Stopping Thinking

Most of the time, I live a smoky existence with more or less non-stop cigarettes from dawn to dusk. Well, not quite, but it sometimes seems like that.

But I’ve been travelling this weekend, visiting a favourite aunt who I haven’t seen for ages. This meant sitting in the back seat of a car for 4 hours, not smoking. And also it meant staying in a non-smoking hotel room for 7 or 8 hours. And maybe I’d also have to spend hours indoors socialising without cigarettes. The prospect was so grim that I almost cancelled.

In the end I decided to go, just to see my favourite aunt, even if I had to endure hell for 48 hours. Because she was worth 48 hours of hell.

But the strange thing was, that, when it actually came to it, I didn’t mind at all. I didn’t mind sitting in the back of the car, not smoking. And I didn’t mind staying in the hotel either, not smoking. Pretty much the whole time I was away, I almost never wanted a cigarette. Even when the opportunity arose, at stopovers of one sort or other, I didn’t rush off for a smoke.

I was really quite perplexed by this. I thought I’d be dying for a smoke 95% of the time. But in fact it was more like 0.5% of the time. Even when at 7 am, and I’d woken up, and made myself a cup of tea in my hotel room, and waited for the cigarette reflex to kick in, I still didn’t want one.

I think that this means is that I’m not addicted to nicotine. I don’t need a regular nicotine fix. I felt no need to boost my depleted nicotine levels. Over the past couple of days I’ve smoking something like 10% of my usual rate, but I haven’t suffered from any cravings for cigarettes at all.

But I think I know the answer to this puzzle. And it’s that I really only smoke when I’m thinking. And the harder I’m thinking, the more cigarettes I need. Because somehow tobacco provides a slight intellectual boost, a slight extra focus. Tobacco is a thoughtful drug, that helps people focus on whatever they’re thinking about.

And, sitting in the back of a car, either dozing or gazing at English countryside rolling by, I wasn’t thinking about anything much at all. Neither was I thinking about anything much when I arrived dog-tired at my hotel room and fell asleep, nor when I woke up in the morning. The real trigger for my smoking is thinking. And I’ve done precious little thinking over the past two days. Ergo, precious little need for cigarettes.

It also explains why I always want to smoke when I go to a pub, whether I’m sitting on my own (as I often am) or talking to someone. And this is because for me, sitting in a pub on my own is a very thoughtful thing to do, during which I drift off into long reveries about all sorts of different things. And if I’m talking to someone, then I usually need quite a bit of my intellectual capabilities to maintain a conversation, and so talking to people is a thoughtful business too.

So, if I ever want to give up smoking, I’ll need to give up thinking. I’ll need to give up ideas like Idle Theory. I’ll need to stop puzzling over why cells divide, or how plants grow. I’ll need to stop thinking about the injustice of smoking bans, and the the nonsense of global warming, and the tyranny of the EU. I’ll have to become someone who never thinks about anything at all. And once I’ve given up thinking, I’ll never want another cigarette again. Easy!

And, to be perfectly honest, most of the arguments that are put up against smoking by antismokers very often strike me as being ill-thought-through. They aren’t people who think much about things. Most of their thinking is mostly dogmatic, rote thinking. They’re not creative, imaginative people. They think they know everything already. And they don’t need cigarettes, because they’ve given up thinking, and accept the consensus view on everything, the received wisdom on everything. And, furthermore, since they never give their intellectual faculties the slight boost that tobacco provides, they never get any sudden new insights, or any surprising realisations. They live in a sort of quiet pond, where nothing new ever happens, and nothing new is ever thought, and all beliefs are dogmatic, and anything different is quite literally unthinkable.

And it’s why artists and writers and scientists and philosophers are almost always smokers. It’s not accidental. They’re thinking a lot, and tobacco helps them think just a little bit more clearly.

