09/12/2008

Seeking Smokers Anonymous

Contains adult language

According to numbers I've heard, there is about one alcoholics' self-help group per 3000 inhabitants in this city, which, if you think about it, is a pretty amazing number. There are certainly more people who drink, or used to drink, alcohol than people who smoke, but it is even more certain that there are more people addicted to nicotine than there are people addicted to alcohol. Yet there are very few self-help groups for nicotine addicts. Why? A few ideas:

1. While stopping drinking is hard, stopping smoking is easy. Hence no need for Smokers Anonymous.

2. Although self-help groups for nicotine addicts work, self-help groups for alcoholics work better, for whatever reason.

3. It is often said that one remains an alcoholic for lifetime, even if one is nonpracticing. I've never heard that said about nicotine addicts; the addiction is seen to be over after a year or so. This may have some basis in fact; even if it doesn't, it is a widely held view. Hence we should expect demand for self-help groups from alcohol addicts who haven't had a drink in ten years but not from smokers who haven't had a cigarette in ten years.

4. Whereas a nicotine addiction can have serious health consequences, it will not fuck up one's life like an alcohol addiction sooner or later will. I don't think anyone was ever repeatedly late for work or hit his wife because he had had too much tobacco. Given this, alcohol addicts will be more willing to take extreme measures, such as joining a self-help group.

5. For the same reasons, alcohol addicts will be encouraged to do so by significant others more often than nicotine addicts.

6. At least in this country, people who want to quit drinking get a lot more assistance from the public health system than people who want to quit smoking. People who work in the public health system will also encourage drinkers to join self-help groups. Additionally, spending weeks on end in a hospital will reinforce in alcohol addicts the notion that they have a serious condition on their hands, hence increasing the willingness to join a self-help group.

7. Alcohol addicts have more stories to tell about their addiction (including their relapses) than nicotine addicts. Smokers Anonymous meetings are bloody boring.

# 1 doesn’t sound right to me; I have no idea whether there is some truth in # 2. All of the others seem reasonable enough but their sum doesn’t appear to be large enough to explain the extreme disparaty. I’m obviously missing something important here. Anyone?

1 comment:

joshua said...
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