There are has been an increasingly large divide developing in the medical community surrounding the concept that smoking is an addiction. Some doctors and scientists; such as researchers at the University of Tel Aviv, claim that smoking is merely a habit and that tobacco is not in itself addictive. On the other side, many doctors, such as the U.S. Surgeon General, claim that smoking is an addiction to nicotine. So which side is correct? We take the position that smoking is fundamentally a social or stress-relieving habit and that smokers have control over this habit. However, it is always a good idea to understand what the other side is saying-there is often some truth in both sides of an argument. Let’s take a look at some of the reasons some doctors believe and promote smoking as an addiction:
Nicotine is addictive: The United States Surgeon General, the head medical doctor of the U.S. government, concluded that nicotine is an addictive substance in 1988. After this proclamation, many other doctors and researchers followed suit and have been able to prove that nicotine causes chemical and biological changes in the brain. That isn’t the debatable point-the debate revolves around whether or not these changes lead directly to dependency. It is possible that it does, but more likely that it is working in conjunction with a more powerful compulsion or habit in the smoker.
Marketing: Unfortunately, the pharmaceutical industry funds the majority of mainstream medical research. This means that mainstream medical researchers are often looking to solve conditions with a pill rather than personal responsibility. For example, the Nicotine Patch is marketed as a way to cure smoking addiction. So is Nicotine gum. People are told that these will cure their biological addictions to smoking by slowly weaning them off nicotine. However, this approach avoids addressing the underlying reasons people smoke and avoids helping them realize that smoking is a habit that they can control. This is not to say that mainstream medicine falsifies research or has malicious intentions, but it is important to see that there is a link between the approach, conclusions, and funding.
Most doctors and researchers claiming that smoking is an addiction use the concept that nicotine is an addictive substance as their central argument. Whether or not this is true is difficult to discern, but what doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out is that smoking is a habit, something that people choose to do out of their own free will, although often as a way to relieve stress or cave in to social pressures. Approaching smoking as a habit does not have to dispute the fact that nicotine is a harmful or even addictive substance-both concepts can coexist; because what is most important is teaching people to control their habits not give in and give up because they think they are biologically incapable of putting that last cigarette out.
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