Hey, smokers, listen up! It's time to snap out of your nicotine-addled world

More and more often lately, smokers are frustrated because they're being told when and where they can smoke while in public places. Some smokers have vented their frustrations by contributing to the regional newspapers' editorial pages.

More and more often lately, smokers are frustrated because they're being told when and where they can smoke while in public places. Some smokers have vented their frustrations by contributing to the regional newspapers' editorial pages.

Those commentaries grab my attention because I was a nicotine addict of the worst kind for a little more than 40 years. I've been "clean" now for six years and, on a good day, I can go almost 15 minutes without getting the urge for another nicotine fix. Even after six years, I'm only a heartbeat away from starting the habit again. However, there are some things that make me fear nicotine's pleasant little buzz.

Nicotine addicts, like all other addicts, never mature to a level that comes even close to their chronological age. They never become fully and warmly human. How can they when they must have nicotine every 20 minutes no matter whom they're with or what they're doing? If they can't smoke or chew, their concentration suffers, and they begin to focus more on their own need than on the needs of the people around them. They get grumpy and distracted; their behavior becomes more childlike. And the nicotine blinds them to the stupidity of their behavior.

What would your choice be if your spouse had guts enough to say, "Sweetheart, if you don't quit smoking, I'm leaving"? What would your choice be if your employer told you you're spending too much time on the weed and not enough time doing your job? When you leave your spouse and/or your job after the stop-smoking ultimatum, nicotine will not be the blame. Since you're in full denial, it'll be, "My spouse doesn't understand me," or "My boss is impossible to work for." You'll never blame your best friend nicotine. Nicotine makes you believe your problems always are caused by someone or something else.

Have you ever watched the self-centered behavior of smokers in restaurants? After they fill their stomachs, they light a cigarette. Then they sit there with a look of self-righteous indignation on their faces, seemingly enjoying the fact that they're making everybody else's food taste lousy. Actually, it serves the nonsmokers right. Since they can still taste their food, they shouldn't be allowed to enjoy it. Nicotine convinces you that this twisted, self-centered behavior is just fine.


Another self-centered behavior of smokers is that they litter. They don't seem to care where they dispose of their butts, wrappers, and cartons. They don't care whether that lit butt causes a roadside fire after it's tossed out the window. Actually, it would be kind of nice if it did. Then those nonsmoking jerks would have to come and put the fire out.

There's yet another reason why smokers toss butts out windows. A little desperate thought in the subconscious mind says, "Well, this is my last smoke." So the symbolic throwing of the butt out the window is their subconscious attempt to beat nicotine. But 20 minutes later they need a reward for finally quitting the habit. Maybe just one more smoke won't hurt.

A lot of misdirected people believe tactics like showing scary pictures of disease-ridden, long-term smokers is going to cause smokers to quit. In reality, smokers think (rather, nicotine makes them think) that if this is what's going to happen to me, I'd better enjoy what time I have left by smoking even more.

A very wise old doctor once told me about an observation he made after practicing medicine for nearly 50 years. "Medicine," he said, "is a 10/10/80 proposition. Ten percent of the public have such tough bodies that no matter what they do to themselves they're going to live well into old age. Another 10 percent have such bad heredity that no matter what they do they're going to die young. The other 80 percent have a choice about whether they're going to die young or live a full life." Then he said, "Since you don't seem to fit in with the 'tough body' 10 percent, what will your choice be?"

I suspect this commentary will cause nicotine-generated rage in a lot of people. And, if my opinions irritate you, I hope you use your yellowed index finger to type a reply. If you do, be sure you have some good, non-nicotine-related reasons to prove your thinking is right and mine is wrong. If there are no solid reasons to help you build a good case for your point of view, here's an idea: Go for one hour without a smoke and then attack my intelligence, my anatomy and my sanity. Or if your nicotine-addled brain dictates you seek an eye for an eye, send me a package of delicious unfiltered Camels or a tin of wonderful, wonderful Copenhagen and see if you can tempt me to make myself a pathetic nicotine addict once again.

Joseph Legueri of Gilbert is a recovering nicotine addict.

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