Sunday, November 6, 2011

Smell is the sense most strongly linked to memory, and I haven't a single positive memory that smells of cigarettes. All I think of when I smell cigarettes is unpleasant situations, dirty locales and a couple unpleasant people who ruined it for the other decent dudes who just happen to smoke. I'm biased.

But HEY! Enough of that, let's talk about how they actually work.

Definition Time
Tobacco: The plant. First used by the Native Americans, mainly via pipe and mostly by shamans. Then the Europeans showed up and were all "Dude what's that stuff?" and, thinking it was kinda awesome, began growing it. It was pretty damn popular until the mid-1900s when they realized smoking kinda led to people ending up dead.

Winston's pissed 'cus Yousuf Karsh stole his cigar.
While the modern stigma against smoking in public has lead to decreased use in the EU and USA, international cigarette sales have actually increased in recent years due to the increased economic strength of certain Asian countries.

How it Works
Nicotine is absorbed via the mucus membranes of the mouth, lungs and skin. Most people accomplish this by smoking cigarettes, cigars and pipes, or by chewing dip, but you can also get it through the skin (patches), nose (spray) or eyes (drops).

Once it is absorbed, the nicotine crosses immediately into the bloodstream where it travels to the brain, crosses the blood-brain barrier and begins to bind with acetylcholine receptors.
It looks like this.
Now, acetylcholine is responsible for brain/muscle communication and is a critical component in the process of memory formation. This means that despite nicotine's reputation as a calming substance, it's actually a stimulant. So why the reputation? Because slow, deliberate breaths, the kind necessary to properly smoke a cigarette, cigar or pipe, actually decrease blood pressure and heart rates. It's not the smoking that calms you down, it's taking a break out of your day and having a  chance to breathe.

What's more, smoking can lead to decreased amounts of MAO in your brain. This means your risk of psychological illness is increased in the long run, and immediate complications to any existing issues you might have.

This man is not well.
Nicotine is highly addictive, so much so that it's considered to be on the same level as cocaine, heroin, and alcohol. There are a number of immediate side effects and although there do not appear to be very many negative side effects to inhaling pure nicotine, the long term effects of tobacco use via chewing and smoking include an increased risk of many different cancers, stroke, heart disease and looking like something out of a Ren and Stimpy cartoon.

Or perhaps Spongebob Squarepants.
Even when you're ready to quit, the symptoms from withdrawal (cravings, tension, headaches, irritability...) can literally drive you crazy.

Bottom line? Don't start. If you've already started, quit if you want. It's in your best interests, honestly, but hey, free country.
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