How do I keep my girlfriend from starting smoking?
March 12, 2008 11:15 AM   Subscribe

I'm worried that my girlfriend will start smoking. She told me yesterday that she went out with the "cool kids" and only had a couple of puffs. Her hair and her breath smelled like smoke and I could barely hide my disgust. How do I go about convincing her that there is nothing good about smoking (which is the way I see it)?

She has told me before that she wanted to learn to smoke so that she could look "cool". This at a post graduate level no less. When I started to tell her how little I think of that idea she told me she would only do it once every three or four weeks, and then asked me what right I have to try to dictate her lifestyle. Even once a month is too much for my taste and that is just opening the door for the addiction. I think it is a disgusting habit and it demonstrates an awful lack of self-respect. Just the smell of smoke makes me sick to my stomach. I've tried laying the facts out for her but she gets up in arms about her rights and her independence. The only other option I can think of is the "ultimatum". I cannot be with a smoker.
posted by mockdeep to Human Relations (82 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
 
how old are you guys?
posted by matteo at 11:18 AM on March 12, 2008


what right I have to try to dictate her lifestyle

None...

I cannot be with a smoker.

But you have every right to not be in a relationship with a smoker. It's a flat dealbreaker for me, and it sounds like it might be one for you.
posted by Miko at 11:18 AM on March 12, 2008


I could barely hide my disgust

So don't hide it. Let her know that you think smoking is gross, and when she smokes she smells and tastes gross. She has every right to smoke if she wants, but she has to realise that it affects you as well, and therefore she should think through the implications of her smoking.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 11:23 AM on March 12, 2008


How do I go about convincing her that there is nothing good about smoking (which is the way I see it)?

You can't. Assuming that she is not an idiot, and that she understands both the medical and social implications of smoking, she has conducted a cost/benefit analysis of smoking and determined that the things that she perceives as the pros outweigh the cons. Now, I agree with you that it is completely stupid to come out on the "yes, I want to smoke" side of that analysis. But she is either an intelligent person who has come out on the "yes, I'll smoke" side of the equation and will not be swayed or she is an idiot posing as an intelligent person, in which case you can't convince her anyway.

The fact that she is exercising her judgment in a way that you and I think is really, really stupid should be a bigger red flag than if she actually starts smoking. Even if you give her an ultimatum and she decides because of it not to smoke, she's still the idiot who conducted a full analysis and decided that smoking is a good idea, and that is going to eat you up inside every time you are tempted to think of what you don't like about her.

There are certainly people who will disagree with you and I about whether people who decide to smoke are complete idiots. That's their prerogative. But your question was not whether or how she could convince you that smoking is cool. It was whether you can convince her that it's not. You can't. No one can. She should find a nice person who doesn't think her thinking is horribly flawed and who isn't bothered by dating someone who makes really bad decisions.
posted by The World Famous at 11:23 AM on March 12, 2008 [1 favorite]


Miko has it exactly; you can't dictate her lifestyle. You can dictate that you won't remain in a relationship with a smoker.

Being in a relationship with an addict is a bad thing, whether that addiction is alcohol, gambling, smoking, WoW, or crack. Life's too short.
posted by Justinian at 11:23 AM on March 12, 2008 [1 favorite]


I agree that there's nothing good with smoking but I only came to that realization after having smoked for half of my life. People start smoking for a variety of reasons and mine was that I was really young and wanted to be cool, there was a sense of rebellion that made it a desirable thing to do. Had I realized that it would lead to addiction I would have just thought that was bullshit, and that I was only a social smoker. It did of course lead to addiction, but I managed to get over this after many, many failed attempts. Frankly if your gf wants to smoke and thinks that its cool (at a post graduate level this seems very immature -does she come from a sheltered background?) I don't think there's a whole lot you can do about it. Reading between the lines it seems like this might be cover for more issues in your relationship but, of course, I might be wrong.
posted by ob at 11:23 AM on March 12, 2008


Tell her that's how every addicted smoker gets addicted. Tell her that damaging her body to look cool is the sort of stupid thing you would have expected her to do when she was in high school, not grad school. Tell her that growing up might be a good option here. Tell her that it makes her stink and will ultimately send her skin down to Lohan-ville, and you don't want to come near her when she smells like that. Tell her that being the tobacco companies' bitch is a really, really awesome way to contribute to the economy. Tell her I said all this, and it took me nearly half my life to quit, and I began as a social smoker who was desperate to look cool as well (I was also fifteen at the time).

None of this is snark. I recommend you be this straight forward with her, and tell her what you said here: "I cannot be with a smoker." Then, when she spouts foolishness about you trying to control her and leaves, go find you a grown-up. Trust me, it'll be fine.
posted by middleclasstool at 11:24 AM on March 12, 2008 [1 favorite]


I tried to quit smoking several times before successfully quitting for good. A few of those attempts were at the request of a significant other, a few of those attempts were for my own good. Whenever I tried to stop because someone else wanted me to, not only was I unsuccessful, but I ended up resenting the person trying to pressure me into it.

Seconding Miko. She's going to do whatever she wants.
posted by TurkishGolds at 11:24 AM on March 12, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'd just add to the general consensus (which I agree with) that her attitude clearly says "I care more about smoking to look cool than I do about you and your concerns." You might want to take that into account.
posted by languagehat at 11:27 AM on March 12, 2008


I kind of had to roll my eyes at your part about "awful lack of self-respect", because I see a lack of respect for your girlfriend by seemingly planting the idea in her head that she's disgusting if she even thinks about smoking. If that's not what's going on, I'm sorry, but that's how your post makes it sound.

Have you ever thought that maybe there's a different issue here than the smoking? She's a post-grad trying to look "cool". Why? What about her isn't cool? Hell, I'm an undergrad and I certainly don't smoke to look "cool". You should probably try to find out what gives her that low self-esteem, because I think that's more the root of the problem. Does she have a difficult time making friends? Is she an introvert?

Keep in mind, if she hangs around smokers, she WILL smell like smoke, whether she actually had a cigarette or not. I've been to parties and bars where I don't touch a cigarette all night, but I still smell like it the next day; my hair and clothes and everything. Try to control the friends she has and see what happens.

Bottom line is she's an adult, and you're treating her like a child. You're never going to be able to "convince" her with facts and pictures of black lung and the like; you need to sit down with her, tell her you care about her, and ask her why she feels the need to start smoking to be on par with the "cool kids". Low self-esteem? Trouble at work? Stress? That's the problem here, not smoking.

To be completely honest, I do have the occasional smoke at a party. But, it's one or two every month or so. I've never, EVER had even the slightest feeling of addiction, never felt the pull toward smoking as a habit. I'm not saying your girlfriend will be the same way, but this is just a bit of anecdotal evidence for you.
posted by Verdandi at 11:29 AM on March 12, 2008 [10 favorites]


Hell, I'm an undergrad and I certainly don't smoke to look "cool".

...

To be completely honest, I do have the occasional smoke at a party.


