If I stop smoking, will I live longer?

Maybe yes, maybe no. Smoking is an indication of personality and peace of mind. If you stop, you may stress yourself to death in record time.

It is not easy to quit. Giving up a part of your life, your familiar routine and – yes, the pleasure: a cigarette with coffee, a cigarette after dinner, one during a break, a couple in the traffic jam, a few at a party, some when you're nervous, and some when you are calm, and when you're happy… It hurts to give it all up. You understand – smoking is unhealthy. And so is red meat, sweets, sodas, excessive sex, - everything that feels good ends up being unhealthy. And sinful. So the government is trying to fight the harmful indulgence with "sin taxes" that may soon be imposed on fat and sugar. As for tobacco – for decades the outrageous increase in cigarettes taxes and prices is successfully encouraging quitters. But what if some smoke-addicts fail to stop, even if they can’t afford the posh tobacco? They turn to the “cheap cigarettes” online businesses. Yes, it is legal to buy discounted tobacco online. However, you can’t help but think why these goods are so much cheaper than in your local store? What if they are sold through bonded warehouses or duty-free, or delivered from low-cig-tax states and you are expected to report the bargain to your local state tax office? What if it is a sucky-quality tobacco, loaded with dangerous ingredients? Would you rather assist the illicit tobacco trafficking, robbing the government of needed tax money, or poison your delicate nature with arsenic and rat poison? Maybe it is better to quit.

Quitting is most appropriate, but also most painful. And sometimes expensive. Using psychotherapy will not save you much. Then you can choose cheaper funny things, like nicotine gum, patch, candy, pills or liquids, all probably invented by non-smokers. Still, these supplements might work, for example, if you put a patch over your mouth.

The newest gig – the electronic cigarette. That is interesting. Regardless of how it actually helps your nicotine addiction, it is lot of fun. You can smoke it everywhere and play pranks on anti-smoke activists. You can 'light' one of those next to the gas pump and watch people storming away or falling on the ground. You can ‘smoke’ it in a crowded place, wait until some faker starts coughing forcefully, and declare politely: "you have a mental problem, dear, this is just water vapor". Isn’t it fun?

People are smoking for thousands of years. Mother Earth is manufacturing tobacco for even longer. How did all this start? Ancient Indians thought, that was a part of salvaging the civilization. That’s what a Huron Indian myth says:

"In ancient times, when the land was barren and the people were starving, the Great Spirit sent forth a woman to save humanity. As she travelled over the world everywhere her right hand touched the soil, there grew potatoes. And everywhere her left hand touched the soil, there grew corn. And in the place where she had sat, there grew tobacco."

Were the primordial Indians aware of the harmful effects of tobacco? Not likely. But at least they gave some informative links to the body parts. Potatoes – right hand, corn – left hand, tobacco - … Could be a warning.

Smoking is detrimental. No one argues with that. But sometimes we are going over the top, accusing one offender of all crimes. Smoking alone cannot cause many fatal conditions, it’s blamed for. You need to also be certain age and gender, obese or malnourished, have certain disease in your blood line, or eat something not good, or drink something bad, or inhale air pollution. Sure, the scientists have proved that smoking increases the risk.

What the scientists also discovered, is that tobacco can have some positive effects:

- smoking improves human information processing and motor performance
- high blood pressure is less common among smokers
- smokers have lower incidence of postoperative deep vein thrombosis than nonsmokers
- Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease are associated with non-smoking, and smoking can lower the risk.
- Nitric oxide mediates a therapeutic effect of nicotine in ulcerative colitis
- smoking prevents rare skin cancer
- very low levels of carbon monoxide may help victims of heart attacks and strokes
- smokers have less plaque, gingival inflammation and tooth mobility than nonsmokers (that’s kind of a shocker).
And my personal favorite:
- Smokers in general are thinner than nonsmokers, even when they ingest more calories. Even In the 1920's, the makers of Lucky Strike Cigarettes wanted to appeal to women who were watching their weight by using the slogan “Reach for a Lucky instead of a Sweet”.

And, yes, smoking relieves stress. First, nicotine releases dopamine, the body's natural pleasure drug, into the brain. Second, you have a chance to go out to smoke: get away from your stressor, into the nature and hopefully, see some blue sky.
Believe it or not, take it as paradox or simple mistake, the science keeps providing contradictory facts. For a while the mankind believed that the Earth is flat. Now we are pretty sold on its round shape. What will our successors believe?

But as of today, the damaging effect of smoking is rather convincing. You better quit. Or even better – never start.

As the great Dali Lama said: "Nicotine addiction is like an itch. If you itch, it’s nice to scratch it. But better to have no itch at all".