Tobacco was discovered by Christopher Columbus along with the Americas in 1492. He saw the natives there smoking these products and added this to his journal. Since then I am sure tobacco has contributed to billions of death and will continue to cause billions more in the coming centuries. So, what causes this deadly poison to persist and cause the world and any individual so much suffering and pain in terms of health, economy and social ties in spite of the knowledge of the harm it causes?
I’m sure we have listened to the song “Imagine” by John Lennon in which he portrays a picture of a world so ideal. People today have not made much use of the insightful words provided through it and the picture still only exists in our imaginations. We live in a not so perfect society after all.
Regarding the habit of using tobacco as smoke or in any smokeless form, of course the individual who chooses to start the habit is to blame firstly. But a bigger culprit is the commercial bodies which have made it so readily available and the political institutions who have submitted to the power that the capitalistic institutions bring to them. It definitely is the lack of will of the leaders and policy makers in trying to curb this habit from their roots. When you know that something is causing millions of death every year and even more health problems, common sense says it should be stopped right away at any cost. The scenario with tobacco could be compared with that of the use of firearms and the nuclear arsenal that the world is so scared of but still continue to produce and test.
In a world of globalization and research, I have to concede that speaking or writing is much easier than putting it into action. I just hope that the truth and fact prevails over the greedy and the filthy.
Now getting to the point, the chemical in tobacco that causes addiction is “Nicotine”. It is an addictive drug and the nicotine delivered through tobacco is the most addictive and harmful form of it. The mechanism through which this causes addiction is very similar to that caused by cocaine and heroine. This addictive potential and the consequent harm it causes to the body could categorize cigarettes and other products into the category of DRUGS. Of course, the tobacco industry would have a different say about this.
The nicotine acts on the brain to cause this addiction by stimulating various paths in brain and affecting the functions like behavior, mood and actions. It acts on the nicotine receptors of the brain and also induces increase of the number of these receptors by regular use. As the functionality is changed the brain slowly starts to demand nicotine or the normal functioning is not possible and this is what causes the cravings and other symptoms when you stop smoking or using other products. So, even if a person wants to stop smoking his body tends to want it.
The biochemical as well as psychological processes for addiction and dependence are many and of less relevance when it comes to really quitting the habit. First and foremost is the will of the policy maker, the so called leaders to know what is right for the public and institute measures so that no one starts to smoke or use chewing tobacco in the first place.
For the ones who smoke, the will of any person is far stronger than the microscopic receptors in the brain which will definitely readjust in no time at all. Apart from the will, the other factors that tend to trigger a relapse are stress, repeated exposure to other smokers, advertisements, marketing and of course the nicotine.
So, in order to quit you firstly need a strong will, then the support of the ones besides you and also if available, professional help in terms of replacing the nicotine or other pharmacologic modalities as required.