You Can Break Free from the Tobacco Habit
WHY do millions of persons smoke when the overwhelming evidence is that it is damaging to health? Why do so many express a desire to quit, yet keep right on smoking? As noted in a recent issue of Science World, it is because smoking is “addictive.” And yet, despite the increase in the number of smokers, there is a people who are remarkably free of the tobacco habit.
These people are Jehovah’s witnesses. A report in the Evansville, Indiana, Courier noted regarding an assembly of theirs in that city: “It may have been the first time in the history of the stadium when 6,000 or 7,000 people occupied its seating space and a fog of smoke did not obscure the speaker.”
Why is the absence of smoking commonly observed among Jehovah’s witnesses? Is it because those who become Jehovah’s witnesses never were addicted to cigarettes?
Not at all. Those who become Jehovah’s witnesses are from the general population, regarding which the Guardian Weekly observed: “Two out of every three men are smokers, though only one in four women.” So it is reasonable to assume that about the same percentage of Jehovah’s witnesses once smoked.
Was it easy for these tens of thousands of Witnesses to quit smoking? How were they able to do it? If you are a person who wants to break free from the habit, their experiences can help you.
SMOKERS AFFECTED DIFFERENTLY
Not every smoker has an extremely difficult time when quitting. Some persons smoke comparatively little, and do so principally to be sociable. Thus 10.2 million Americans quit smoking in a recent four-year period, according to one study. The majority of these were perhaps persons who did not find it particularly hard to quit.
Typical of such smokers is the Harvard graduate who, after smoking moderately for several years, finally determined to give up this unclean habit. He simply threw away his cigarettes and never smoked again. It was relatively easy for him; he felt no real discomfort, and afterward little, if any, craving for a smoke. But other cases are admittedly very different.
A former smoker from Saskatchewan, Canada, explained: “Cleansing my body of nicotine was an indescribably difficult ordeal for me. At times my chest would get very tight, just as if the muscles were tied in a knot. . . . At times, the difficulty was so severe I thought I might die.” A heavy smoker from West Virginia said that when he stopped smoking he was so sick and weakened that he had to go to bed for two days. Such experiences of discomfort and sickness when withdrawing from nicotine are not uncommon. It is good for those who want to break the tobacco habit to realize this.
WINNING THE BATTLE
Perhaps you are a person who has struggled for many years to quit smoking, but without success, and you may feel very discouraged. Do not give up! Others, who have been just as addicted to nicotine, have overcome the habit.
A fifty-six-year-old medical doctor and surgeon recently observed: “I remember the day I quit. It was Monday, May 15, 1950, in Santa Barbara, California. The experience has given me confidence. For ever since then, when I have faced challenging problems or situations, I would think to myself, ‘If I could quit smoking, I can do this too.’ The victory over smoking was just that significant to me, since I had failed so often.
“After each decision to quit, I would end up looking around the house for cigarette butts. Or I would get dressed at night and go out and buy some. Afterward I would be upset with myself for having failed again.
“About that time I began studying the Bible with Jehovah’s witnesses. I could soon see that what I was learning did not match up with the tobacco habit. Yet I kept on smoking. During meetings I would sneak over to a drug store to have a cigarette. ‘How silly,’ I thought, ‘for a grown man to sneak around like a little kid, smoking on the sly.’ I simply couldn’t continue to live that way, as a hypocrite. Since I was convinced Jehovah’s witnesses had the truth of God’s Word, I realized that I had to make a choice—either give up tobacco or the truth.
“I remember that Sunday in 1950—as usual I smoked during the intermission of the meeting. But that evening my last cigarette was gone, and I vowed never to bring another one into the house. However, I kept cigarettes at my downtown office. When I arrived the following morning I found a few left. I smoked them, finishing about 11 a.m. But I had made up my mind that I would never smoke another one, and I never have.”