Some of the antismokers I know smoke cannabis. And cannabis is an ‘idea’ drug. It’s actually a highly intellectual drug. But in my experience of cannabis, it sparks off far too many ideas. So if I do something like smoke cannabis and try and write a computer programme to simulate planetary orbital motions, I’ll probably end up writing something completely different. I’ll go off at a tangent, and I won’t stay focused on the original task. And, that way, I’ll usually end up doing nothing at all. Tobacco allows people to stay focused, and give greater attention to some task. Cannabis doesn’t. And that’s why I hardly touch the stuff these days.

Anyway, I got to meet my favourite aunt, and a great many family relatives. And the weather was fine, and we sat out in the garden. The ages of all these relatives ranged from late teens to late 80s. And it was interesting to see who was smoking.

Most of the middle-aged and over weren’t smoking. But a lot of the youngsters were smoking. It was when I saw a couple of slim, pretty, young blonde girls lighting up that I summoned up the nerve to roll a few cigarettes for myself. And as soon as I did that, it encouraged one or two of the fathers of the pretty, young blonde girls to roll up cigarettes too. There were no complaints, no denunciations, no fanning the air. I’d guess that about 20% of the people there were smokers. The interesting thing was that they were predominantly young (and pretty). In this little cross-section of England, smoking hadn’t become ‘denormalised’. It was as normal as it ever was.

So maybe it’s that when people reach a certain age, they stop thinking. They arrive at a set of certainties from which they never depart. Their thinking becomes rigid, rote, and conventional. And because they’ve stopped thinking, they give up smoking. They give up smoking because they’ve given up thinking, and they no longer need the extra focus or attention that tobacco provides.

But I don’t think I’ll ever be able to give up thinking. I just love ideas. And I always will.

And that means that I’ll always love smoking.

P.S. Slightly OT, but Lana Del Rey has been (gasp!) smoking on stage.

That’s a new development for her, and suggests that smoking is a very deliberate component of her image. And so is Pall Mall Blue.

About Frank Davis

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35 Responses to Stopping Thinking

  1. bing11 says:

    An excerpt from an antismoking “advocacy toolkit” (from a Canadian toolkit, but will be very similar around the world). These “toolkits” sport very few, if any, facts. It highlights the tricks/tactics used to contrive appearances – from flooding comments boards with inflammatory rhetoric, to conducting their own “polls”, to giving the appearance of wholesale public support for smoking bans – to manipulate the public and politicians/law-makers:

    “For the next few months, strive to ensure there are positive media stories, letters to the editor, etc., that tout how well the bylaw changes are working. There will no doubt be a backlash from smokers in the beginning until they get used to the changes.

    In the meantime, you have to counter their negative comments in the media, in comment sections of online news pieces and blogs, on radio call-in shows, etc.
    Your job is to make politicians continue to believe that they did the right thing.”
    It is not unheard of for councillors to backtrack on their decision and water down legislation.”
    (p. 48)
    SMOKEFREE OUTDOOR PUBLIC SPACES: A COMMUNITY ADVOCACY TOOLKIT

    http://www.smoke-free.ca/pdf_1/Smoke-free%20outdoor%20spaces%20advocacy%20-sept2010.pdf

    Even if a smoking ban has produced catastrophe, the role of the antismoking activist is to assure the public and law-makers in particular that the ban is a “resounding success”, that even smokers are ecstatic about being further marginalized. It is all activism of the worst kind.

    Antismoking activists are – demonstrably – destructive pathological liars. Those that have been given obscene amounts of funding have become professional liars, i.e., propagandists.

    • Margo says:

      Dear Frank
      Lovely piece – thanks.
      I’m certain you’re right about the thinking. I’m 70 and spend most of my life writing novels (still hoping for a publisher). Smoking opens a little door in the mind to a place you have to go in order to write/think/reflect. I gave up once (1968 – I was young and naiive). I stuck it for 6 months, and it was unbelievably hard: I succeeded through guilt, and by completely changing my life – no more writing, no more sitting down for a chat with friends, no more pub, jumping up straight after meals to wash up, staying active-active, and eating sweets. I ruined my two front teeth. One day, I said to myself: ‘I hate this and I’m not happy,’ and I went out and bought some fags.
      In certain circumstances, when I have to, I can go for hours without, and hardly think about it. But if you want that little door to be open, for a rich inner life, nothing works like a fag-or-five. And Harleyrider’s right: it’s all the solace-bringers of life that the powers-that-be are trying to take from us.

