This is the first in a series of articles on The Mill seeking to investigate the ongoing degradation of human society. Today, we’re targeting smokers and we won’t be holding back.
I can see why people have trouble quitting smoking, and a big kudos to all smokers out there actively trying to quit. An even bigger kudos to smokers who have successfully quit. And the biggest kudos of all to all the non-smokers out there who weren’t stupid enough to start in the first place.
I accept that there was a time when people believed that smoking was safe. There was also a time when people thought the Earth was flat, the Sun orbited the Earth and that left-handed people were evil (the Jury may still be out on that one!). In fact, the people of these times were so stubborn about their beliefs that they would persecute anyone who thought otherwise.
So why wouldn’t people listen to the logic that they were confronted with? Here’s my theory:
Unlike most animals, human beings start with a pretty empty slate. Basically we have to be taught everything. As we are taught we begin to form some strong connections inside our brains. If these connections are not laid down with enough room to move, they become very difficult to change.
I don’t really know much about neuro-psychology (if that is even the term used to describe it), but I think the idea is a start, and I am more that willing to here logical well though out suggestions and feedback regarding this theory. I also acknowledge that someone else might have come up with that theory first. Hopefully it wasn’t totally disproved years ago. (In fact, it is pretty much connected to the expression “You can’t teach an old dog, new tricks”)
Does this mean that there is no hope for anyone as we all become more stubborn over time? Not quite. If the proper initial framework is laid down with room for doubt, original connections may be able to be suitably broken.
Let’s look at the example I started with before I get too far off track. Smokers who started thinking it was safe and who are continuing to smoke have not entirely erased the original thought that smoking is safe (BOCTAOE ((But of course there are obvious exceptions))). Think about it. If you think something is safe, how likely are you to respond when someone tells you it isn’t safe? Particularly if you have been partaking in the “unsafe” activity for a long time.
So why do people start smoking when the dangers are clear and cigarettes even have a big label that says “Smoking Kills” on the packet? The initial framework was laid down by parents and possibly other family members that also smoke ((Jonathan B Bricker, Arthur V Peterson Jr, Irwin G Sarason, M Robyn Anderson, K Bharat Rajan. Addictive Behaviors. Oxford: Apr 2007.Vol.32, Iss. 4; pg. 740)).
To start smoking knowing the risks is idiotic. To allow your children to start smoking is idiotic. They need to be able to learn from your mistakes, so lay the framework.
Of course, I could be dismissing the thought that people aren’t too concerned with dying.