RELIANCE ON JEHOVAH
This doctor did not overlook the value of prayer. (Ps. 55:22) And with the help of Jehovah, the true God, you, too, can succeed in conquering the tobacco habit. The apostle Paul said: “For all things I have the strength by virtue of him who imparts power to me.” (Phil. 4:13) The experience of a man who had started smoking as a six-year-old boy in South Dakota well illustrates how this power from Jehovah God is sufficient to help one to overcome the tobacco habit. He recently explained:
“I would smoke two packs a day, and consume a box of fifty cigars a week. My hands, teeth, breath—my whole self—was contaminated with nicotine. I couldn’t go through a meal without stopping to have a cigarette. The last thing I would do before going to sleep was to smoke; I would wake up during the night to have a cigarette; and the first thing I would do in the morning was to smoke.
“My mother was worried about me. So when I was about twenty-one she bet $1,000 that I could not stop smoking for two days. I told her that I did not want to stop, and that I had no intention of giving up something that brought me so much pleasure.
“Later I started attending the meetings of Jehovah’s witnesses, and decided that to please God and his people I should give up smoking. But I couldn’t. I kept breaking my resolve. I remember asking a Witness about it. He inquired: ‘Have you prayed for help?’ I told him that I certainly had.
“He asked: ‘When do you pray?’ I said in the evening before going to bed, in the morning when getting up, and after I weaken and take a smoke, I tell Jehovah that I am sorry for what I have done.
“He said: ‘Isn’t the time that you really need God’s help the moment that you are reaching for a smoke? That is the time you should pray to Jehovah to strengthen you.’
“From that time forward that is exactly what I did, and Jehovah did strengthen me. I was able to quit smoking, even though the craving remained with me for years.”
A smoker, like a heroin addict, develops in his system a ‘need’ for nicotine. After a short period of time without a smoke, he becomes uncomfortable, sometimes even breaking out in sudden, cold sweats if deprived of one too long. Thus, because of the relief it brings, smoking is enjoyable to a smoker, and it can be a tremendous battle to give it up. Illustrating this is the case of a young woman, reared in Denmark and now living in New York city. She began smoking at the age of fourteen, and finally quit on November 28, 1970. She had been trying for months, but each time would relapse. She says:
“I would pray about the matter, but was not entirely honest. I would tell Jehovah that I didn’t like smoking and so wanted to quit. But the fact is, I enjoyed it. So eventually I acknowledged in prayer to Jehovah that I really did enjoy smoking, but that I wanted to give it up to please Him. Then, by keeping my mind continually on pleasing God, I finally broke free from the habit.”
IT CAN BE DONE!
If you fear that you may not be able to quit smoking, know that you are not alone. A Brooklyn, New York, housewife, who smoked three or four packs every day, felt just that way. She had continued smoking even though she was baptized by Jehovah’s witnesses in 1968. She explains:
“One day my husband said to me: ‘Why don’t you stop smoking?’ I snapped back, ‘How can you ask me to do that? You’re asking me to give up my life.’ When I realized what I had said I was shocked and ashamed. And I knew that I could not hypocritically continue claiming to be a Witness and keep on smoking. So the next day I told my husband that I was going to quit—but one month hence, on the last Saturday in February 1971.
“That Saturday I smoked all day and night. The next week was a nightmare. My hands shook. I cried almost constantly. I was sick; the craving was agonizing. But I had made up my mind, and with Jehovah’s help I stuck to it. I am now convinced that persons who do not succeed, just do not really desire to give it up. They still love smoking more than they love Jehovah.”
Surely if you truly love Jehovah God you can conquer the tobacco habit. Interestingly, a resident of Synanon, a California community founded for treatment of drug addicts and alcoholics, where smoking was banned in 1970, observed: “If we dregs of society can give up smoking, then out there in a so-called sane world which is killing itself with the most dangerous of all drugs [tobacco], responsible people can make a stand.”
Show that you really love Jehovah and his righteous principles. Break free from enslavement to smoking now! You can do it.