There's a bit of dissonance here.
posted by middleclasstool at 11:33 AM on March 12, 2008


It is her right. Its yours to leave if you don't like it.
posted by Ironmouth at 11:33 AM on March 12, 2008


Well, break up with her then.
posted by unixrat at 11:33 AM on March 12, 2008


I cannot be with a smoker.

Then set an ultimatum, and follow through.

But be prepared to be single. People don't like ultimatums.
posted by chrisamiller at 11:33 AM on March 12, 2008


I'm pretty confident that you won't be able to convince her. So you can either learn to live with the smoking or learn to live without the girl.
posted by box at 11:34 AM on March 12, 2008 [1 favorite]


I was involved with someone long term who smoked. And knew I hated it. And pretty much only smoked when we were together. We went to bars a lot. I think it was really rude, and I should have just said see you later, but I didn't. It was always really confusing, but in the end I wasted 3 years with her. Not because of the smoking but because of stuff like it. Having a really close relationship and having her put distance between us with shit like that.

So I would say I think it's not really your business whether she does it or not. But it's kind of a warning sign for me, and now that she knows that you hate it and she keeps doing it, that's also kind of a warning sign for me. There's nothing you can do about it other than tell her how you feel and decide whether you want to be out of there or not.
posted by sully75 at 11:35 AM on March 12, 2008


I'd be wary of laying it out as an ultimatum; if that's the road you want to go down, either break up with her (because she's not taking your feelings into account) or stay with her (because having her companionship isn't worth the disgust you feel). If she refrains from smoking solely as a result of an ultimatum, there's a solid chance she may come to resent you for it, which may eventually lead to her sneaking off and smoking without telling you.
posted by Greg Nog at 11:35 AM on March 12, 2008


(middleclasstool, I think Verdani's saying he/she is smoking because they enjoy it, rather than to cultivate a certain appearance)
posted by Greg Nog at 11:37 AM on March 12, 2008


she is never going to quit just because you (or anyone else) asks. She has to want to quit on her own.

You need to make her aware of all the negatve side effects smoking can have: lung cancer, throat cancer, mouth cancer, nasal cavity cancer, bad breath, loss of taste, etc. That being said, people can be desensitized because we hear about "cancer" so often.

Perhaps "cancer" to her is some vague, unknown, catch-all disease that she has never had to face (i.e. by knowing someone who has it). We all hear about "cancer", but how many people understand what it is all about?

That being said, you risk sounding like a nag - not that it is a bad thing in this case - she needs to understand that you are concerned and that you are justified in your concerns. But your constant persistence might desensitize her further.

For what it's worth, I was one of those people who started smoking late (21 y.o.). I had always been obsessed with it and finally decided to try. I grew out of my phase a few years later, partly because of all the negativity associated with smoking. Hopefully it is just a phase with her too.

Finally, and many may disagree with me, if she is smoking only once a month, I wonder if you might be slightly over-reacting - - I am not saying that "social" smoking is harmless, or that your concerns are not justified, but it's not like she smells of cigarettes 24/7 and the house stinks of smoke either.
posted by bitteroldman at 11:38 AM on March 12, 2008 [1 favorite]


When in college I had a friend in a similar situation. His girlfriend started to smoke and despite his protestations, she would light up right in front of him. He finally stopped saying anything to her. Instead, he grabbed a pouch of chewing tobacco and every time she lit up, he loaded up a cheek with Mail Pouch. He's stand there next to her at a party spitting in a cup and every time she called it disgusting, he'd just point at her cigarette. She stopped soon after. They've now been married 26 years.
posted by lpsguy at 11:41 AM on March 12, 2008 [3 favorites]


She can do whatever she wants. It does seem a remarkably poor choice to make at her age, but it's hers to make. No one starts smoking with the expectation of becoming addicted. We all thought it would be something we did occasionally, or could quit whenever we wanted. Turns out not to be the case for the majority. I smoked for fifteen years because of it, and still dream about the things.

So yeah, she oughtn't be doing that. However, the way you phrase your question ... well, you sound pretty inflexible. She does have rights and independence, your opinions about how she should exercise them notwithstanding. If you really can't be with a smoker, then you need to find someone who's as militantly anti-smoking as you are. Your current girlfriend doesn't fit that profile.
posted by mumkin at 11:42 AM on March 12, 2008 [1 favorite]


Perhaps part of what she's getting out of smoking is rebellion against authoritarian forces in her life. Perhaps she sees you as one of them.

If so, then coming down all heavy and lecturing her about the Horrible Badness of Smoking may be the exact wrong way to go (assuming you want to stay with her and be happy rather than fight all the time and eventually break up).

It also sounds premature to jump to the ultimate ultimatum ("I cannot be with a smoker") before trying some less drastic forms of behavior modification.

I would have ONE clear and serious conversation with her about this, where you express sincere concern for her health (not just your negative judgments about smoking), as well as setting up some limits and consequences around her smoking (e.g. if you smell smoke on her, you're going to leave and not see her for a day or two).

And then I would let it go. Because ultimately, you are not the boss of her.
posted by ottereroticist at 11:43 AM on March 12, 2008 [2 favorites]


Her hair is going to smell like smoke if she's in a bar and not smoking. Do you show the same disgust then?
posted by pieoverdone at 11:43 AM on March 12, 2008


Also, as a 14 year smoker, no amount of SMOKING IS TEH BADZ nagging is going to make her quit.
posted by pieoverdone at 11:44 AM on March 12, 2008 [1 favorite]


(middleclasstool, I think Verdani's saying he/she is smoking because they enjoy it, rather than to cultivate a certain appearance)

That's what I used to tell myself too, when I was a social smoker. And it makes perfect sense, that you've trained your body to deal with the trauma of inhaling smoke without coughing and hacking, all with the intent of continuing to engage in this activity that makes you smell bad and damages your heart and lungs, and only in social situations, but it's not for appearances or "being one of the gang" or anything, it's because it's so inherently awesome.
posted by middleclasstool at 11:45 AM on March 12, 2008 [3 favorites]


From my perspective, it seems that she's the one who needs to break up with you. And this comes from someone who recently quit smoking, believes it's the best thing I've ever done, and would heartily encourage absolutely everyone in the world never to smoke because it's a filthy, disgusting, revolting addiction that'll kill you. But never would I put an ultimatum on someone I was dating, or judge them, or force them to behave in a way they didn't want to. Never mind the health of their lungs -- this is more about the health of your relationship. If you don't like what she does, break up with her.
posted by incessant at 11:45 AM on March 12, 2008 [4 favorites]


Clarification: "...as well as setting up some limits and consequences around your exposure to her smoking." Because that's ultimately all you get to control.
posted by ottereroticist at 11:45 AM on March 12, 2008


Because ultimately, you are not the boss of her.

These words are true. You are not the boss of her, which means that you have no right to stop her or forbid her from smoking. By the same token, she is not the boss of you, which means that she has no right to tell you that you have to be in a relationship with someone who, at her age and education level, is dumb enough to start smoking (regardless of her deep Freudian reasons for it).