  2. nisakiman says:

    “P.S. Slightly OT, but Lana Del Rey has been (gasp!) smoking on stage.”

    Lana Del Rey is never off topic for you, Frank! :)

    The whole idea of nicotine being “the most addictive substance known to man, more addictive than heroin even”, (as I read constantly in comments threads in the MSM) is one of the biggest pieces of bullshit that the antis deploy. Believe me, I know what addiction is. And smoking is categorically not an addiction; it’s a habit. A few grains of common sense will tell you that someone who normally smokes 30 cigs a day (in the days when I smoked tailor-mades, I was generally a 40 a day man) is lighting up, on average, every half hour or so. If it was an addiction, then that person’s body would be demanding its ‘fix’ of nicotine every half-hour day and night. How many people have you known who wake up every half-hour during the night for a fag? Or every hour? Or once, even? During my periods of heaviest smoking (3+ packs a day) I’ve never woken up wanting a fag. In fact, I don’t normally light the first one until I’ve washed. brushed my teeth, made coffee etc, half an hour or so after I’ve woken, and I would imagine that applies to most smokers. Likewise, when I fly long-haul and arrive at the destination airport, I refuse to use those disgusting, degrading pig-pens they call “smoking booths”. I wait until I’ve cleared customs and immigration, and then find somewhere comfortable to sit down with a coffee or beer, and light up then. If it was an addiction, I would have been crawling up the walls of the airplane a few hours into the flight.

    The whole NRT scam is based on the premise of nicotine being an addiction, which is why it is such an abject failure as a cessation aid.

  3. beobrigitte says:

    There is also another effect of the constant anti-smoking articles, getting sillier all the time, media coverage: people had enough of it!
    More and more youngsters are lighting up openly and they are ready to defend themselves.
    It is the middle-aged who allow themselves to be scared into submission. This is the section of the public which begins to feel/see the natural signs of ageing and they don’t like it.

    I have also noticed another thing, the anti-smokers are also splitting the non-smokers into 2 groups; those who say: “enough is enough, live and let live” and those who say nothing.

    It is the anti-smokers activism which will bring them down. I’d like to book a seat in the first row as not to miss any of the spectacle.

    • Frank Davis says:

      It is the middle-aged who allow themselves to be scared into submission

      Either that, or the middle-aged have had to cope with 40 or 50 years of antismoking propaganda, and they’ve succumbed to it.

      You might think of smokers as being in the front line of trench warfare. The longer they’ve been in the front line, the more likely they are to catch a bullet. The young conscripts who are thrown into battle simply haven’t been there long enough.

      • harleyrider1978 says:

        Frank Im just turned 50 and I never ever bought the shs shit before. The SG warnings sure we all caught that for decades and I even bought it UNTIL! The SHS junk science came up and thats what blew there hand. If the shs junk science was so shitty then it wasnt but a cake walk that the direct smoking was also bullshit science…………….Then this showed up showing they never had any proof smoking caused anything in anyone! Exactly the same junk science they used on smoking is what they used on passive smoking. If they lied for the last 100 and more years they will ALWAYS LIE!

        JOINT STATEMENT ON THE RE-ASSESSMENT OF THE TOXICOLOGICAL TESTING OF TOBACCO PRODUCTS”
        7 October, the COT meeting on 26 October and the COC meeting on 18
        November 2004.

        http://cot.food.gov.

        uk/pdfs/cotstatement
        tobacco0409

        “5. The Committees commented that tobacco smoke was a highly complex chemical mixture and that the causative agents for smoke induced diseases (such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, effects on reproduction and on offspring) was unknown. The mechanisms by which tobacco induced adverse effects were not established. The best information related to tobacco smoke – induced lung cancer, but even in this instance a detailed mechanism was not available. The Committees therefore agreed that on the basis of current knowledge it would be very difficult to identify a toxicological testing strategy or a biomonitoring approach for use in volunteer studies with smokers where the end-points determined or biomarkers measured were predictive of the overall burden of tobacco-induced adverse disease.”

