Tobacco isn't alcohol. But tobacco is deadly in its own right - and there is plenty of research to prove the deadly part. But the trouble with all the research is that while it dramatizes how dangerous the habit can be (at age 50, a pack-a-day man has almost five years cut from life expectancy), it doesn't tell you much about how to quit.
Still, there is some hard information on quitting - some of it solidly scientific, some of it simply inspirational. At the outset, keep in mind two main paints - one of them obvious. You must sit down with yourself and make a strong, all-out decision to quit. Anything less is a waste of time.
Then - and this is important - realize that how you go about quitting may depend on the type of smoker you are. Most smokers are people who simply seek positive enjoyment from the habit; they will have less trouble quitting than others, and should try tapering off. But there are "hard-core" smokers, solidly addicted to smoking which they use as act emotional crutch. This group amounts to an estimated 25% to 35% of all smokers; they should quit cold.
You may be able to answer this for yourself, or may want to discuss at it with your doctor. Generally - if you're like most smokers - you'll want to first try quitting on your own. One key is to find something else to do whenever you have the urge to light up. Take a lemon drop, a mint, or chew some gum. (But skip rich candy and other foods, or you may wind up with two bad habits instead of one.)
Anything you can do to interrupt the mind and motion pattern associated with lighting up - such as jotting down the time in a notebook - will be helpful. What about drugs? Nonprescription products that contain lobeline (a nicotine substitute) often have little effect, according to some experts. You can also try switching to cigars or pipes - and not inhale. This type of smoking appears to do little harm. Remember, though, that some of the "little cigars" are quite small and mild; you may find yourself inhaling.
The object of your exercise - assuming you're not the addictive type - should be to cut down gradually by smoking, say, 20% fewer cigarettes each week over a five-week period. There's no telling how difficult it will be. Many encounter severe withdrawal symptoms: hunger, dizziness, irritability, poor concentration. Don't feel you're exceptional if you try to stop and fail.
You may decide, after all, to rely on your doctor. More than likely - after he has given you his favourite anti-cigarette lecture - he will put you on a personal program for quitting. This might include such aids as tranquilizers, appetite-suppressing drugs, and possibly lobeline.
One of the most persuasive arguments for quitting that can confront a smoker is to be told that his habit will in the long run hurt his children. Evidence clearly shows that when parents smoke, their teen-aged children copy them. Apart from stopping yourself, you might point out to your youngster that the death rate per year among men who began smoking after age 25 is about 40% higher than for non-smokers. It is about 125% higher among men who first started smoking before age 15.
Well over seven million English people are alcoholics, and some estimates go a lot higher. This is despite the best efforts of Alcoholics Anonymous. Still, specialists say with more assurance than ever that AA is by far the best hope for retrieving a man from alcoholism. Where many medical men were skeptical of AA's value a few years ago, most now applaud its work. "It's what gets results," says top Harvard psychiatrist Dr. Graham Blaine, Jr.
If you have doubts, the medics point to these figures. from a survey: About 40% of those entering AA stop drinking right away; 25% more stop within a year; another 15% eventually manage to quit. Only 20% are hard-core cases who never "make" the AA program.