Sunday, 1 June 2008


This post starts the way many recent others have:
A recent article in Scientific American discussed addictions, mainly the one with nicotine. The article offers an interesting yet highly contestable theory to explain what it is that we get ourselves addicted to with nicotine and what happens when we quit and the withdrawal symptoms kick in. Very interesting yet very much open to debate.
Certain observations reported in the article are not as open to debate, simply because they have been repeatedly observed: it seems as though our nervous system gets rewired pretty quickly in response to nicotine, much quicker than anyone imagined. It doesn't take months of years of smoking packs of cigarettes to become hooked; it seems as though it takes between two to four cigarettes for the nervous systems and the brain to become addicted enough so the would be smoker already has withdrawal symptoms. That's all it takes for new constructions in the brain to identify themselves to modern lab equipment, for a start.
Scary, isn't it?
I find this scares me the most from my new vantage point of a parent. What hope do we, parents, have here when it comes to raising healthy kids? Show me a child that will never try a cigarette and I'll show you a tale of fantasy. None of us has much of a hope in the face of the advertising monster that is the cigarette industry when it comes to stopping our children from trying them out, yet all it takes is for them to try them just a few times and they will always yearn for them, to one extent or another.
It's a losing game, one of many, and it clearly demonstrates how impossible it is to be a truly great parent. The odds are against us from the start.


Uri E. said...

They only let me read the first couple of paragraphs, and those didn’t look too convincing, so I’ll have to take your work for it.

But remember two things:

1. There are lots of bad things out there. I don’t think cigarettes are the worst ones. (ok, that’s not exactly comforting)
2. From a random sampling of three teenagers in our class (let’s call them M, U & H), all three smoked much more than a couple of cigarettes in their life, and yet none is smoking today. So with all due respect to that 14-year-old, anecdotal evidence doesn’t really mean anything.

Moshe Reuveni said...

Comment #1:
I agree. There's alcohol and there are illegal drugs and there's reckless driving and plenty more.
I still think that cigs are among the worst (I'm sure Dylan would teach me better), certainly worse than the softer illegal drugs.
My point was that whatever you do, you can never prevent your child from getting screwed one way or another. You can never be the perfect parent.
It's funny because now we're being told "don't do this", "don't do that", because of some elusive chance of a minor effect on the baby. For example, we were told off for sitting Dylan up in one of the photos when he wasn't able to sit up on his own. Does that really matter compared to smoking? People are pretty blind with the way they view the world around them.

Comment #2:
As far as I recall, agent H might have smoked a couple but never really inhaled. As someone who did inhale I can tell you that I always liked smoking; the only thing that prevents me from smoking is that despite the pleasures involved, you can clearly feel how it blocks your lungs and it's just not worth it.
I enjoy smoking (or at least I've enjoyed the few that I've had). What I don't like, by the way, is to stand next to someone else who smokes. The really sad thing is that some times I feel like I crave a smoke, which is exactly the parameter by which the article determines whether you're addicted. Sure, it's not the most overpowering feeling ever and I easily overcome it, but it's there. It is because this feeling is there that this article touched me enough to blog about it.

Moshe Reuveni said...

If I were you, I would be careful before dismissing the evidence presented by the article as "anecdotal". Articles published by Scientific American go through peer reviews and such, so claims along those lines as yours should come with something to support them rather than having them made off-hand.
Not that Scientific American doesn't publish bullshit. The most famous case I am aware of was when they joined the conspiracy bandwagon on "who was the real Shakespeare" epidemic, publishing a rather pathetic article that would have been better suited to The Sun.