    • truckerlyn says:

      Hasn’t it always been the way of the young to balk the system? Tell them not to do something and the first thing they do is go and do it – especially the real rebels amonst them and, in my day there were quite a few rebels!

  4. Rose says:

    But the strange thing was, that, when it actually came to it, I didn’t mind at all. I didn’t mind sitting in the back of the car, not smoking. And I didn’t mind staying in the hotel either, not smoking. Pretty much the whole time I was away, I almost never wanted a cigarette. Even when the opportunity arose, at stopovers of one sort or other, I didn’t rush off for a smoke.

    Yes, I’ve noticed that myself, but we both smoke rollups, plain tobacco, I think that makes a considerable difference.
    I have not forgotten the three days of strange withdrawal when I changed from readymades to hand rolled. I couldn’t understand it at the time.

  5. prog says:

    Yes, a habit not an addiction. I like to compare smoking with other pleasurable activities/habits/routines, many of which would mean nothing to other people. For example some are ‘addicted’ to soap operas, or will only drink coffee in the morning and tea later on (or vice versa). Others may wander down to the pub at the same time, on the same days, sit in exactly the same place whilst drinking a set number of pints. A habit, a routine, a lifestyle choice.

    Most people are willing to temporarily break a habit if circumstances demand it, for example your weekend visit. But very few would happily stop doing their favourite things for an extended period or permanently. I think this is one reason would be quitters relapse – the mere thought of never smoking a cigarette again is simply too much to bear. A psychological withdrawal symptom, rather than a physical one. It’s pretty damn easy to forego something so long as you know that normal service will be resumed within hours or even several days.

    The same reasoning could be applied to almost all pleasurable routines, be it the obligatory morning cuppa, the daily stroll in the park, or the time spent sat on the bog doing the crossword….whatever. These are the type of things, however mundane they may seem on the surface, that provide comfort, pleasure and security, little things that cumulatively define our personalities.

    • Frank Davis says:

      It used to be my custom, before the smoking ban, to visit my local pub for an hour or so, drinking a single pint of lager, and smoking 3 or 4 cigarettes, and sitting gazing thoughtfully into space. I’d arrive anxious, and I’d leave serene. It was an important part of my day.

      And I desperately missed it after 1 July 2007. For months, every day, at about 3 pm, I’d want to go to the pub. It was a very uncomfortable period in the day. And the anxieties were no longer being replaced with serenity. I think it’s one reason why I’m an almost permanently angry man these days.

      • harleyrider1978 says:

        Frank in history when trying times come the hero stands tall and proud. Produced not from his obscure beginings but from the times he spoke out. His actions led a fight,his actions defied the law,his actions brought truth to an unknowing public. His actions raised an army and defeated an enemy bent upon world destruction of the free peoples of the world. Frank in years to come you have created an army and fed it well…………..Hense why ASH pinned their medal of freedom on your chest a mere 3 weeks ago!

      • prog says:

        They have changed your personality. I am no longer the easy going person I was before July 2007. Angry, goes without question – but that anger is partly directed against people I once considered to be close friends. They, of course, do not understand how I feel. Either the ban doesn’t affect them as much and/or they have succumbed wholly to the denormalisation process.

        I sometimes wonder who is normal these days….

      • prog says:

        Harley, I guess I’m not normal by my former standards of personal normality. But still sane at any rate. But we are certainly living in a world that seems to have mad. Just a pity more folks don’t realise they’re deluded. Suppose they wouldn’t really – what with being deluded. It’s rather interesting witnessing from the sideline…..

  6. mikef317 says:

    I agree completely, but let me state the same thing in my own words, and maybe add a little bit.

    Being retired I get up whenever I get up. My alarm is set to a music station. I might lay in bed listing to music for ten minutes – or an hour – or two hours. I DO NOT have a single cigarette. I’m in “sleep” mode. Maybe I’ll get up or maybe I’ll go back to sleep. I don’t care.

