July 20, 2024

“Smoke! Smoke! Smoke! (That Cigarette)”


Song Written By Merle Travis sung by Tex Williams

This hit song is said to have saved Tex Williams career. The sarcastic content made it clear, even in 1947, we knew that smoking was bad for health. Of course we should not smoke. If you smoke, stop! If you don’t smoke, good for you; don’t start.

At the same time, we often approach smokers as if they are dim-witted. That is not the case. While smoking has significant detriment to our health, we can know there are reasons that people smoke and we can learn from them. Below are 4 lessons.

  1. TAKE BREAKS. When I teach stress management, the first step is to learn to take breaks, to recover. Smokers take regular breaks while nonsmokers often trudge on task after task. One day looking out of my office on a 95 degree summer day, I see 4 women in the back of an SUV; they were all smoking and it seemed from my perspective rather enjoying the break they were taking. Meanwhile I was doing some paperwork that I rather dreaded…and thought “maybe I should take up smoking.”
  2. SOCIALIZE. These women were also socializing. I thought I bet they are talking about how much they are picked on and how together they are as smokers. Perhaps this mutual point of view would make their friendship more solid. Meanwhile I was becoming friendly with a treatment plan. Sigh. Having friends and taking time with them is quite healthy.
  3. ATTEND TO YOUR BODY. Smokers change their body chemistry. They get the immediate hit of nicotine and feed the addiction. They have it wrong though. Our task in reality is to add fruits, vegetables, water, protein, vitamins to our body. The energy and benefits from good nutrition is long term not brief like the hit of nicotine, caffeine or sugar. Take a break and eat an apple or yogurt with a friend.
  4. BE INDEPENDENT. Some smokers have this sense of independence. They demonstrate “you can’t tell me what to do; I’ll figure this out for myself”. Many started smoking as teenagers, a time for some rebellion telling adults “stick it in your ear” we can do what we “should not do.” One 50 yr old, trying to stop smoking, told me “I do not want to lose that sense of independence I feel when I smoke.” The point is how can we honor that sense of independence in a way that also honors our physical and mental health?

In short, take breaks, be with friends, put healthy substances in your body and find useful ways to honor your sense of independence.

Learn from smokers and manage stress using tools they use…but don’t smoke.