I’m working late tonight, on deadline for the (later) morning, in fact, but just had to pause to chuckle and post about a new smoking cessation drug called Chantix for which I’ve recently seen numerous TV commercials, including one just a few minutes ago.
I know I’m essentially talking to myself and about 25 other people (the rest is done with mirrors) when I say that I’m a smoker and have been for 43 years. I tried stopping once, about 15 years ago, when I was completely misdiagnosed as having had a minor heart attack. I lasted through five of the most miserable months of my life, gained 40 lbs., then threw in the towel (or, in this case, the nicotine patch).
The purpose of this post is to let non-smokers know that addiction to nicotine, although a genuine addiction, is NOT the reason that keeps most smokers smoking. As smokers can tell you (and former smokers will occasionally admit), we don’t smoke because we think it’s cool, nor do we not believe that there may be health risks. We smoke because smoking is comforting. It relieves stress. It acts as a true companion for the lonely. It becomes a mechanism for measuring time and structuring routine. For longtime smokers, cigarettes are a constant, one that endures through life’s inevitable losses, disappointments, even disasters. For these reasons, focusing on nicotine addiction in smoking cessation efforts misses the point – completely – which is why so many smokers fail at quitting or return to smoking after quitting for a while.
Whether you click on the Chantix homepage linked above or go directly to the site of its manufacturer, Pfizer, Inc., you’ll note that, as is increasingly the case with “approved” medications, the cure is just as dangerous as the disease (if not more so). The numerous side effects, in Pfizer’s own words, include:
[C]hanges in behavior, hostility, agitation, depressed mood, suicidal thoughts or actions…If you, your family, or caregiver notice agitation, hostility, depression, or changes in behavior, thinking, or mood that are not typical for you, or you develop suicidal thoughts or actions, anxiety, panic, aggression, anger, mania, abnormal sensations, hallucinations, paranoia, or confusion, stop taking Chantix and call your doctor right away…Also tell your doctor about any history of depression or other mental health problems before taking Chantix, as these symptoms may worsen while taking Chantix. Some people can have serious skin reactions while taking Chantix, some of which can become life-threatening…allergic reactions to Chantix, some of which can be life-threatening…a rash with peeling skin or blisters in your mouth… nausea (30%), sleep problems, constipation, gas, and/or vomiting…You may have trouble sleeping, vivid, unusual, or strange dreams while taking Chantix…
I’m fully aware that the American public has been convinced that smoking, along with obesity, are the roots of all health evils, and if we all just stopped smoking and lost weight, we’d all live to be 100, health care would cost $1.25, and almost no one would get sick from anything (except from those of us who are still fat and/or smoking, because just standing near us is dangerous to your health). But it’s just not true.
I’ve written extensively (with documentation) about both these issues on my personal blog, MizB Views From the Tower, which I invite you to check out if you’re at all interested in considering an alternate point of view (just click on “Smoking” and “Fat Acceptance” in my sidebar Labels list). But I don’t expect to make any converts. I concede that, right or wrong, I’m completely outnumbered, and not just in the USA, but around the world, too.
It is both ironic and important to note that many of the side effects attributed to Chantix (and other drugs of its type) are feelings and conditions that smokers already have, and which smoking helps alleviate! During the five months I wasn’t smoking, I continually wished I were dead. I’ve made a choice: I’d rather have a shorter, happier life than a longer, miserable one.
PLEASE don’t bother to comment about how a loved one in your life died of lung cancer, that smokers smell funky, that second-hand smoke is a social danger, or that despite any scientific evidence to the contrary you totally believe the Party Line. I’ve heard it all before and there’s nothing you can say that will change my mind – just as there is nothing I’ve written here that will change anybody else’s mind. The lines are clearly drawn and we all know where we stand. But my viewpoint is rarely if ever heard, so I just wanted to offer this scream into the blogonight.