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Blog Posted in avatar   Andorina Halls's Blog

Tobacco, unmasked

By Andorina Halls
Posted Apr 1, 2013 in Health
On November 11, 2012, I quit smoking for all the usual reasons, including a little anger surrounding my addicted support of what looked like collusion between our government and Big Tobacco. But only now, having started smoking again, do I recognize how underhanded they really are. If I hadn’t quit and restarted, I would never have found this out.
I was down to fewer than ten a day, but it was a habit that had to go. Even three a day were grossing me out. The capacity of my lungs wasn’t enough to fund a full game of tennis, and I was puffed out way too quickly on the treadmill. My clothing reeked, and I was fully aware of the pungent stench that clung to my aura, accompanying me back into the office after I’d had a smoke break. How disgusting that must have been to non-smokers in the room. I frequently felt like an outsider among a growing list of non-smoking co-workers and family members.
But there were other motivating factors behind my quitting, aside from the obvious health and social issues.
Trying to break the psychological hold of the addiction, I began to feel that I was being screwed over by both my government and the humongous corporation that made and marketed the cigarettes I smoked. The obvious passive-aggressive duplicity of a government that would on one hand, allow the marketing and sale of such an addictive, costly and health-trashing substance, while on the other hand, mandate the inclusion of little card inserts that urged the smoker to quit, not to mention the medical-horror graphics on the outside, a supposed deterrent. This, all while collecting huge tax revenues and bemoaning the health-care costs associated with smoking. It looked like a case of ass-covering, just to keep that tax money coming in.
As somewhat of an ‘armchair activist’, daily forwarding petitions to right the wrongs of the world, I began to see that my own addiction to tobacco was supporting what I saw as corporate-government collusion for profit, at a cost to the masses. Supporting this was no less absurd than supporting Obama’s signing of the Monsanto rider, protecting that evil behemoth from any transparency that would prevent sales of genetically-modified foods, which had recently been shown to cause huge cancerous tumours in rats, among other health issues. I had to stop.
So stop, I did. I became a non-smoker, and lasted for 143 days. During that time, I faced much stress, first, breaking the physical addiction, and then trying to get past the psychological addiction. I didn’t know what to do with my other hand as I held the phone or a glass of wine in the other. I didn’t know how to feel like I fit in with friends who still smoked. I felt like an outsider in two worlds. I noticed my brain didn’t feel as quick as it had before, knowing full-well that nicotine was a brain stimulant. I’d get through it, I thought. But halfway through this period, I suffered the death of a family member. Feelings of loss mixed with feelings of isolation, and my resolve began to crumble. I needed something. After her death, I found myself listless, crying every day. I turned again to cigarettes for solace, convincing myself it would only be temporary. Again.
The day that I woke up deciding I was going to buy a pack of smokes, I felt a misguided sense of joy in my heart, and off I went to the store in search of those additive-free cigarettes I’d heard about. The ones that were pure tobacco, and missing those 4,000-odd chemicals we’ve heard the tobacco companies add to cigarettes -- the chemicals that are allegedly there to make smoking even more addictive than tobacco alone could be, although that hadn’t been proven in court, that list of chemicals being a “trade secret”.
I sat outside and took my first drag, and felt my brain coming back, sharpening. I actually laughed for the first time in ages. This, I thought, was the answer. These new additive-free smokes didn’t seem to fill the air with as much second-hand smoke as the Big Brand I’d been addicted to. They didn’t smell as bad. They didn’t stay lit in the ashtray, streaming into a big cloud. Most importantly, I felt, I did not get that addictive head-rush I used to get from the cigarettes I used to smoke. That head-rush that would make me dizzy, when I’d gone for six hours without smoking. Maybe this was the answer: feed my nicotine addiction with only nicotine. Skip the cancer-causing, really addictive chemicals. But I was in for a surprise.
The day after I began smoking again, I woke up with an icky feeling in my throat and sinuses. I ignored it, and went to play tennis. I didn’t make it past twenty minutes. I felt sick. I automatically associated these effects with smoking, although never in the past, when I had resumed smoking the Big Tobacco brand, had I suffered such ill effects immediately upon starting again. Why would a pure, clean tobacco be causing me to feel sicker than the chemical ones I’d smoked before? I theorized that maybe there was an anesthetic of sorts included in the 4,000 chemical mix that I was avoiding.
And I was right.
A study that had been done in 1994, found that more than 100 of the additives ‘camouflage environmental [second-hand] tobacco smoke emitted from cigarettes, enhance or maintain nicotine delivery, could increase the addictiveness of cigarettes, and mask symptoms and illnesses associated with smoking behaviors. (Emphasis mine.)
To deliberately mask the symptoms caused by smoking a cigarette by adding chemicals that anesthetize the effects of the tobacco alone is, frankly, nefarious.
How can you manage your addiction if the physical effects are being masked? You cannot immediately connect what you’re doing with what it’s doing to you, if it’s been covered up. You cannot decide that “this doesn’t feel good right now, so I’m going to stop doing this.” It’s like taking the bad taste out of a poison, so that you’ll continue consuming it.
Smoking tobacco was a sacrament to the indigenous peoples of North America. As we’ve all seen in fictionalized depictions on TV, the peace-pipe would get passed around. Smoking was not associated with illness, because there were no peace pipe chain-smokers. It’s only in our modern age, where profit wins over health, and the details of just how our health is ruined are closely guarded corporate secrets.
Knowing this, and knowing just how awful 100% tobacco makes me feel without additives masking it will make my next quit all the easier. In fact, I’d recommend switching to 100% natural cigarettes as a way to move toward quitting. At least you’ll know what smoking is doing to you. Unmasked. Knowledge is power.
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