Don't boss her. Don't let her boss you.

(Oh, and people who employ the "you're not the boss of me" argument in any civil discussion are not to be given further consideration as rational adults.)
posted by The World Famous at 11:47 AM on March 12, 2008 [1 favorite]


Just nthing what's been said here, but from experience I can tell you that giving her an ultimatum is like double dog daring her to break up with you. My partner and I's more epic fights have been on the issue of smoking. I smoked and he hated it. If you haven't been together very long and you seriously suspect that she's going to take this up regardless of what you think then you might be better off in the long run without her. Seriously, if you can't date a smoker, or at least be willing to go through the on and off again quitting roller-coaster then save yourself the grief and abandon ship.
posted by thankyoujohnnyfever at 11:51 AM on March 12, 2008


middleclasstool, at the risk of derailing this beyond the scope of the question, there are indeed people who smoke for the pleasure of it. You don't appear to be one of them, but they do exist.

I'm a little worried that the girlfriend at the focus of the question is being portrayed by mockdeep as smoking solely to attain social status, while part the reason she herself might give us is that she genuinely does enjoy it.
posted by Greg Nog at 11:51 AM on March 12, 2008 [1 favorite]


The point about the smell on her clothes is valid- are you going to tell her she can't hang out with smokers, even if she abstains herself? Go ahead and make your ultimatum if it bugs you that much, but don't lie to yourself, you are trying to control her.

I have known several of the "once a month" smokers. None of them ended up addicted with a pack-a-day habit. Still gross, sure, and it certainly is stupid to do it to look "cool" but don't make it out to be heroin.
posted by slow graffiti at 11:54 AM on March 12, 2008 [1 favorite]


She told me yesterday that she went out with the "cool kids" and only had a couple of puffs.

Watch out, she might get with a hep smoker and then you're going to be burned in more ways than one! Seriously though, tell her to have a look at this thread, or condense it for her. The simple answer is she doesn't have to smoke to hang out with the smoking pack, so she's probably using it as an excuse to deflect your lazerbeam focus on her behavior, which has obviously completely backfired and led to this series of inquisitions.

I would also agree that it's an entirely immature stance for her to take at this age and time in her life, which leads me to question its validity. Mainly because of reasons alluded to earlier, there is no requirement of smoke inhalation for hanging out with the smoking crew. Secondly, nobody who has "just a couple of puffs" for more than a handful of days around the smoking crew lasts long before they are in with their own pack of smokes and lighter in tow, so if this has been going on for a while you are probably getting jerked around.
posted by prostyle at 11:56 AM on March 12, 2008


Does anyone have that anecdote from a guy in a cigarette commercial many years ago? The rugged masculine role-model actor, in a break between shooting, lights up. He notices no-one else is smoking, and so offers a cigarette to a tobacco exec. "Oh no - we sell the stuff, we don't smoke it - smoking is for children and housewives!". Something like that.

Anyway, my point is the utter contempt with which she is held by the people selling her the smokes, that she is dumb enough, or addicted enough, to give them her money for their product. Making the joke even funnier, most of their customers hate the product, but keep giving them their money anyway! What kind of pathetic waste of humanity does that?!

I don't know about her, but when a complete asshole has the gall to think that I'm dirt, I try not to buy him/her a free Ferrari with money I had to work hard for.

But this may need to be in conjunction with something to take the place of smoking - something that addresses her desire to be cool, or whatever it is. Perhaps it's not the smoking, it's that smoking is the excuse people (who she wants to hang out with) use to go outside and hang out. In which case, she's not trying to look cool, she just needs a similar excuse to regularly get outside and hang. Maybe she genuinely thinks it looks cool, in which case maybe getting to see real people dragging on cigs in the real world, rather than a confirmation-bias blinkering that only notices it when it's not negative, might help.
Perhaps it's an excuse to break up. Whatever it is, it may be more productive to try to address what underlies the decision, rather than the decision itself.
posted by -harlequin- at 11:58 AM on March 12, 2008


While you can't control her, you can tell her how you feel. Smoking will (according to my experience), radically change her "flavor" for the worse. Having dated a woman who went from never smoking to full-time smoker, I can tell you that she will develop an acrid flavor*.

A "you smoke, no down-below-nookie-time" may be in order.


* I don't know if all people experience this. I was a heavy smoker during both times, so I don't have any particular bias, but I don't believe there's any established scientific proof, but there's a lot of anecdotal evidence.
posted by Cat Pie Hurts at 12:02 PM on March 12, 2008


Mockdeep: you've got a right not to date smokers, and she's got a right to smoke. So walk away. I sympathize—I wouldn't date a smoker either.

There's always a discrepancy between who the person really is, and the mental image of that person as perceived by others, even those very close to them. Sometimes this discrepancy is large, sometimes not so large. You've just discovered that there's a discrepancy between your mental image of your girlfriend and who she really is, and that's painful—you may feel a sense of betrayal, even apart from the smoking issue and all the problems that surround it. You want her to be the person you thought she is, not the person she (apparently) really is, and that's understandable, but ultimately fruitless. Try to reconcile yourself to who she really is.
posted by adamrice at 12:05 PM on March 12, 2008 [2 favorites]


I too, used to be a social smoker.The problem was that in times of great stress, it would become solitary smoking. I have had boyfriends who had a real problem with the smoking, who would try to argue me out of it, or give me ultimatums. I only stopped smoking when I really stopped to think about what smoking was doing to my body: reducing lung capacity, aging me very prematurely, making me smell bad, altering my sense of taste and smell, giving me sinus problems/allergy problems, costing a lot of money, and rendering my immune system less than effective--not to mention upping my chances for heart disease, cancer, high blood pressure, interacting badly with birth control, the list could go on forever about the negative side effects of cigarettes.

Sometimes with women (and some men), only the vanity card will work. Show her photos of older women who smoke vs. older women who don't. Talk to her about how you know it's hard to hang out with the "cool kids" without joining in on all their activities, (if they were doing cocaine, would she do that too?) but you would like to get to the real issue of why she feels that smoking is a fulfilling and valid option to being "cool". Obviously she is having some sort of 1/4 life crisis/hang-up about adulthood, and is more than a little immature if she feels the need to start smoking now.

And you can give the ultimatum, just be prepared to back it up with action
posted by nikksioux at 12:16 PM on March 12, 2008


Sure, smoking is a dirty habit to pick up, and sure she'd be healthier if she didn't do it. But if I had to pick between dating an occasional smoker and dating a control freak, I'd pick the occasional smoker. You have every right to say that dating a smoker is on your personal DO NOT WANT list and if she starts smoking you can break up with her. But you can't force someone else to think like you do, and it's wrong to even try.
posted by MsMolly at 12:20 PM on March 12, 2008 [4 favorites]


I never smoked until relatively late in life - almost thirty - and it's not even once a month for me, it's that every year or two I go through a phase where I smoke once or a few times a week for a while, usually after a passing visit to a good tobacco shop (surprisingly hard to find, for all that it's fashionable). Despite the fact that I don't mind smoking and do it myself I have had a couple of SO's who for some reason have felt intense shame about their own smoking and actually tried to hide it from me. I actually find a woman smoking a cigar kinda sexy, but that could be Freudian, and it's beside the point anyways.