    Eventually I get out of bed, and IMMEDIATELY have my first cigarette of the day. I also start coffee brewing. (I’m an ogre until I’ve had my second cup.)

    My mind switches gears – from “sleep” mode to “awake” mode. From the second I get out of bed, I’m thinking. I check e-mail; maybe I have business to attend to. I look at the news to see if anything important has happened overnight. Naturally, I check your blog to see what you and commenters are saying. All of this involves my intellect.

    I’ll easily have four or five cigarettes the first hour after getting up. Thereafter, it depends. If I’m using my mind (reading a scientific study, digesting the news) I smoke a lot; if I’m doing housework or something menial, I smoke a lot less. (If I were on a train or plane looking at nice scenery [not thinking] I could do without cigarettes quite easily.)

    When I was working, I got paid (however meagerly) for my brain, not my (non-existent) brawn. I smoked a lot when I was working. I still do, but now it’s for my own intellectual interests.

    How much do I smoke during the day? It depends on how much I’m thinking. The more I think, the more I smoke. As I write this (5 AM New York time) I’m thinking and smoking a lot.

    Nightly, of course, I get tired. Maybe I leave a scientific paper half read. Mentally, my mind switches out of “thinking” mode. But I’m not in “sleep” mode. I’m in a “relaxed” (vegetative?) state. I fix myself a drink, sit on the couch, and watch TV. (Doctor Who, anyone?) I still smoke, but one or two cigarettes an hour; or less. I might get up and go to bed, or I might fall asleep on the couch. I don’t care. Tomorrow is another day.

    Based on the above, my smoking behavior does not fit the “addictive” theory; i.e., that I need a “fixed” amount of nicotine (or some chemical) on a regular basis. Quite the contrary!

    I look at smoking in terms of “stress,” and I’ll split this into two types – intellectual and emotional.

    As I recall the biochemistry of nicotine, at LOW levels of stress (waking up in the morning, after eating a meal) nicotine INCREASES stress: you become more alert. At HIGH level of stress (pondering an intellectual problem, being emotionally upset) nicotine LOWERS stress: you become more relaxed and thus able to deal with even more stress.

    If you ask smokers (as opposed to listening to pseudo-scientific drivel from the Tobacco Control Industry) a goodly number will say that tobacco enhances their intellectual performance. (And there’s biological research to support this.)

    There is also emotional stress – a parent dies, you get divorced, hell, your favorite pub closes – if you ask smokers, many will tell you that they smoke more when they are emotionally upset. Again, this is stress reduction. (And again there is biological research to support this.)

    Marihuana never interested me, nor cocaine, heroin, etc. I do drink, however. Alcohol loosens inhibitions; ideas that might never be considered suddenly become fascinating. The next day most of these notions are soundly rejected. A few, however, survive logical scrutiny. This is how I get some of my best ideas (in my opinion, at least).

    I use cigarettes, coffee, and alcohol to control my mental state. I can’t say that these would be equally valuable to everyone (people are different) but they work nicely for me.

    • Frank Davis says:

      It’s very much the same for me, but I’m not quite so quick off the mark in the morning. I’m usually pretty thoughtless on waking in the morning. It takes a mug of tea to get me into first gear, and another mug to get into second gear. It’ll be several hours before I get to fifth gear. So my smoking gathers pace through the day, and also slows in the evening.

      I agree alcohol loosens inhibitions, and allows people to entertain ideas they may not ordinarily have.

      I use cigarettes, coffee, and alcohol to control my mental state.

      I don’t think I do that. It’s more a matter of supply and demand. It’s not ‘control’.

      • harleyrider1978 says:

        A simple sinner am I. But with a thirst for liberty that cannot be quenched.

      • mikef317 says:

        People are different. There’s no reason you or anyone else has to react the exact same way I do. What temperature do you keep your house, summer or winter? Do you like spicy food? Do you love, hate, or just not care about Agatha Christie’s books? People are different.

        I’m a “night” person; it’s 10 AM in N.Y., and I haven’t yet gone to bed. (I’m not even really sleepy.) There are “day” persons who went to bed at 10 or 11 PM yesterday and are long since awake – some raring to go, and some who wished they could sleep more but never-the-less dragged themselves up and headed off to work.

