine forced Hess to continue smoking" is the moment that we surrender all belief in free will and personal responsibility. The next logical conclusion is that we are powerless to change our situation in life, and that forces outside of our control must change things for us.

That is not the world we live in, and it's certainly not the world that I (or anyone) would like to live in.

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