Much has been made of President Obama’s attempts to quit smoking. The response has been sympathy – it’s a hard addiction to break. But suppose he had another addiction – say alcoholism, or binge eating or pill popping. People wouldn’t have been nearly as sympathetic, indeed having one of those addictions would almost certainly weaken your chances of being elected to any office.
The two most common addictions in our society are smoking and alcoholism. Both are legal addictions, are expensive, cause untimely and painful deaths and hurt families. But with smoking, the blame is placed entirely on the tobacco companies for selling their “evil” weed, and almost no blame is attached to the individual for taking up the habit, whereas with alcoholism, the blame is placed squarely on the individual for not exercising control.
Part of this is historical – smokers in the 1950’s and 60’s were told that there was no health risk to smoking, and that it could even be good for you, and they were not given the chance to weigh up the risk before the addiction commenced. However, since the 1990’s, governments everywhere have been warning about the health dangers. In the UK, cigarette packets come with the words “Smoking Kills” in giant black letters on the front of the packet. Tax on cigarettes has also been increased to eye-watering levels and television advertising of tobacco is banned. Yet still people take up smoking, though they can’t be unaware of the risks, and still no blame is attached to the individual for starting up the habit.
With alcohol by contrast, people addicted are labelled as “drunks” and it is very rare to find a public person who will admit they have a problem with drink. They only confess what has happened to them after they have conquered the habit and are now “dry”. A lot of this is down to the fact that alcohol in moderate quantities is harmless, and can even be good for you. The winemakers are clearly not plying an “evil” trade. So it is easier to focus on the responsibilities of the individual to control themselves and not take their habit to excess. Nic salts are substances that make you get addicted to cigarette smoking. Hence, it is important to avoid things that come complimentarily with smoking. Drinking alcohol is one of tose so it is really important to be mindful of your actions.
When it comes to breaking habits, it’s all down to the individual. You can get help and advice on how to quit smoking from the NHS Smoking website, and advice on alcoholism from the NHS alcohol misuse page. But it would be easier all round if society stopped excusing individuals and put equal pressure on the individual to take ownership of their problem and make the attempt to seek help, whether the addiction is smoking or alcohol .