The way you're talking about this - repeated use of the word "disgust", focusing on the notion that her primary motivation is just to look cool rather than out of enjoyment or socialization, and sort of taking surrogate shame for her by alleging lack of self-respect - makes it seem to me that it goes further than aesthetic distaste, that you actually have some kind of moral disgust over this. I have perceived a similar attitude in some people who feel that way about being overweight - a greater outrage and level of contempt than an opinion about another's health would seem to justify. I think you're very literally despising her smoking as a vice.

It's entirely your prerogative to have your own moral standards for other people or for an SO, of course. And there are very real health concerns. But I would point out that if it's actually that you have moral contempt for her, but you screen it by talking about health concerns and what's best for her, she'll probably pick up on the fact that you aren't being entirely straight.

I like lpsguy's suggestion; if you actually do want to maintain a relationship with her - if the fact that she could entertain smoking doesn't indicate that she's fundamentally incompatible with you - at least trying to make it look like you're driving at a compromise seems best. Some of the behavioral-modification-type suggestions other people have made seem manipulative to me, which not only isn't the healthiest thing in a relationship but which may prompt her to try to manipulate you when she wants something.
posted by XMLicious at 12:24 PM on March 12, 2008 [1 favorite]


Nthing the ultimatum.

Explain to her that although you love her, smoking to you is a deal breaker. Make the point that if she was a smoker when you first got together you wouldn't be a relationship now. And just like you have no right to dictate her lifestyle, she has no right to dictate yours. Your lifestyle choice is to be with a non smoker.
posted by cgg at 12:24 PM on March 12, 2008


Unless she's been living under a rock reading nothing but 50-year-old Lucky Strike advertisements, she is already fully aware that smoking is bad for her. Lectures will not help. They'll only piss her off.

Just tell her that smoking is a dealbreaker for you (and specify in what quantity) and leave it at that; if she smokes, the deal's broken.

Or just show her what you wrote here and let her make the decision for you. Yes, smoking is gross and unhealthy and a bad idea, and you have the right not to be involved with a smoker and you are right in that decision. But. I was once a smoker. Though I would have happily quit for someone I loved, if a boyfriend or potential boyfriend started laying on stuff like "I could barely hide my disgust"/"it demonstrates an awful lack of self-respect," I would have dumped him in favor of a carton of Marlboros. Smokers are actual people with feelings, not smoldering golems of ash and tar, and they do have some self-respect. Cigarettes hurt in a ton of ways, but they're not going to tell your girlfriend she's a disgusting loser. I'm not saying a partner's disapproval is more damaging than smoking -- far from it -- but it is a reason why some people will choose smoking over relationships.
posted by Metroid Baby at 12:26 PM on March 12, 2008 [4 favorites]


It's absolutely impossible to answer this question without knowing more about you, her, and your relationship. If this is someone you're in love with, and in a relatively long-term committed relationship with, an ultimatum is probably a bad idea, and the fact that you're considering it highlights some real communication problems that you guys need to deal with. If it's a more casual relationship; if you've only been dating for a little while, then wanting to communicate in ultimatums is more understandable. By I would urge you to avoid using the word "ultimatum" and to try to communicate more gently in person than you did in your post.
posted by mr_roboto at 12:39 PM on March 12, 2008 [1 favorite]


And yeah, like Metroid Baby says, you're probably not going to be able to "educate" her about anything that she doesn't know already. She knows it's bad for her; she wants to smoke socially and occasionally; she thinks (right or wrong) that she is capable of limiting her smoking to an occassional thing. The only things that you can tell her about that she doesn't know already are your own thoughts and feelings. So talk about those, and don't get pedantic with her. She'll most likely just feel insulted and get defensive.
posted by mr_roboto at 12:42 PM on March 12, 2008


Tell her that she will look 10 years older than she is within a couple years of starting.

Tell her that she won't be able to work out as much. That her tastebuds won't work after a while, so she'll end up putting too much salt on her food to taste it. Smoking + salt = heart disease and heart attacks early in life.

Tell her that she'll be spending almost $2,000 a year on cigarettes once she has a nice daily habit. That will most likely double within a few years due to the "sin taxes" that regularly get levied against products such as tobacco and alcohol.

Tell her that when she if and when she gets pregnant, she has a high risk of giving birth to a child with low birth weight and will not be able to nurse to lose the baby weight as quickly.

Tell her that she'll be unable to practice her "cool habit" in most restaurants, bars, within a hundred feet of her workplace, and probably nightclubs too, where the urge will be greatest (when she's drinking) within the next 10 years almost anywhere in the United States and increasingly more foreign countries.

Tell her the medical community regards tobacco to be more addictive than crack, heroin or cocaine.

Tell her that both of my parents smoked when I was a child and I was born small and sickly, and afflicted with bad asthma, which the doctors told both of my parents was a direct result of being exposed to second-hand smoke almost constantly (this made my father quit when I was 16 out of shame).

Tell her to read this:

When my grandmother was diagnosed with lung cancer, she was ornery, hale and had outlived two husbands. Six months later, she was on a breathing machine, gasping, confused, her eyes ridden with pain and begging me for help I could not give. When I came to visit her the next day, the doctor informed me that, after having lost nearly 40 pounds, she would never sit up or walk again (she went from 160 to 92 pounds within a year... the weight loss and constant lung infections is what led to the diagnosis in the first place). The spread was too virulent; her body was literally being eaten alive by the disease. A month later, I was holding her hand as she cried out, feebly, "Oh.... oh... oh...." in pain, slowly shaking her head back in forth, what little hair she had left plastered to her face. She flatlined. The hospice workers rushed in and pushed me back, defibrillating her. She came back for a second. "Nanny?" I said, crying. "Nanny, can you hear me? Does it hurt? Do you know it's me?" I yelled, frantic. It was the day after Christmas. For a minute, she shook her head... "no baby... no..." then she clawed at the respirator once and died.

I sat there in shock as the hospice nurses tried to usher me out of her room. I didn't want to let go. This was the woman who'd spent every weekend with me, who baked me apples after school, who was mean as hell and never let me get away with anything. Who'd buried two husbands, one of which died of a heart attack at 62 (smoker) and another who'd died of spinal cancer (again, a smoker. I was in the room when his spine snapped and I heard it... I remember him saying, "I can't feel my legs... what's wrong with my legs?").

She was dead and it was my job to call the family and tell them. It was the day after Christmas.

Now, ask her if she feels smoking is still cool or if she feels like she's above any of this happening to her.

Remind her why you don't want to be with a smoker; if none of this matters to her, break up with her.

