The health section of the BBC news website today reports on the benefits to women who stop smoking before the age of thirty. The original study is published in the Lancet by Kirstin Pirie, Prof Peto et al and reports on a prospective study of one million women, looking at the hazards of smoking and the benefits of stopping.
The hazards of smoking are well known by most and include the development of lung cancer, chronic lung disease, heart disease, stroke, other cancers, respiratory conditions and vascular diseases. Smoking is the leading preventable cause of death in the UK and USA, even though smoking prevalence has declined.
The paper states that women who have smoked cigarettes throughout adult life have as a result three times the overall mortality rate of otherwise similar women who have never smoked. Stopping before 40 years of age, and preferably well before, avoids more than 90% of this excess mortality; stopping before 30 years of age avoids more than 97% of it. This does not mean that it is safe to smoke until age 40 years and then stop, for women who do so have throughout the next few decades a mortality rate 1·2 times that of never-smokers according to the researchers. Smoking causes one in six of the deaths among these ex-smokers.
If women smoke like men, they die like men—but, stopping early enough gains 10 extra years of life expectancy for women or men.
The message is clear – the earlier one stops smoking, the greater the benefits for one’s health. Of course, it would be preferable to not smoke at all, to not subject one’s body to these hazardous and poisionous chemicals that are so harming. Yet many people do, even with the full knowledge of the harm they cause. Even some doctors smoke and I use to be one of them – yet we have been trained and educated in the harming consequences of smoking in detail, how it affects the blood vessels, the lungs, the heart, the physiology and anatomy etc etc. and even with all that knowledge and information it was not enough to deter some of us. How can that be? What is going on if some of the people who are trained to know about health and wellbeing, who have the knowledge and information about the harm of cigarettes, yet are smoking themselves? Perhaps it is telling us that the key to understandiing why people smoke does not reside in the amount of knowledge, information and intelligence they have, that all of that is not enough, that there is something more to it. Of course educating people re the harm of smoking is important and a necessary part of the process but it is not the whole story.
Physically, when we inhale on a cigarette we are filling up our lungs with smoke – even writing that now it sounds like such a crazy thing to do – why would anyone want to fill up their lungs with smoke??! Certainly the first time a cigarette is inhaled, the body usually speaks loud and clear of the harm that is being caused as there is usually coughing and spluttering. This gets over-ridden and next thing it becomes ‘normal’ to inhale smoke and breathe it out again. Often as teenagers we may start smoking with friends or as part of a group, because others are doing it and it seems cool without being fully aware of the consequences.
Esoterically, the physical inhalation and filling up the lungs is an attempt to fill ourselves, to fill up the emptiness that resides within. Of course this is not conscious and would certainly not have made any sense to me all those years ago, but it does now. Knowing what I know now it makes complete sense. We need to look at the underlying emotional factors that are driving these self-harming behaviours and which can over-ride any amount of intelligence regarding their harm.
It is part of the human condition to grow up in igrnorance of who we truly are and in that ignorance we are somewhat lost to ourselves, our true selves. This is our deepest ache, our deepest dis-ease, our deepest grief and one that we seek to ease and fulfill through all manner of activities and behaviours – from smoking to over-working and over achieving, over eating or drinking, undertaking missions, climbing up moutains, running marathons the list is endless of the ways we endeavour to fill ourselves, to not feel the emptiness, to not feel the deep grief of living and expressing in separation to who we truly are. Many people who do stop smoking, put on weight as the underlying reason, the emptiness, has not been addressed and so smoking gets replaced with eating to fill up the emptiness and ease the inner discontent.
Who we truly are is Love, and energetically this Love is Fire. It has a particular quality of heat that can be felt. That God is Fire, or Love is Fire has been known to mystics and sages down through the ages. Even Jesus said, ‘I have come to spread Fire across the earth and how I wish it were already kindled’. This Love or Fire resides within all and is the core of our being but is not expressed or lived by all and indeed most of us live not even knowing it is there. I certainly didn’t – I had the opposite view of myself that was far removed from anything to do with love.
So the key to healing this emptiness, this inner dis-ease or discontent that lies at the root of smoking and so many of our ills is to develop a more caring and loving way of being and living with ourselves – knowing that we are love and are wholly worthy of love. We do not wait for others to love us, but begin to love ourselves and to care for ourselves in every way. As we do this and develop more regard for the body and listen to its messages, the desire to smoke drops away and does not need to be replaced by food. It takes time to develop a more loving and caring way of being for ourselves and is an unfolding as we have adopted so many engrained unloving ways. It is a step by step process, looking at all our choices, what we are eating and how it makes us feel, going to bed early for a good nights sleep, not taking on others emotions or being emotional ourselves etc. As we become more gentle and tender with ourselves, this helps to build love or fire in the body so instead of being all smoke and no fire we can become all fiery without the smoke! A sure ‘fire’ way to a healthy, joyful life – choice by choice.
Feel free to share your experiences or to comment on the blog.