You've Been Taught To Believe Nicotine Benefits You… But It Doesn’t
Think back to a time in your life before you developed a nicotine addiction. Before you fell victim to the evil clutches of nicotine, you probably held the same beliefs that non-smokers and non-chewers still hold today: that it’s gross, expensive and dangerous.
So, what shifted? How did you pick up a steady habit you used to never think about? Without even realizing it, continuous exposure to tobacco-positive messaging convinced you over time that tobacco and nicotine can benefit your functioning and make you look cool, desirable or rebellious at the same time. So you likely decided to give it a try, never intending to become a life-long user, and accidentally got addicted in the process.
And then? Then a weird and phenomenal thing happened. You knew in your heart and mind that tobacco and nicotine have a negative impact on your health and finances… but you also had the maddening itch for more and didn’t know how to stop nicotine cravings without continuing to consume it. The tension created by these inconsistent attitudes about tobacco needed to be eased, so you started looking for ways to justify your consumption. And once you found them, those justifications allowed you to put on blinders to any new information that contradicts your desire to keep consuming tobacco and nicotine. You've been taught a lie.
This is a powerful and dangerous reprogramming process that happens in your mind at a subconscious level. The only way to fix it is to understand how it happened, and make the conscious decision to undo years of mental conditioning. We’re here to break it down for you.
Tobacco-Positive Messaging is Everywhere… and Starts Early
As children, we are constantly soaking up our surroundings and trying to make sense of the world around us. We are always learning, always observing. We are even taught from a young age (subconsciously) that tobacco products make you cool, rebellious and desirable. We also observe that tobacco and nicotine appears to help users relax, concentrate and handle stress better. These seemingly harmless observations can grow over time into full-blown belief systems about how tobacco products are precious and that life is somehow incomplete without them.
Pick any popular action movie or TV show and you’re likely to find lead characters chain-smoking cigarettes, signaling that even heroes need a crutch. This continually reinforces tobacco use as normal, desirable and glamorous. This happens in magazines and video games, too.
Even young children are susceptible to this cultural brainwashing. From 1988 to 1997, Camel used hip cartoon character Joe Camel to promote their cigarettes. The introduction of the character significantly boosted the brand’s market share among youth smokers and Joe Camel became nearly as recognizable to six year-olds as Mickey Mouse.
The Genie from Aladdin enjoys a smoke after dinner.
The repetition of these tobacco-positive signals during formative years (however small or subdued they may seem) builds the desire to experiment. Children are naturally curious and teenagers naturally want to conform, so it’s no wonder they want to see what the big deal is with tobacco. If it’s so popular and being used by so many smart, funny, famous, good-looking people, they think there must be something to gain. And because it doesn’t take long to get addicted to nicotine, small amounts of experimentation can quickly lead to addiction.
Stop Saying You’re “Giving Up” Tobacco
Using the expression that you’re “giving up” chewing tobacco is part of the conditioning that’s got you convinced you benefit from chewing. This phrase implies that in quitting, there will be some kind of substantial sacrifice. In reality, you’re not giving anything up. In fact, the benefits of quitting nicotine are so numerous that you’ll be gaining health, energy, wealth, confidence, self-respect, happiness and freedom. You’ll feel better almost immediately after quitting nicotine, which means you’re not actually quitting anything; you’re escaping!
It’s Time To Update Your Beliefs about Tobacco and Nicotine
You didn’t get addicted to nicotine because you fell into the habit of smoking or chewing tobacco; it’s the other way around. You had to get into the habit of smoking or chewing in order to service your nicotine addiction. It’s time to undo the mental conditioning and start to see chewing tobacco for what it is: a nicotine delivery service that’s slowly killing you and robbing you of truly living life!
Open a new page in your quit journal and reflect on the following questions. You don’t have to answer every single one; this is not homework to be turned in and read by someone. The questions are meant to get you thinking about how your addiction may have been influenced and reinforced by your cultural environment. Write down anything that comes to mind as you read and think about these questions:
- As a kid, do you remember seeing someone smoke or use tobacco in a movie, show or in real life and wanting to emulate them? What role did this person play in your life?
- Do your present role model(s) smoke or chew tobacco? What about your role models when you were younger?
- Do you follow personalities on social media who smoke or chew? Do you follow brands who condone smoking or chewing?
- What long-held beliefs have you always had about why you chew?
- Have you noticed others (or yourself) getting some kind of benefit from smoking or chewing?