Why Do We Smoke Cigarettes?

In this piece,Ernest Dichter focuses on the psychological effects of smoking. Often times people ignore the psychological satisfaction cigarettes provide for smokers. The topics he touches on are: “Smoking is Fun”, “Smoking is a Reward”, “Smoking is Oral Pleasure”, “The Modern Hourglass”, “With a Cigarette I am not Alone”, “I like to Watch the Smoke”, “Got a Match?”, “Smoking Memories”, “Smoking Helps Me Think”, “Cigarettes Help Us Relax”, “Smoking Mannerisms”, “I Blow My Troubles Away”, “Cigarette Taste Has To Be Acquired”, “How Many a Day?”, “The First Cigarette”, “No Thanks, I’ll Smoke My Own”, and “A Package of Pleasure”. I have never gotten more out of an article relating to the psychology to smoking than this one. After reading the article, I showed it to my friend who smokes. She was also in shock on how accurate the article was and how much she related to it as a smoker.

Cigarette smokers do not necessarily smoke just because they think they look cool or because the nicotine has them hooked, there are many other factors that go into the habit of smoking. Some people do it because it is fun, or it helps them relax. Others smoke because it helps them calculate time, as one smoker stated, “It is much easier to watch a cigarette get smaller and smaller than to keep watching a clock and look at the hands dragging along.” For some people, smoking is a way to make friends. If you are standing outside by yourself with a cigarette, you do not feel alone. “When I lean back and light my cigarette and see the glow in the dark, I am not alone any more….” Dichter relates a cigarette to something being alive; when you light it, it is “awakened”. Smoking is also said to help you relax and think. Some of these moments are imprinted in a smoker’s mind forever, when they smoke cigarettes there are certain memories that are linked to the process.

Dichter also touches on the mindset of smokers and their addiction. He concludes that smokers are confused. The majority of his respondents were not concerned about the harmful effects of various brands of cigarettes, but all of them, even the ones who did not smoke excessively, felt guilty about the amount of cigarettes they smoke. Dichter explains that some smokers feel like smoking constantly is immoral, and most smokers try to quit or cut down on their consumption of cigarettes. One smoker said that he gives up smoking for one month every year to prove to himself that he can still live without them. Dichter sees these efforts as ways to reduce guilt by showing a “willingness to sacrifice pleasure”.

After reading Dichter’s article and his respondents’ views on the topics, I looked at smoking cigarettes as far more than what people usually deem as a nasty addiction. There are so many psychological links shared between a smoker and his/her cigarette. The information provided in the article was used to frame the interviews our group conducted and gave us a better understanding on why smokers really smoke, and not just what we already assume.


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