Sorry if this offends anyone; I feel very strongly about smoking and would do almost anything to convince others to never start, because quitting smoking is harder than quitting most other drugs.
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 12:46 PM on March 12, 2008 [11 favorites]


I'm pretty sure that giving her a lecture about the dangers of smoking would just piss her off. If I were dating you, and you gave me this lecture, I'd think that you were treating me like an ignorant child. And then you'd tell me that I'm acting like an ignorant child, and then I'd call you an asshole, etc... It's playing right into her defensive instincts and looking for a fight.

She's not planning on becoming a smoker, anyway, so none of this matters to her.
posted by mr_roboto at 12:53 PM on March 12, 2008


frankly, some people are just social smokers. i was a social smoker throughout college and up until about 2 years ago. meaning i had a couple fags a week. i wasn't addicted because i could take it or leave it.

if you think it's gross, tell her so. tell her you don't want to kiss her after she's been smoking. she already knows smoking causes cancer and sallow skin and brittle hair. everyone knows that now. either break up with her or don't be a nag.
posted by misanthropicsarah at 12:53 PM on March 12, 2008


Some people smoke because it both tastes good and they like the secondary affect. To deny this is to harm your arguments against smoking. I used to love cigars and pipes, for example. But I gave it all up when it became clear to me that it was doing me a great deal of harm, and had the potential to do even more harm.

Now, when my boys talk about smoking I'm honest with them. Smoking tastes good and is often a lot of fun. But it's pretty dangerous, the dangers overmatch the pleasures in my estimation, and I hope that they can understand that.

Now, I suspect that, because I'm the dad, my warning is a pretty good reason to start smoking. They get so many anti-smoking messages from their teachers and mother that they probably won't smoke despite my warning.
posted by vilcxjo_BLANKA at 12:54 PM on March 12, 2008 [1 favorite]


My live-in inamorata smokes from time to time when she is stressed. I'm a former smoker, clean now for more than 20 years. I told her before she moved in, "I won't be nice about your smoking. I'll be a complete dick about it." And I have been. It smells lousy and it's a filthy habit. She knows exactly how I feel because I tell her. That said, I don't yell or scream at her when she goes out for a smoke (she never smokes inside). I haven't laid down the law, because we all know how that goes. If she smokes once in a while (it seems to be about two or three times a week) I guess it's okay but I reserve the right to continue to be a dick about it. I have also told her that my dad basically smoked himself to death. So it is something I feel pretty strongly about.

(We're not kids; I'm a year or so this side of 60, and she is a year or so that side of it. So being "cool" doesn't enter into it.)

Your lady, though, I dunno; she wants to look cool? That's just stupid, in my book. You might have to cut her loose.
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 12:55 PM on March 12, 2008 [1 favorite]


I vote for note laying it out as an ultimatum - if she capitulates, the fact that you put down a line and she gave in will always be with your relationship. If she doesn't capitulate, then it ends.

However, she needs to know how you feel, which is essentially an ultimatium. I think it's a very subtle point, and I'm not finding a decent way to express it. Essentially don't go up to her and say, "Look either you quit smoking, or I'm ending this." Instead, you need to have a discussion with her, and let her know that the subject of smoking is important enough to you that you won't date a smoker. If she continues to smoke, then stop seeing her.

But actually, that all might be a bit much. Seriously, as an adult she's starting to smoke? She's got issues beyond smoking. So instead it might be a choice between wanting to help find and work through these issues with her, or breaking up. And she might not want to do the former. And if she doesn't want to do the former, one might convince oneself that there's a "yet" in there. And there might be. But seriously, how long is life?
posted by nobeagle at 1:17 PM on March 12, 2008


A very, very small proportion of people go into smoking intending to become an addict. The majority of people who persist in casual smoking become daily smokers. The dangers of smoking are well known and exhaustively cataloged. The problem with anything you can tell any novice smoker about the dangers of smoking is, they believe they are irrelevant because they do not intend to become a consistent abuser. The problem with telling anyone that the statistics are against them with respect to smoking and not becoming addicted is that people just don't believe these sorts of statistics as they apply to themselves. Everybody thinks they are special.

So to echo many people, the answer to the question of "how do I keep my girlfriend from starting smoking?" is, you can't. You can decide what you'll put up with and how you'll react. I also agree that it sounds like defying you is a perk rather than a drawback of smoking for her. Set your own boundaries (don't want to kiss a smoke-fouled mouth? Don't. Draw the line at dating a regular smoker? Don't) and stick with them.

One more note: some people have basically zero susceptibility of becoming addicted to smoking because they happen to find everything about smoking repellent. It sounds like you are one of these people. It doesn't make you wise or smart or morally superiod, just lucky as regards one nasty habit. For a lot of people, smoking is a relatively cheap drug that is legal and pleasurable. Of course it is a terrible idea but people do all sorts of stupid things they ought to know better about. Your sort of moralistic high horse stance about "lack of self respect", along with the thing about "the cool kids" and so on makes me think there's more to this than just the issue of smoking. It sounds like there is a more fundamental culture clash going on between you and your girlfriend.
posted by nanojath at 1:21 PM on March 12, 2008 [1 favorite]


Give her the ultimatum. This is important to you and not something you will compromise on. Presenting her with that choice is a reasonable thing to do. This is no different from a thousand other conversations people have in their relationships. I've been essentially where you are before, though at a younger age. Here's a question for you: Do you really want to date someone stupid enough to start smoking, given all we know about it?
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 1:24 PM on March 12, 2008


I think the dude knows what he wants; what he's looking for is advice on how to talk to his girlfriend. Ultimatums in romantic relationships are generally a bad idea. How'd the ultimatum work out for you, Inspector?
posted by mr_roboto at 1:28 PM on March 12, 2008


To me, once a month-ish does not a smoker make. Yes, some people become addicted, but some of us don't. We also all know it is a hideous, disgusting habbit that could kill you. This is, however, true of many activities if done to excess

I used to participate in an activity where and a good 80% of the population could be found outside, freezing their tails off while smoking in tight little circles. A good portion of the faculty in my department smoke.

I haven't smoked a cigarette in about a year, but it was a useful thing to be able to smoke a cigarette with the right people in order to network and build relationships. Some of this information learned in the smoking circles was very helpful when navigating the office politics and pitfalls. This meant I would end up smoking maybe once or twice a month for a while. Is this perhaps what she is doing? (By the way, did she really say "the cool kids?" Somehow I doubt this...)

Lots of dishing goes down when people go out to smoke and because it is kind of a taboo activity, there is a bond that is formed, you become part of the "in-group." As such, you are privy to information that you might not be otherwise. I was also, at all times, monitoring how I felt while smoking, how I felt immediately after and how my perceptions were shifting about smoking. So, it wasn't as though it was something I was doing lightly and without thought. I knew what I was doing and was ready, at any point, to stop.

