It’s an almost other-worldly experience to have a look at photos from the earlier years of the 20th century in regard to public attitudes to smoking. If you search for these images on Google, it’s often shocking to see famous locations such as Time Square in New York, or Piccadilly Circus in London with huge billboards as far as the eye can see advertising famous brands of tobacco to a public who, unbeknownst to them, would ultimately become victims of the chronic fatal diseases with which we now associate the habit.
Once medical research began to realise that there was a clear link between smoking thanks to the paper “Tobacco misuse and lung carcinoma” by Franz Hermann Muller in 1939, many saw an opportunity to create methods of cessation as well as smoking alternatives to help those who valued a long, healthy life over the short-term satisfaction of a cigarette.
As time passed, these smoking alternatives become more advanced and prevalent throughout society as it became clear that going ‘cold turkey’ was not the only way to quit.
In this blog we’re going to look at some of the smoking alternatives that have been used over the last few decades.
One of the earliest smoking alternatives offered to those with limited finances was the opportunity to purchase literature that claimed it could help to reduce cravings through the use of mental exercises and mental reinforcement. The successes of these self-help books were ultimately very hit-and-miss, as more often than not, individuals found it impossible to escape the ready availability of cigarettes. In recent years however, there have been a number of acclaimed authors such as Allen Carr, whose ‘Easyway’ approach to quitting harmful habits has helped millions escape their addiction to not only cigarettes, but also illegal drugs and alcohol.
Counselling and support groups
Thanks to government funding throughout the developed world, anti-smoking groups have launched a large number of support services for those who are trying to quit smoking. In the UK, for instance, the NHS runs a nationwide campaign that provides both one-on-one or group therapy treatments for those who feel that they cannot quit the habit on their own. For many smokers who often feel ashamed and self-conscious about their addiction, however, the services offered are less than helpful – especially taking into account the self-motivation necessary to ask for the services in the first place.
While medications have been available for smokers for many decades, it is only in recent years that the efficacy of these treatments have shown any great success. For years, doctors prescribed anti-depressants such as bupropion to help adjust the mood of those whose mental state had suffered as a result of the prolonged stress brought about by smoking cessation, but unfortunately, these medications – outside of countries with socialised healthcare – were often too expensive for a large number of individuals in the earlier days of their implementation. And since smoking was more prevalent among the poorer working-classes, their availability often failed to make an impact within the anti-smoking movement.
More successful drug-based smoking alternatives such as varenicline were available as early as World War II, having been used as a smoking substitute in Eastern Europe where it was harvested from the Cytisus plant. However, it was only after the year 2000 that its use became much more widespread and it was only approved for sale in both the US and Europe in 2006. The drug itself has, in clinical trials, proved to be an excellent treatment for both reducing the urge to smoke, and eliminating the withdrawal symptoms often associated with quitting the habit.
While there are a number of other drugs available, they are not especially well-known, nor are they commonly prescribed by doctors throughout the developed world due to their price.
While the majority of the world preferred to focus on cessation methods that, with scientific observation, were proven to help smokers quit the habit, there are many who have opted for alternative therapies to help them quit cigarettes.
Alternative therapists are happy to offer smokers a course of treatments using approaches such as aromatherapy and acupuncture. However, a number of scientists who have analysed these treatments believe that a large number of the reported successes are more a result of the ‘placebo effect’ than the treatments themselves.
One alternative therapy that has, rather inexplicably, been proven to help smokers quit is the use of hypnosis. Unfortunately, hypnosis is not suitable for everyone as some people are unable to be hypnotised, and it therefore cannot be recommended as a first-line treatment for smoking cessation.
Nicotine replacement therapy
One of the more popular self-help smoking alternatives that gained traction throughout the developed world during the 1980s and 90s was the use of nicotine replacement therapies, or NRTs – one of the most famous brands for which was Nicorette. Companies such as Nicorette provided a number of products such as inhalers, patches and chewing gums that gave smokers another way of placating their urge to smoke by allowing nicotine intake through other means.
While these products helped a large number of individuals quit smoking there were, sadly, a larger number of cases where those who had quit ultimately returned to the habit in the following years. Many scientists believe that while these products helped to satisfy the body’s chemical addiction, the habitual side of cigarettes and the ritual of inhalation and exhalation was not being satisfied.
Invented by a Chinese pharmacist named Hon Lik in 2003, e-cigarettes have, today, become the most successful smoking cessation device available. Supporters credit its ability to mimic the habitual and ritual side of smoking combined with its efficient nicotine delivery system via inhalation as its greatest asset. And as many studies from institutes such as the Royal College of Physicians have stated in recent years, they are undoubtedly a much healthier alternative to traditional cigarettes, as well as being priced at a point that most individuals can afford.
While long-terms studies are yet to be published as a result of its relatively recent spread in popularity, experts agree that it is at least 99% safer than smoking. However, despite its use as a smoking alternative, it is important to remember that the ultimate goal for the user is to move away from their addiction to nicotine, and that e-cigarettes should be used less and less as time passes, not as a long-term habit.
Looking to make a move from traditional cigarettes?