An Old Habit

After quitting smoking, I felt instantly better although it was probably in my head. I know it takes time to rid your lungs of the effects of years of a bad habit. One of the best reasons to stop is beyond better health—foods taste and smell better. For a foodie like me, this is super important and a top priority. My meals are more pleasurable making me wonder what took me so long. I don’t regret my decision; but oddly enough, when I am near a smoker, I remember what it was like. The smell and taste come back like yesterday. I loved sucking the tobacco deep into my lungs and exhaling slowly. It was relaxing and satisfied some kind of longing unlike anything else—including chocolate or hot sauce: two of my favorite things on earth.

Nonsmokers hate the smell of cigarettes while smokers find it pleasurable. It comes from toxic substances to be sure, but there is a scientific explanation to exactly what forms that smell. You can find out a lot more about it here: The problem is that it is habit forming, giving it another dimension entirely of destructive dependency. You don’t mind at first, thinking you are in control; and then then the need for a drag wraps you in its firm grip, strangling you if you don’t fulfill it. It has you in its power—and it is unlimited. I remember it had me buying at least a pack a day.

What makes it so addictive? It is simple: dopamine and noradrenaline are chemicals in the brain affected by nicotine. Thus, a smoker can achieve a better mood and more concentration at will. Inhaling can produce feelings of pleasure while it reduces stress and anxiety. Sounds good so far like the perfect panacea. No wonder it had millions in its grip before the news was out about what it can do to body organs, especially the lungs.  Over time, you find you crave the nicotine rush. Your brain becomes used to it and wants more, as in any drug addiction. You start to smoke more to get the same effect.

That’s as far as I care to go for a scientific explanation. The psychological one is obvious. There are certain people who are more susceptible than others to the negative effects of smoking; hence it becomes a habit. Fortunately for me it is an old one. I write this blog more as a warning than an enticement. Don’t let me make it sound too appealing. For my fellow food lovers, I promise you better meals and the ability to discern the spices and ingredients if you stop smoking. This should be reason enough to quit. While I don’t want to encourage you to replace one vice with another, reward yourself with a treat if you succeed. I vote for chocolate spiked with chili powder. That’s my new weakness and it is far healthier.