I was also dating a guy during this time that said he could not date a smoker. We happened to have different definitions of what being a smoker was, I thought smoking a cigarette every month or two was not an issue, he did (I should also mention that it never affected him, if I had smoked, I wouldn't be around him until the next day). I cannot tell you how patronizing and self-righteous I found his speeches to be. You don't have to tell her it is bad for her. She knows this. And if she is making this choice with her eyes open, then there doesn't seem to be much you can do.

I only say all that to make the point that not everybody who ever smokes a cigarette becomes a raging addict.

However, everyone else is right. You can't control, or attempt to control what she does, you can only chose if you want to be in a relationship with those behaviors.
posted by Bibliogeek at 1:38 PM on March 12, 2008 [2 favorites]


I don't think it is unreasonable to consider someone who has a smoke every once in a while - even once every few months - to be a smoker.

If they went swimming once every few months, we wouldn't consider them a non-swimmer.
posted by The World Famous at 1:41 PM on March 12, 2008 [2 favorites]


Most academics don't smoke and look askance at those who do (in my experience).

I don't know what her career direction is, but maybe you could say, that the cool factor will not last beyond that group of friends. I started smoking because of a cool group. I drifted away from them after a couple of years, but then it took about twenty years to successfully quit smoking. In that time, the pores on my face enlarged, and exercise became intolerable because of the lack of lung function. Someone said to me, you don't want to smoke, and I told them with all the arrogance of a 17 year old, I can stop anytime I want.

Maybe you can tell her that I said that.
posted by b33j at 1:44 PM on March 12, 2008


I'm with the JDTMFA (or whatever the acronym is) crowd. But then, I'm a "smoking is a deal-breaker" kind of guy. And single. And, yes, if I hooked up with a girl I thought was awesomely hot, and found out she smoked, I'd give the ultimatum, and walk, if need be.

You can't change her, but you can decide who you want to be with, and what you want to do. Good luck!
posted by ObscureReferenceMan at 1:48 PM on March 12, 2008


Ok, I was your girlfriend for like 7 years.

Mrs. Bartfast met me and married me knowing full well I was a pack a day smoker. She never expressed approval but it was only *after* we were married that I received The Ultimatum. Let me tell you, this is not the kind of thing you want to introduce as an ongoing issue in your relationship, *after* she is a confirmed, hopelessly addicted Smoker. If it's a deal-breaker, let her know, and if the smoking continues, follow through.

You are not going to be able to nag her into stopping smoking. You are not going to be able to reason her into not smoking. You are not going to be able to scare her into not smoking. She either loves you enough to stop smoking, or you love her enough to put up with it, or the relationship ends. You do not want to live with the misery of her chemical addiction making you constantly unhappy.

BTW, I loved Mrs. Bartfast enough.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 1:50 PM on March 12, 2008 [1 favorite]


I only say all that to make the point that not everybody who ever smokes a cigarette becomes a raging addict.

This is absolutely true, and as an ex-smoker I hate these people with a passion. Even though it's been years since I had a fag I know that I cannot smoke one ever or I will go back to being a smoker. It's a small price to pay, and, in some ways it makes things easier now that I know this, but it is really annoying when people can smoke a cigarette every so often and not get addicted. These people aren't real smokers, and I'm very jealous of their ability to take it or leave it. If I were you I wouldn't see every month as an issue at all as long as it stayed that way. Still, as I and many others have said, this whole thing points to more than just your dislike of smoking, you did after all say that it demonstrates an awful lack of self-respect which sounds like a load of bollocks to me...
posted by ob at 1:50 PM on March 12, 2008 [1 favorite]


If you can honestly look her in the eyes, and say "I love you very much, and smoking will damage your health and probably kill you in an unpleasant way. Please don't smoke because I want you to be healthy" then I think that's all you can really do.

My Mom died recently of COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) caused by smoking. Her 6 kids all told her we loved her and tried to help her stop smoking, but she loved smoking, and it killed her.
posted by theora55 at 2:30 PM on March 12, 2008


I smoke. I'm not here to debate whether it's a good or bad idea, but from a smokers point-of-view, if I was threatened to be kicked out of a relationship, I would have stopped a while ago.

It's an addiction. It's incredibly hard to break. And it's easier if you can prevent it before she starts smoking a pack a day.

Volunteering at a hospital, the doctors were going to help me by showing me COPD patients. I hope it works :(.
posted by Schuby at 2:45 PM on March 12, 2008


Wow! Thanks for all of the great responses. If I could believe that she would only be smoking once a month I wouldn't mind. I have been around smokers all my life, though, and have seen little evidence to support the claim that it is a habit you can control. My mother has smoked all my life--she has been telling me for twenty years that she is cutting back. When I was young I had a chain-smoking hag for a baby-sitter. I was diagnosed with asthma as a child, but when I got away from there and out of my mother's house my health dramatically improved. I was able to run a mile for the first time in my life. I have had numerous friends and acquaintances who say they are quitting and never do. I have a co-worker who claims to be only a social smoker, but then I run into her out on the loading dock by her lonesome when I'm taking out my trash. In my mind there is no middle ground, either you are a smoker or you aren't.

There are very few people left out there, smokers or not, who would contend that smoking is a good thing. There is some gray area with things like drinking, WoW, polygamy or even marijuana, but smoking tobacco in any amount is out-and-out, unequivocally bad for you and the people around you. Anyone who argues against that is knowingly standing on thin ice. I suppose that is why this in particular is such an issue for me.

But back on topic, I love my girlfriend dearly and (thank god) I don't believe she will become a smoker. She is much smarter than I think I made her out to be in my first post. But I think it is appropriate to say that one needn't smoke to hang out with smokers, I do, nor necessarily to hang out with them when they are smoking. I have no intention of being a nazi about the issue of hanging out with smokers, though I would perhaps draw the line if she started coming home smelling like smoke too often. The sense of smell is, after all, central to attraction.
posted by mockdeep at 2:55 PM on March 12, 2008


I have no intention of being a nazi about the issue of hanging out with smokers, though I would perhaps draw the line if she started coming home smelling like smoke too often.

Again, even if she is not smoking, even if anyone else she is with is not smoking, bars smell like smoke. Everyone smells like smoke when they go to a bar (unless you live in a state with the non indoor smoking laws). How often is too often and how far are you going with this to restrict her social activities?
posted by pieoverdone at 3:03 PM on March 12, 2008


Bars here in Chicago don't smell like smoke. It's illegal to smoke in bars or any public building. But at any rate, neither one of us likes to spend a whole lot of time in bars anyway.
posted by mockdeep at 3:06 PM on March 12, 2008


the question isn't how much you can dictate her lifestyle. you can't. she'll smoke, or not, as is her choice.

the question is how often she can smoke before it's worth calling off the relationship. let her know what that is so at least she walks into her decision with open eyes.

be prepared to break up. if she's as insecure as she sounds, you may never win this.
posted by thinkingwoman at 3:45 PM on March 12, 2008


Have you considered the possibility that maybe she's making a show of being a social smoker, in order to "give up" again for you? Or isn't she that cynical?
posted by UbuRoivas at 4:50 PM on March 12, 2008


There are very few people left out there, smokers or not, who would contend that smoking is a good thing...smoking tobacco in any amount is out-and-out, unequivocally bad for you and the people around you.

