Smoking's effects have well deserved nicknames

Shark for smoking's effectsDo smokers weigh up the indisputably bad risks of smoking's effects?

What if smoking was named differently, such as 'Diving into shark infested waters?'

We had a kitten given to us once. It was a crazy little ball of fluff that skitted across my kitchen floor getting under my feet. I used to say, "Ollick!" which really was an exasperated short version of, "Oh look out," or "Oh look I can't cook with you skitting under my feet" ... and so on.

So the kitten got to be called Ollick and it grew into a fine black cat and Ollick still got under my feet, according to its name.

I was reminded of Ollick's deserved name, when I recently came across several references to "Cancer sticks." Easy to guess what they are of course, and true to their deserved name, cigarettes are potential cancer sticks.

Well before the smoking bans, there was a café nearby that had on its door a notice with a no-smoking picture on it and the words, "Please suicide outside."

There's not one smoker that can look you in the eye and say they don't know the dangers of their habit — so yes, they are in effect deciding to risk slowly suiciding — it's an appropriate name for smoking's effects.

Ollick didn't understand why he occasionally ended up trodden on or dolloped with mashed spuds, but smokers understand... so why do they continue to suicide with cancer sticks?

Does a smoker understand that the word suicide means to intentionally kill oneself, or as one dictionary also put it, to commit to a course of action which is disastrously damaging to one's own interests? Looking at it that way, it could be fair to ask what planet are they on, I mean why don't they just walk under a bus!

The short answer is that smoking is like squinting at your computer too long, or wearing high-heels all day, or eating junk food, or listening to loud music too much... all of these and many more things that strange irrational humans do, have a delayed reaction.

So five or twenty-five odd years down the track, what a bummer! You've got lung cancer, your eyesight is poor, your feet ache despite expensive orthotics, your diabetes causes pain, and your hearing is ratchet.

Ask people whilst they are doing these potential damaging things and they will say, "Because I like it." A smoker who has not yet decided to quit, will say, "I smoke because I enjoy smoking."

And they do indeed enjoy it, because as an addict, they are topping up their nicotine level plus experiencing all the built up associated behaviours, be it social interaction, peer acceptance, a welcome break from work or a diversion from anxiety.

It seems that in their present way of thinking and at their stage in life, the gratification of temporarily topping up nicotine levels is worth the ultimate real pain of smoking's consequences, rather than the effort of going through the mild short term pain of quitting.

But if you asked a smoker to dive into shark infested waters for a guaranteed large sum of money, with a known 50% risk of being eaten alive, I bet you would have no takers. There may be an enjoyable reward at the end of it, enough to buy a lifetime of pleasure, but it's just not worth the risk. We could appropriately name that activity, "Death defying dive."

Death defying dive or Cancer sticks, take your pick. Diving with sharks has an instant outcome and smoking's effects take a while to show. What's riskier?

Both give you a 50% chance of living... or both will kill you in gruesome circumstances well before your natural lifetime.

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