It’s not so easy to stop smoking cigarettes. I watch my team mates commit suicide everyday, as they stand outside our office smoking cigarettes. The pollution from the tar and other chemicals entering their bodies are killing them, and they know it. They are not ready to stop smoking!
“Quitting’s easy, I’ve done it hundreds of times,”Mark Twain
I care for my team. I am invested in their future. Together we are building skills that will deliver benefits for a long time. But, I am concerned that the value and longevity of these personal development investments are being cut shorter every time they are smoking a cigarette. When I gave them gifts of healthier electronic cigarettes, hoping it would help them stop smoking, the team returned to harmful cigarettes three days later. So I wanted to understand what was the root cause of their interest in smoking cigarettes. These are well educated, smart, dependable family people. They are religious, faithful muslims. Why do they continue to smoke cigarettes which they know are harmful?
I asked them why they think they smoked, looking for a logical reason. None of them felt they are addicted, they can stop smoking anytime. No, peer pressure, fashion status or looking good were not compelling reasons to smoke cigarettes. Yes, they understand cigarette smoking is unhealthy. They realize it’s money they can’t afford and can spend more wisely. And, yes they are familiar with alternatives to smoking cigarettes.
Nabila says she does not have a real reason she smokes. Mohamed says he likes smoking, but struggles to define what he likes. Imad does not like smoking, he says it smells miserable, and that after every cigarette he sprays himself with a fresh scent. Yet, they won’t stop smoking cigarettes. Why?
Addressing Addiction Is Not Enough
Researchers say smoking is just another addiction, and that my colleagues are ignoring reality, by not coming to terms with their own addiction. I am not buying that simple answer. My colleagues have demonstrated they could stop smoking on demand. During the holy month of Ramadan, they stop for 30 days or so, without any negative effects. They pick right back up where they left off. Users of nicotine patches and gum alternatives to wean themselves off smoke addiction fail 93% of the time.
Dealing With Stress Is Not Sufficient
Other pundits propose the stress explanation. People smoke because they are taking a break from a bad boss, or they have one or more difficulties in life that makes them worried. The result is they turn to smoking cigarettes to calm the nerves. This is a weak argument. It is possible, but not likely to explain my colleagues. They have a pretty good boss, and smoke even when they are celebrating.
You Are Irrational, And That’s Normal
After looking at every angle, I reach a simple conclusion, that we don’t always act in rational ways. It’s irrationality that makes us human, that we are indeed fallible and will not act in our own self interest. Behavioral scientists will disagree with that last statement, as they believe that humans always act in their self interest. In many cases they are right, but those scientists look silly when they go through contortions to engineer reasons why doing something “bad for you” is in your self interest. My belief is proven by my colleagues who continue smoking cigarettes, it’s normal to make irrational decisions.
Focus On Why You Want To Quit
How can you stop smoking cigarettes? We know that providing you with all the rational arguments or aids are not sufficient. We have used fear (e.g. you will die if you don’t stop) trying to scare you into stopping. We have appealed to your emotions (e.g. your children need you around longer), and we have used logic (e.g. you are wasting your money). None of those work very well when coming from an outsider. You must be ready to, you must want to stop. Your strong interest in stopping makes you stop. Maybe you want to save money, or want to be a good example for your children. Whatever reason makes you want to stop smoking is up to you. Come up with a good reason to stop smoking, that is compelling to you, then look for advice or help on how to stop smoking. Until then, you can’t stop smoking cigarettes!