Healthwise, yes, but I'm going to add one thing. And please be clear that I don't speak to stand up for smoking, but to help nonsmokers understand what is sometimes behind it.

I was a pack-and-a-half-a-day smoker for fifteen years before quitting 5 1/2 years ago. I started as a casual, "social" smoker too (though there are certainly people who do that and do not progress to addiction, even if they're rare). I tried to quit about 7 times before succeeding, which is about average. One of the things that finally helped me quit was to recognize that, despite the truthfulness of the negative information about smoking out there, it does create some positive benefits for the smoker aside from merely satisfying an addiction. Nicotine is a really adaptable drug that seems to encourage neutral states and an even-keeledness in people. For instance, if you're anxious, smoking is calming. If you're sluggish, smoking may increase your alertness. If you're moody, smoking will lessen the intensity of the mood, and if you're bored, smoking may improve your outlook for a while. People become addicted to smoking not only because it's just highly chemically addictive, but because they derive some very real psychological/emotional benefits from it. One key to quitting successfully is developing new ways to achieve the same outcomes - new things to do if you're bored, new ways of calming yourself if you're anxious.

I just want to say this because deep down, the desire to be a less anxious person is laudable. The desire to not have mood highs and lows is laudable. The desire to relax in a crowd and fit in with the crowd's norms is (basically) laudable, or at least understandable. The desire to break out of a goody-goody impression and experiment with new elements of indentity is also understandable.

The mechanism of smoking is a terrible way to achieve those goals. But it is effective. Smoking does have real, noticeable benefits to the smoker at the same time that it has disastrous physical effects. So extending some understanding to a smoker about what they are really trying to get when they smoke will help them to put the habit in context and help you see it as something a bit more complex than wanting to have a gross, damaging addiction. Which no one really does - it just comes with the territory.
posted by Miko at 6:37 AM on March 13, 2008 [7 favorites]


Miko, I think your statements need a little bit of qualification. In particular, the "benefits" you list are only true if you are already addicted to nicotine. The negatives feelings--sluggishness, moodiness, anxiousness--are prime examples of the withdrawal pangs smokers feel when they have been too long without a drag. You light up and you feel better. Boredom on the other hand is something everybody feels. When I'm sitting in a bar and the conversation dies down, I spin my beer bottle or peel of the label. Smoking can hardly be considered a solution to the problem. The real solution is not to spend so much time in bars or other situations in which you feel the need to do something so that you don't feel so idle.

I've come to terms with the fact that I will never be considered an authority on the subject of smoking, owing to the fact that I cannot and never intend to be able to speak from experience on nicotine addiction. However I have read a lot about it, and one great account from experience was written by Allen Carr in his book "The Easy Way to Stop Smoking". I have three friends who were long term chain smokers with numerous failed attempts at quitting under their belt. They all read it and they haven't smoked again in over a year.
posted by mockdeep at 11:39 AM on March 13, 2008


mockdeep, what you just said there is not true. The emotional / psychological benefits Miko mentions - calming effect, increased alertness and improvement of mood, reduction of moodiness - are present immediately. You don't have to be addicted to get those effects - just like with caffeine for example or any other drug.
posted by XMLicious at 11:46 AM on March 13, 2008


Mockdeep, yes, you're wrong about this. Those things are effects of nicotine and are immediate - they don't require addiction. Believe me, I have finely diced the details of nicotine addiction, and I know the difference between the habitual behaviors and the chemical effects, and the things I'm describing are chemical effects.
posted by Miko at 12:14 PM on March 13, 2008


Can you cite any research for you claim? All that I've read suggests that smoking only relieves the withdrawal symptoms from the previous dose. I don't know of anyone who said that their first cigarette enhanced their focus and stabilized their mood. Most people just say they coughed a lot and a few got sick.
posted by mockdeep at 12:20 PM on March 13, 2008


Just think about what you're saying there. Are you seriously suggesting that recreational drugs do not create any sort of a positive experience unless one is addicted to them?

Like I said above, I only smoke a few times a year. Believe me, you can get a nicotine buzz without being addicted.
posted by XMLicious at 12:56 PM on March 13, 2008


How Nicotine Works - Effects of Nicotine

Wikipedia
: Nicotine's mood-altering effects are different by report. First causing a release of glucose from the liver and epinephrine (adrenaline) from the adrenal medulla, it causes stimulation. Users report feelings of relaxation, calmness, and alertness. It is even reported to produce a mildly euphoric state. By reducing the appetite and raising the metabolism, some smokers may lose weight as a consequence. It also allows the mouth to be stimulated without food, and the taste of tobacco smoke may curb the appetite.[citation needed]

When a cigarette is smoked, nicotine-rich blood passes from the lungs to the brain within seven seconds and immediately stimulates the release of many chemical messengers including acetylcholine, norepinephrine, epinephrine, vasopressin, arginine, dopamine, and beta-endorphin. This results in enhanced pleasure, decreased anxiety, and a state of alert relaxation. Nicotine enhances concentration and learning due to the increase of acetylcholine. It also enhances alertness due to the increases of acetylcholine and norepinephrine. Arousal is increased by the increase of norepinephrine. Pain is reduced by the increases of acetylcholine and beta-endorphin. Anxiety is reduced by the increase of beta-endorphin. The effects of nicotine last from five minutes to two hours....

Research[6] suggests that, when smokers wish to achieve a stimulating effect, they take short quick puffs, which produce a low level of blood nicotine. This stimulates nerve transmission. When they wish to relax, they take deep puffs, which produce a high level of blood nicotine, which depresses the passage of nerve impulses, producing a mild sedative effect. At low doses, Nicotine potently enhances the actions of norepinephrine and dopamine in the brain, causing a drug effect typical of those of psychostimulants. At higher doses, nicotine enhances the effect of serotonin and opiate activity, producing a calming, pain-killing effect. Nicotine is unique in comparison to most drugs, as its profile changes from stimulant to sedative/pain killer in increasing dosages and use.
Today several studies show that nicotine, which can act as either a stimulant or depressant depending on dose and history of use, launches a number of surprisingly different brain mechanisms. And some are beneficial. Nicotine can exert dramatically different actions depending on the location and type of receptor it sticks to.
Nicotine's Good Side: Nicotine's beneficial effects are partly attributed to how it mimics an important neurotransmitter. Quickly distributed through the bloodstream, nicotine can cross the blood-brain barrier in seconds. In the brain, it impersonates the neurotransmitter acetylcholine and binds with a subtype of acetylcholine receptorcalled the nicotinic receptor. Nicotinic receptors control the release of other neurotransmitters that have an influence on emotion and cognition.One of nicotine's proven beneficial effects is enhancing cognitive performance....Findings...suggest that nicotine helps to focus attention by shifting resources from less-used parts of the brain to parts required for task performance.But enhancing cognitive performance isn't all that nicotine is good for.