        There are seven billion people in the world. I do what’s good for me – so many cigarettes, so much coffee and alcohol. For me, the right amount of each. (No marihuana, cocaine, or heroin.) But my “right amount” might be your too much or too little. Too early in the day or too late. People are different.

        Rather than “control,” maybe I should have said “regulate.” If I’m cold, I’ll turn up the heat; if I’m hot, I’ll start the air conditioner. If I’m stressed (or not stressed enough) I’ll light up a cigarette.

        The point I was trying to make is that intellectually and emotionally, tobacco has beneficial effects, and that these effects (as opposed to addiction theory) are one of the reasons that so many people choose to smoke. Bottom line, you think better BECAUSE you smoke.

  7. mikeivervillage says:

    Wow Mikef317 has really summed things up for how I am. I hadn’t really considered it before. I can get up at 7am or sleep in until 11, 12, 1pm on a weekend (if I’m lucky!) and whilst in bed a cigarette never enters my head. As soon as I am “vertical” I want a cig and again, like Mikef319 I can have a number in the 1st hour 3, 4, 5, 6 etc. I often wondered if I laid down all day and worked like that would I actually want a cig at all! But I suppose is the thinking process that is wanting the cig – I didn’t see that before. If I am working at home, I will smoke a lot, if I am gardening or doing house work I will smoke a lot less – as witnessed this morning doing gardening.

    When I go down the pub, which has an acceptable (heated and covered) outside smoking area (obviously not as wonderful as smoking INSIDE where we belong), I arrive, buy a beer, and go out immediately, and stay out there, only coming in for more beer and the toilet. I smoke a lot generally because I am discussind today’s interests with my friends. I find that when I get home, my brain has stopped working (2-3 too many beers) and then I actually FORGET to smoke!! I have always considered nicotine to be addictive but perhaps that last sentence proves it isn’t

    Off subject but I went to a reunion on Saturday to a pub in St Margaret’s, Isleworth. I was really worried before we got there that myself and my partner would be the only smokers and would have to do the in-out in-out (shake it all about) business all night long. To my glee over 100 people turned up and I’d say 98 of them smoked. We all stayed outside the whole evening until 11.30pm and had a thoroughly brilliant night

  8. Rose says:

    I crawl out of bed in a disorientated and dishevelled state, manage to negotiate the stairs, put on the kettle and roll a cigarette. I need all the help I can get before I have to deal with boiling water.

    This was article was a revelation to me and fully explains my morning routine.

    Your Brain Boots Up Like a Computer

    “As we yawn and open our eyes in the morning, the brain stem sends little puffs of nitric oxide to another part of the brain, the thalamus, which then directs it elsewhere.

    Like a computer booting up its operating system before running more complicated programs, the nitric oxide triggers certain functions that set the stage for more complex brain operations, according to a new study.

    In these first moments of the day, sensory information floods the system—the bright sunlight coming through the curtains, the time on the screeching alarm clock—and all of it needs to be processed and organized, so the brain can understand its surroundings and begin to perform more complex tasks.

    “The thinking part of the brain is applying a sort of stencil to the information coming in and what the nitric oxide is doing is allowing more refinement of that stencil,” says Dwayne Godwin, an associate professor at Wake Forest University and lead author of the study, which was funded by the National Eye Institute.

    The little two-atom molecule, it seems, is partly responsible for our ability to perceive whatever it is we’re sensing.

    http://www.livescience.com/980-brain-boots-computer.html

    Scientists Learn How The Brain ‘Boots Up’ To Process Information From The Senses

    “In the brain, small puffs of the gas are naturally released during the day by the brainstem, where it affects another region called the thalamus, but scientists knew little about its role.

    Nitric oxide is released during awareness, or aroused states of the brain. In the animal studies, Godwin and colleagues found something surprising about how it enhances the flow of sensory information from the eyes to the brain to process vision.

    “Just as a computer must boot up its operating system before running involved applications like spreadsheets, nitric oxide released as the brain wakes up may set the stage for more complex brain operations by enhancing information at the earliest processing steps,” said Godwin.

