The Value of Smoking. ~ Andrew Cunningham

Via Andrew Cunningham
on Oct 13, 2013
get elephant's newsletter

cool not smoking young hipster

Smokers are right to reject the health risks of smoking.

Smokers know that many will not die from the habit—in fact about one out of three smokers will ‘survive.’ Therefore it is sensible for them to estimate their chances and smoke. As smokers rightly argue, they could be run over by a bus tomorrow and you have to die of something.

Which is why I never argue with smokers on the health risks of smoking.

However, I do challenge smokers on the value of smoking and the way smoking improves their lives—the positives of smoking.

Challenge a smoker to preach the value of smoking to another person and their arguments become weak—they lose heart.  Ask a smoker to convince a non-smoker to take up the habit and they find it difficult. It seems that putting the smoker in the role of evangelist (psychological reversal) reveals the twisted logic of the addiction.

The ‘personal beliefs’ that drive the smoking habit become ridiculous when used as propaganda on another person. To illustrate the point, read through this imaginary ‘inspiring good news story’:

‘I Got My Son to Start Smoking’—a proud Dad tells his story.

The day I managed to persuade my son to smoke is a day I will always cherish. A day when I really made a difference in another person’s life.

From a young age my son showed ability and a charming out-going nature. Yet, despite all his natural flair and ebullience, I harbored a deep sense of foreboding. How would he succeed in life without smoking?

Though bright and cheerful, quick witted and happy, I knew deep down that there was something missing. Something would need to change in him, for him to become to be a fully-grown adult. He needed, one day, to start smoking.

The early signs were not good. He failed to start smoking at 12. Subtle questions and hints after school revealed his total unawareness of smoking; the poor thing hadn’t even tried one!  As time went by, I became convinced that the responsibility would lie with me to have that ‘little chat’ that could mean so much. That it was up to me to teach him about the vital benefits of smoking.

At the age of 15 my son still had not smoked. He was doing well at school, socially and academically but his happy-go-lucky disposition sent shivers through me, as it became more obvious that he was attempting to become an adult without the use of smoking. Little did he know of the pressures of adult life and the way smoking would enhance nearly every aspect of his professional and private life. The idea that my son was attempting to face life as a non-smoker filled me with sadness and I almost despaired. I had to get through to him!

So on that fateful day I sat my son down and carefully outlined the dangers of life without smoking.

  1. How smoking would help him relax, enjoy food and drink and give him time to himself.
  2. How smoking aids concentration, relieves boredom, would give him time to think and increase his creativity.
  3. How smoking would give him a sense of himself, an identity as an independent person, help him deal head on with life’s issues.

I proceeded cautiously. Careful not to give the impression that if he carried on as he was, he was heading for disaster.

At first he put up a struggle. He tried to argue that he already had all the things that smoking could give him, that he was naturally comfortable without smoking.

I held back from giving a knowing smile—the innocence of youth! But in the end I blurted out, “You could be so much more as a smoker!’

I left my son to think it over, leaving him a packet on the arm of the sofa.

He reported that he had tried one but found it pretty disgusting. I persevered and gave encouragement. Most days as he came in from school I would ask, in an off-hand way, if he had smoked. It was those days of gentle but firm inquiry and persistence which I am most proud of.  And fairly soon came a giant step forward.

I remember that day so clearly. He walked into the kitchen—it was a Friday evening in October —and said with a beaming smile, “Dad, I really want to smoke now”. Words could not describe my feelings of pride at that moment. He continued—”I found it difficult to smoke at first but now I really need one. In fact, I need one more than ever now.” He smiled. My wife burst into tears.

Smokers get a lot of criticism for not doing enough in the community.  Many smokers smugly get all the benefits of smoking without doing enough for others.

But I can hold my head up high.

I got my son to start smoking.


Like elephant journal on Facebook.

Assist Ed: Sanja Cloete-Jones/Ed: Sara Crolick


About Andrew Cunningham

Andrew Cunningham is consultant therapist to ITV and Channel 4. Combining Mindfulness CBT and Hypnotherapy with a healthy dose of common sense and humor.  Now in his 12th year of practice he is based in Harley St London.


2 Responses to “The Value of Smoking. ~ Andrew Cunningham”

  1. AndrewPaciocco says:

    Yep, smoking is bad.

    I'm not sure you'd ever find anyone who would argue the benefits because it's so commonly known so I'm not sure who's being convinced by this piece, though it is very well written. Humans do many detrimental things knowing they are more than likely not positive in the long run. Smoking is pretty played out…and so is drinking, while it does get less grief…But maybe a piece of this style directed at refined sugars or even meat where there is less firm ground regarding how people feel toward the substances while both have well substantiated claims of harm would be more interesting.

    As a smoker, I don't identify with the piece. It does not make me think or rethink. I don't portray an "argument" because I don't find the desire to defend myself or convince anyone to do what I do (and I also don't know many or any that do). Will I always be a smoker? Certainly the appropriate answer is "I hope not." Will I be one of the 2/3 or the 1/3? I'd prefer living. Do my actions indicate that? Not entirely and you got me on that one. I'm not perfect but I'm doing what I do currently with mindfulness and improvements rolling out as they are able to. Addiction has a very rigid definition to most people. That makes it very easy to call out a smoker, drinker or drug user…When we broaden it to see what many people face outside of that small initial scope in the way of sugars, caffeine, or even their own addiction to negative thoughts and mindsets, to pull a few off the top of my head, it makes it more difficult to call people out on their specific scenarios because more and more people fall into them.

    While I applaud you for your (assumed) smoke free lifestyle, your writing style and approach I'm not seeing the value of this article.

  2. middleclassmayhem says:

    Andrew thank you for your kind comments on the writing style. As it is my first article I am suitably encouraged.

    You are right to question the value of an argument with a smoker. It is really only when someone wants to quit that the value of these ideas comes into play, until then, they are just words.