Evidence also suggests that by affecting neurotransmitters, nicotine can treat a number of brain disorders.Among schizophrenics, for example, the prevalence of smoking is about three times as high as in the general population -- about 70 to 90 per cent of schizophrenics are smokers, compared with 25 per cent of non-schizophrenics. Studies have also found that schizophrenics have fewer nicotinic receptors in thehippocampus.

All of this suggests that by smoking they are unconsciously self-medicating.
Note, the effects outlined above are present whether or not a smoker is addicted.

Things grow quickly complicated, of course, because nicotine acts closely with the brain's "reward system" which releases pleasant brain chemicals whenever things like an urge to eat when you're hungry or drink when you're thirsty are obeyed. This reward results in more smoking. And over time, your brain actually changes - develops more receptors for nicotine and the brain chemicals it releases. This is the feedback loop that results in addiction and, if you quit, withdrawal.

I would never suggest that nicotine's benefical effects would ever be worth starting to smoke. But people who do start to smoke find that they are noticeable. The effects come first, addiction to the effects comes later as the brain adapts.

Understanding these concepts was a key factor in my ability to quit smoking. Carr advances the idea that all the benefits of nicotine are the result of addiction; but recent science shows that he was not completely correct. Once the addiction is established, it becomes very true that withdrawal causes symptoms of distress; but that doesn't mean that nicotine has never had positive effects independent of addiction. In fact, it has so many that scientists are working hard today to create a non-addictive analogue that can mimic the improvements nicotine has been shown to create in people with Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, and depression. When people who are somewhat anxious, as I was, who stumble upon smoking at a ripe age find that its calming effect is immediate, even before addiction has set in.

As to Allen Carr's Magic Book, I read it in about 2000 in one afternoon, had a few 'hmmm' moments, and continued to smoke despite its mystical powers for another two years. This study of his seminar - identical in content to the book - suggests that his method is not particularly more successful over the long term than any other quit method. Every smoker's addiction is different because every person is different. Patches, gum, and medications work for some. Programs, seminars, and hypnosis work for others. Cold turkey and rubber bands work for still others. Most addicted smokers try to quit between six and ten times, on average, before achieving a long-term quit. In many cases, they use a different method each time. Each attempt to quit teaches you more about your addiction, your smoking habits, and which methods do and don't work for you. There is not a single easy answer in a single book; if there were, he'd have been even more successful before he died of lung cancer, and there would be no smokers who wanted to quit and couldn't.

I really do think you think you know more about this than you do. I respect your experience with smoking, and I still think you have every right to not be in a relationship with a smoker, but it's true that you don't understand the complexity of the smoking behavior very well. Your ideas about it are somewhat extreme, and you're not coming across in a particularly sympathetic way. I can see why this might be a sensitive point between you and your girlfriend.
posted by Miko at 12:59 PM on March 13, 2008 [3 favorites]


I don't know of anyone who said that their first cigarette enhanced their focus and stabilized their mood.

My first cigarette enhanced my focus. I was seventeen. I drew in the smoke, and it was like the angels singing. A bit of lightheadedness, a quickening of my perceptions, and a glorious aroma drifting down into my lungs. There was no transitional period. I loved it, I loved it. It was wonderful. It was, as someone mentioned saracastically earlier in the thread, "inherently awesome".

Incidentally, I wasn't smoking to look cool or fit in or be accepted; I tried my first cigarette because I was curious about its effect on my mind and body.

It's over a decade later, and I don't really consider myself a "smoker". I tend to smoke a whole lot when I'm drinking at bars, whether with friends or by myself. If I'm drinking at home, I don't smoke. When I'm sober, I don't smoke at all. When I'm around a bunch of smokers who are all lighting up, I don't smoke. People experience this chemical and its effects differently.

On preview: Wow, look at Miko go!
posted by Greg Nog at 1:04 PM on March 13, 2008


Hey, I had a wicked hard time quitting. I read everything under the sun.
posted by Miko at 1:14 PM on March 13, 2008


I stand corrected. Miko, you have humbled me. I guess I'll have to revise my argument.
posted by mockdeep at 1:22 PM on March 13, 2008


As such, I suppose that the effects of nicotine make the risk of addiction all the more significant and all the better reason to avoid smoking in the first place.
posted by mockdeep at 1:25 PM on March 13, 2008


Yeah, I'm not trying to be snotty. Just suggesting that the decision to pick up your first cigarettes is complex, and you might get farther with the "I understand that this might be attractive and feel kind of good and seem like fun right now, but..." approach. In the end you can't control anyone, but starting from sympathy rather than condemnation might help. Good luck with the whole thing.
posted by Miko at 1:26 PM on March 13, 2008


I suppose that the effects of nicotine make the risk of addiction all the more significant

Yeah, well, that's how they get you.

I'd like that $18,000 back from Philip Morris, but I'm not holding my breath.
posted by Miko at 1:27 PM on March 13, 2008


“Like any good arms dealer or crack dealer knows, if you can sell both the problem and the solution to the problem you've got it made.”
posted by XMLicious at 1:35 PM on March 13, 2008


She wants to end the relationship, that is why she is doing this.
posted by LarryC at 8:07 AM on March 15, 2008


Just saw this and thought of your question
Smoking Can't Buy Happiness
Smokers tend to be less happy than nonsmokers, and the effect is heighened the lower their economic status. Karen Hopkin reports.

For someone who smokes, there’s nothing like that first nicotine rush of the day. But though taking a puff may bring smokers pleasure, it doesn’t make them happy. Or so say scientists at the Peninsula Medical School in the UK. The scientists assessed the wellbeing of nearly 10,000 people age 50 or over who signed up for something called the English Longitudinal Study of Aging. They found that the smokers in that group reported lower average levels of pleasure and less satisfaction with their lives than the non-smokers. And for smokers in the lower socioeconomic groups, the situation was even more grim.

According to Iain Lang, the lead researcher on the team, smokers may feel pleasure when they light up. But that’s because they’re feeding their addiction. Overall, they’re not any happier than nonsmokers. In fact, they’re less so. Maybe because cigarettes cost, at least here in the US, like seven bucks a pack. So, next time you see one of those cigarette ads filled with beautiful young people having the time of their lives, remember, those people are models. They’re getting paid buckets of money to look like they’re having fun. A nice big bucket of cash would probably make you happy, too.
posted by theora55 at 8:09 AM on March 20, 2008


But that’s because they’re feeding their addiction. Overall, they’re not any happier than nonsmokers.

I totally agree, but I think they might also start out unhappier, which makes them more responsive to that initial psychological lift of nicotine, which then starts that need/satisfaction cycle of addiction.
posted by Miko at 8:27 AM on March 20, 2008


I'd like that $18,000 back from Philip Morris, but I'm not holding my breath.

Look at it this way: at least you can, now.
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 1:45 PM on May 5, 2008


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