The Intelligent Smoker- part one

Eric Van Fossen

This series is directed towards smokers but is very useful for changing any undesired habit.

“The Intelligent smoker,” sounds like an oxymoron doesn’t it?

I have never told anyone this, but since I spent more than four years on active duty in our military, I am officially authorized by the federal government to use and employ any oxymoron.

I like to think that the best way to become a NON-smoker is to first become an INTELLIGENT-smoker. I am not going to discuss all of the obvious facts about the cost and the damage smoking does. You can look all that data up on the internet yourself.  Those facts are good to know. However, that kind of data simply makes one an educated smoker, not an intelligent smoker. Most of us have known someone that is well educated but yet leaves us doubting their true intelligence!  I am talking about internal street smarts here. Know how your wonderfully unique mind works and then you can “manipulate” yourself into the changes you seek.

Scientist have long recognized what is called the “habit loop”.  This is basically how any habit, good or bad, takes hold of us and becomes ingrained. It is simply a circle or loop with three parts.

First, is the CUE. The cue is what causes us to initiate an ACTION.  The CUE can be anything really. In the case of a smoker it might be that first cup of coffee in the morning, finishing a meal, or a television commercial break. Smokers are smart. They even know which stoplight they have to light up at so that the cigarette will be finished as they pull into the parking lot at work. So these are the classic CUE’s. There are a thousand others. The intelligent smoker learns what their CUES are. This is vital knowledge to have when it is time to stop smoking. It’s kind of like knowing what the other team’s game plan is, a true advantage.

So the CUES, whatever they may be, then cause us to perform a certain ACTION.  For a smoker the ACTION is to light up a cigarette. An alcoholic would have another drink as indicated by their CUES. So thus far, there is a CUE which then causes us to do a learned ACTION like smoking.   In this case the REWARD is the nicotine from the cigarette. We learn to like its effect on us. Truth be told, we do not get the reward but rather our brain does. It is our brain that then cries for the REWARD which is the nicotine. The nicotine causes the release of a brain chemical that makes the brain feel good. It wants more. It EXPECTS more every time a CUE is sensed. The brain drives us to the ACTION which will give it what it wants- nicotine. We will further discuss the separation between our “true self” and our brain in a later blog post.

So there it is. The “habit loop.”          

CUE – ACTION- REWARD in one big never ending circle.  So how does the INTELLIGENT-smoker use this information to become a NON-smoker?

Here is the good news. You only have to change one third of the equation. Only one of the three components needs to be changed to be successful. Anybody can change one out of three things, right?  You do not even have to remove the one component. You simply need to replace it. 

Come back often for the next blog post to find out which single element needs to be changed for success in breaking a habit.

Of course, the Intelligent – Smoker will have most likely already have done some surfing and found the answer even before my next post.