Relax. Have a smoke… Now, think again.

Here’s a quick pop quiz out there for all the smokers who resent being asked not to smoke in a public place. What country was the first to implement a strong government led anti-smoking campaign?

Now, I know what you’re thinking, “Those damned meddling government anti smoking people, I’d like to give them a piece of my mind!”

Well, perhaps that’s not your exact line of thought, but you probably resent being told what to do by the government. And you probably think they have no place in the smoking rooms of a nation, right?

Well, maybe. Whatever. Either way, the first government to put an anti-smoking campaign in place was in Germany in the early 1930’s. Yes, that would be a National Socialist Workers Party – Nazi party to you and me. Read all about the fun stuff here:

Famous smokers who reformed. Adolf Hitler was not reknowned for his sense of humor on the subject.

Famous smokers who reformed. Adolf Hitler was not reknowned for his sense of humor on the subject.

Adolf Hitler was first a heavy smoker, and then later extremely anti smoking. I’m betting he didn’t quit smoking using hypnotherapy, because later he was very critical of anyone who smoked – and at Vancouver Hypnotherapy we would have made him much more tolerant of smokers as an ex-smoker. More tolerant of a lot of things actually, given the chance. Apparently he didn’t like Eva Braun smoking cigarettes, and got really out of control when he found a statue had been commissioned of Goering smoking a cigar. I wouldn’t want to be that sculptor.

Even if that comes as a surprise to you, at least it confirms that people who tell you to quit stinking up public places are a bunch of Nazis. Well, sort of.

This fascinating tidbit of information comes to you as part of a bigger picture, though. By the 1940’s many tobacco companies were not only aware of the health risks, they were actively involved in trying to find ways to market their products in spite of the growing awareness of the health risks. They knew that cigarette health risks were going to require them to carry labeling on the product packaging. They just didn’t kow when this would kick in.

In the US, by the mid forties the companies were fighting and lobbying to stall the package labeling issue. They managed to stall it until the early 1960’s, thinking that the labeling would effectively close down their business. However, rather than give up without a fight, they put their heads together and came up with an intangible benefit that smoking delivered. Something very hard to disprove.

They claimed it helped you relax. Very simple. Completely unprovable, and as it happens entirely untrue. However, advertise it enough and people will believe it. The companies uniformly created advertising that would give the idea it relaxed you, and that it helped people calm down.

You’ve probably seen the posters showing the bomber pilot lighting up after a mission, B-17 in the background. In Britain it was a Spitfire, the pilot laughing and lighting up a smoke, relieved to be home from a mission.

Of course, there’s a little problem with this. Firstly, if you lit up on an air base in the 1940’s you might well blow yourself up, smoking affecting your health rather more directly than even the most ardent health commentator might have suggested, and secondly it was against every regulation in the book. A naked flame around aviation fuel was tantamount to suicide.

Regardless, the tobacco industry successfully advertised the idea into existence. Smoking helps you relax – or so they claimed. And the public bought it. By the 1960’s when labeling eventually did come in the idea was firmly embedded in the public psyche. Even the Marlboro man, astride his horse after a tough day riding the range, appears to be relaxing, his work finally done.

The facts are rather different. When you light up three things happen. The first is that your heart rate increases. Oxygen in the blood is partially displaced by the carbon monoxide of smoke – the blood is less oxygen rich. To carry the same amount of oxygen to the brain, more blood has to be moved.

With the increased heart rate comes an increase in blood pressure. A slight increase in skin temperature follows – all completely measurable, and undeniable. These three responses, heart rate, blood pressure and skin temperature, are also signs of one particular response – anxiety.

So, no! It’s not relaxing. It’s the reverse. Smoking actually works against you if you are trying to relax – in spite of what you may have been led to believe by 65 years of advertising.

RH 2015.


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