What about smoking?
is the most preventable cause of death in our society. It is responsible for about 419,000
US deaths each year. Smoking accounts for 1/3 of cancer deaths. It is a major cause of
heart disease and cancers of the lungs, mouth, pharynx, larynx, esophagus, pancreas,
uterus, cervix, kidney, and bladder. The average smoker shortens his life by fifteen
Nicotine and Addiction to Other Drugs &
In 1988 the US Surgeon General reported that nicotine is
just as addictive as heroin and cocaine. A "hit" of nicotine reaches the brain
in seven seconds, twice as fast as a syringe of heroin injected into the vein. Recent
studies have shown an irrefutable link between smoking cessation and success in drug
treatment. Some have indicated that alcoholics and drug addicts who also stop smoking are
up to eight times more likely to remain clean and sober! For this reason, practically all
major hospital-based treatment facilities are now "smoke free".
There is an important spiritual principle in all of this.
Paul says, "I will not be mastered by anything" (1 Cor. 6:12). Having one habit
that maintains "mastery" over me means I don't have complete victory in my life.
This is a foothold in my life for "the enemy" that makes me more susceptible to
other forms of temptation -- like using alcohol and drugs again!
Practical Ideas for Residential Programs
- Make your building a "smoke free zone"
- Every year thousands of nonsmokers die from inhaling "passive smoke". So,
setting up a special smoking area either in the building or outside will avoid risking the
health of mission workers, visitors, and clients.
- Let the staff show the way -
Mission employees must be good examples by not smoking themselves. For those who do smoke,
it might appropriate to pay for whatever help they might need to stop. Dividends of a
"smoke free" staff include a lower rate of absenteeism and lower health-related
- Make smoking cessation a definite component of
your long-term program - Stopping smoking should not be a requirement for
entrance into a mission recovery program. It may be appropriate, though, as a prerequisite
for graduation or for moving into a latter phase of the program. Just like other
addictions, smokers need special support from classes, support groups, counseling, and
other activities. A number of recovering addicts have actually told me that quitting
alcohol and drugs was easy compared to quitting cigarettes. There are many good resources
available including smoking cessation classes in the community, literature, and videos
from a variety of health organizations. It many be possible to arrange for someone from
one of them to do regular presentations on the topic for your residents.
- Recognize the symptoms of nicotine withdrawal -
Physiological symptoms include: decreased heart rate, increased blood pressure and brain
wave changes. Those who quit smoking often experience impaired physical coordination and a
decreased ability to concentrate. Severe cravings for tobacco, sleep disturbances,
irritability, anxiety and gastrointestinal disturbances also may occur. So, they need a lot
of support and encouragement as they work through all this.
- Make sure residents are stable in sobriety
before trying to quit smoking - A long-term residential program is a
special supportive environment. This makes it a great place to tackle nicotine addiction.
Still, newly sober people should be reasonably stable in recovery before attempting to
quit smoking. For some, trying to quit too soon can be stressful enough to cause relapse.
So, I recommend at least six months to a year before attempting it.
Organizations Help People Who Want
to Quit Smoking
American Cancer Society - 1-800-ACS-2345
American Heart Association - 214-750-5300
American Lung Association - 212-315-8700
National Cancer Institute - 1-800-4-CANCER
Office on Smoking and Health Centers for Disease Control
and Prevention - 404-488-5705
Local chapters and affiliates of these groups as well
local hospitals are a potential sources of free literature and other educational resources
and can point you to smoking cessation classes in your area.
Most statistical information for this article was taken
from Smoking or Health - It's Your Choice by Cathy Becker Popescu and J. M. Carey
( American Council on Science and Health, New York, NY 1992)
NOTE: If you have found approaches that have been
especially successful, we want to hear about them! Please contact us.
Internet Resources for Smoking
Cessation & Prevention :