The Psychologically Aversive Strategies

Making Smoking Psychologically Unpleasant

There are some programs that have used the power of the mind to develop an aversion to cigarettes.

One popular approach is to have smokers save their cigarettes in a water-filled butt-jar. They are asked to stare at the jar and concentrate on the unsavory aspects of smoking. This exercise serves to disgust, if not nauseate, some smokers.

Another popular technique is called thought stopping. Whenever you get a thought about smoking, yell out the word “stop!” (Be careful, of course, that you don’t do this in a crowded, public place!) If there are people around, imagine that you’re screaming the word out. Or imagine a big red stop sign, or a great flashing sign that says “stop.” You’ll be trying to scare the thought of smoking away.

Some people find that this technique works even better if they do it together with another aversive procedure, such as the rubber-band method mentioned in the previous chapter or banging a heavy book down on a table.

In some programs, smokers are asked to focus on the unpleasant aspects of cigarettes as they smoke. They are supposed to think about the irritation of their mouth and lungs, the coughing, and the accumulation of smoke on their clothes, in their house, and in their lungs. In other programs, smokers are encouraged to use their imagination to develop an aversion to cigarettes. For instance, smokers might imagine being poisoned as they smoke and can envision escape from danger when thinking of not smoking.

Do you want to try something scary? Take a drag on your cigarette but don’t inhale. Keep the smoke in your mouth. Now place a clean, white handkerchief over your mouth and blow the smoke through it. What do you see? The discoloration in the handkerchief is from the tar in the smoke. The amount on the handkerchief is approximately the same as the amount you deposit in your lungs every time you inhale. Imagine what ,your lungs look like (and how their function is affected) by inhaling just one complete cigarette. And what about two, or three, or a pack, or. . Scary? Yes it is. Learn from this!

Why are aversive techniques like these used? The purpose is to increase your resolve to succeed in quitting cigarettes. Sure, you may admit that smoking is harmful to your health. But are you really aware of the degree of risk or damage? Or do you push these thoughts out of your mind? Some people feel that focusing on negative images of smoking and on its consequences can help turn them off to smoking.

Why Do Smokers Deny?

Most smokers are aware that smoking is a health hazard. Nevertheless, there are gaps in their knowledge. Part of the problem is that they do not often want to acknowledge the harms of smoking. A 1987 survey revealed that 30 to 40 percent of smokers do not believe that smoking increases their risk of having lung cancer, other types of cancer, heart attacks, stroke, or lung disease, or that quitting would lower their risk.

When you smoke, you tend not to think about the bad effects. That’s natural because it helps you to be able to keep smoking without feeling guilty or uncomfortable.

Negative Visualizationas

Using imagery to get a good, clear picture of the unpleasantness of smoking is a popular aversive technique used in many programs. However, studies do not clearly indicate how successful this technique is. Experts say that those who use it, though, can increase their chances of success. Let’s follow a typical visualization procedure. Try to vividly picture what will be described to you. If you do not want to use this technique, then you may want to skip the next several paragraphs.

As soon as you inhale your first cigarette, the damage begins. The “wonderfully delicious” smoke starts attacking and corroding the mucous membranes of your eyes, nose, tongue, gums, mouth, throat, and esophagus. It moves on to attack your lungs, heart, circulatory system; and virtually every other part of your body now being “nourished” by impure smokend chemical-filled oxygen. The chemicals in smoke remain with you (even after you exhale), affecting all of your important organs. Also, it is said that the radioactive contents for a pack-a-day smoker are equivalent to that of taking several chest X-rays each year.

You are inhaling addictive, toxic substances that can ultimately cause a number of different diseases and possibly even premature death. In addition, cigarette smoke contains many harmful substances that damage your lungs and deprive your body of oxygen. These toxic substances include a number of dangerous gases, such as carbon monoxide, ammonia, and hydrogen cyanide, among others. The smoke damages your lungs directly. The poisons, once absorbed into the bloodstream, injure your body’s organs. Over fifty of the ingredients contained in cigarette smoke ca use cancer.

You’re also inhaling oodles of tar. Sounds delicious, doesn’t it? Tar contains over thirty different cancer-causing agents (carcino-gens). Even with low-tar cigarettes, you inhale more tar than your lungs are designed to handle. Besides, inhaled smoke decreases the effectiveness of your lungs to handle things (tar, dirt, microbes) you really don’t want cruising around in your lungs, which serve in a protective capacity. Any time an “intruder” gets into your lungs, these protective agents move it toward your throat, from where you can cough it out. But if smoke damages your protectors, the bad guys remain in your lungs. Sorry, pal.

Every one of the 50 million Americans currently smoking is being harmed by the use of cigarettes. Imagine the damage you are inflicting on your body. You’ll seem to age faster than non-smokers. This aging affects your appearance (more wrinkles) as well as your lung function. You’ll develop more respiratory-tract infections. You may have a chronic cough and develop annoying hacking. Aside from bad breath and discolored teeth and fingers, you may lose your ability to taste. You may even recover from many illnesses at a slower rate than do nonsmokers. And, imagine the horror of knowing that you could get cancer, heart disease, or lung disease, in addition to many other problems, including peptic-ulcer disease, stroke, and osteoporosis.

Remember: focus on the fact that every cigarette harms you. Every cigarette bums in smoke that can cause danger to the functioning of your body. Can you imagine yourself going to your medicine chest and drinking poison? No? So why smoke it?