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First we have to understand why we smoke. Then why almost every other method of breaking the cigarette habit has within it the elements of failure; and then we'll learn the new approach, and we’ll succeed at last.

Let's start by facing what seems to be an overwhelming fact. Smoking must be a pleasure. If it were not, why would at least six of every ten adult Americans smoke either occasionally or regularly? If it were not, why would they spend a portion of their pay a week, every week in the year, for tobacco products? So let's grant, then, that for most people smoking is a pleasing part of life. And let's not pretend that either of us would sacrifice this apparently delightful habit for minor reasons.

It's true that we don't like to find bits of tobacco in our pockets or purses, and it is annoying and expensive when we occasionally burn a hole in a jacket or dress or upholstered chair, and some of us are truly displeased by "tobacco breath" or "nicotine stains," and quite a few of us are dismayed by the amount of money we "burn up" each year—but we all have other expensive or potentially annoying habits or interests, and we don't show equal concern about them. No, those of us who have at one time or another made the attempt to give up cigarettes have invariably been impelled by what I used to call "that health propaganda."

Sporadically we'd come upon reports blaming the smoking habit for everything from athlete's foot to yellow fever. But other studies, prepared by researchers and physicians whose names were followed by suitably impressive degrees and abbreviations, absolved cigarettes of all guilt. The layman had trouble deciding who was speaking against what, and why, and to whom and for whom (and for how much).


Thus while we suspected that where there's smoke there's fire, we weren't quite ready to believe that where there's smoke there's also likely to be heart disease and lung cancer. Some of the evidence was contradictory. Some was fragmentary. Much of it left aside such other possible factors in disease as polluted air, industrial poisoning, food additives, widespread use of insecticides, increased tensions of Cold War living, and over employment of "miracle drugs." Almost all the reports were based on studies involving animals, not humans.

One impulse was to quit. The other was to wait for something "definite." After all, why go through so much pain and so much frustration if later it might turn out that there hadn't been any real need to do so?

Well, the period of uncertainty is over in the minds not only of most experts, but even for most smokers. Vast numbers of people who smoke now readily grant that there's no longer any question but that this is a dangerous habit.

This is a unique situation, isn't it? Suppose, to put it in perspective, that seventy million Americans regularly drink a beverage named "Grggssshh" (a name my attorney insists I use in order to protect the innocent). And suppose that an eminent medical group suddenly declared: "The moderate drinker of 'Grggssshh'—ten to fifteen swallows a day—showed up five times more often as a cancer victim than the non-drinker."

How long do you think good old "Grggssshh" would remain on the market? Even if the government didn't ban it, how long would Mom buy it at the supermarket? Indeed, how many supermarkets would even stock it?

Well—surprise!—there is no such statistic about "Grggssshh." My figures are borrowed from a report on the effects of cigarette smoking. In 1960 the American Medical Association summarized a five-year study of the death rate among men from lung cancer as linked to cigarette smoking:

1. The moderate smoker, 10 to 15 cigarettes daily, showed up five times more often as a victim of fatal lung cancer than did the non-smoker.

2. The heavy smoker, 15 to 25 cigarettes daily,showed up fifteen times as often in lung cancer deaths as the non-smoker

3. Excessively heavy smokers, 25 to 50 cigarettes daily, showed up twenty-five times as often in lung cancer deaths as non-smokers.

The smoker winces when he reads this kind of look into his future—but it doesn't stop him from smoking. It didn't stop you, did it?

And do you want to know why? Well, for one thing, part of your mind doesn't believe it. Part of your mind thinks that smoking is just swell for you, that it makes you happier and healthier and nicer-looking and maybe even richer and stronger and more glamorous—and this part of your mind flatly refuses to pay attention to anything in conflict with its beliefs.