    Sensory information from the eyes, skin or ears goes first to the thalamus, which acts like a gateway and either allows the information to flow on to the cortex, the thinking part of the brain, or stops it. Scientists knew that the thalamus sends information to the cortex, but did not know that nitric oxide affects how the cortex communicates back.

    “What we have shown is that nitric oxide released into the thalamus enhances communication between the thalamus and cortex. This is a whole new understanding of how the brain communicates,” said Godwin.

    He explained that the cortex receives visual information from the thalamus that is basically just a small part of an image, analogous to a pixel in a photograph. The cortex then builds up a more complex representation, which it then feeds back to the thalamus to select the information that it needs to complete or organize the picture. Nitric oxide enhances this feedback effect.

    This discovery was made by isolating inputs to the thalamus into two groups: inputs from the eyes; and a second group of feedback inputs from the cortex. What they found about nitric oxide’s role was surprising.

    “We expected to find that signals from the eye would be boosted by nitric oxide,” said Godwin. “Instead, we found that nitric oxide reduced signals from the eyes, and enhanced the feedback from the cortex.”
    http ://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/08/060808161139.htm

    Nitric Oxide Can Alter Brain Function

    “Research from the Medical Research Council (MRC) Toxicology Unit at the University of Leicester shows that nitric oxide (NO) can change the computational ability of the brain.”

    “It is well known that nerve cells communicate via the synapse the site at which chemical messengers (neurotransmitters such as acetylcholine or glutamate) are packaged and then released under tight control to influence their neighbours.

    “Nitric oxide is a chemical messenger which cannot be stored and can rapidly diffuse across cell membranes to act at remote sites (in contrast to conventional neurotransmitters which cannot pass across cell membranes).”

    “Surprisingly, the whole population of neurons were affected, even those neurons which had no active synaptic inputs, so indicating that nitric oxide is a ‘volume transmitter’ passing information between cells without the need for a synapse. Such a function is ideal for tuning neuronal populations to global activity.”
    http ://www.medicalnewstoday.com/releases/130992.php

    1993
    “According to Zapol, it all reduces to one simple thing. “Good things hide in pollutants and cigarettes,” he said”

    http://www.thecrimson.com/article/1993/2/11/study-finds-benefits-of-pollutant-pa/

    Two cups of coffee (now decaff, I did an experiment , it seems the early prohibitionist’s theories on caffeine may not be terribly relevant either ) and three cigarettes and I am ready to face the day.

    • Margo says:

      Thanks, Rose. I laughed all through that. I love your research. I have a vision, now, of you slumped at the kitchen table clutching a coffee and lighting that first fag, waiting for the brain to boot up so the day can begin. I do just the same.

      • Rose says:

        I’m afraid that it’s worse than that, Margo.
        I drink my first cup of coffee collapsed on the sofa in an untidy heap with the coffee table just within reach of my unsteady hand.

        Now you have the whole ghastly picture.

  9. I tell people I can’t think without a cigarette in my hand. I do my serious thinking at home. We are told that the pleasure from smoking is illusory and comes from alleviating nicotine deprivation. I disagree. Below is a section from the paper which was in the news last week, reporting the possiblity of a nicotine vaccine. The authors believe nicotine to have beneficial effects other than alleviating deprivation.

    http://stm.sciencemag.org/content/4/140/140ra87.full

    “…… nicotine binds to the nicotinic acetylcholine receptor, triggering the conversion of l-tyrosine to dopamine, with resulting pleasure, reduced stress, alterations in blood pressure and heart rate, heightened alertness, and increased ability to process information.”

  10. lleweton says:

    I’vc thought for years that an unconscious (or not) urge to stop people thinking was one motive behind the attack on smoking.

  11. jaxthefirst says:

    You and me both, Lleweton. I’ve long believed that smoking: “Focuses the mind whilst stimulating the imagination.” That’s not to say that a focussed mind or an active imagination are qualities which are bestowed by smoking upon people who would otherwise not have them, because most people have at least a small element of both but in most people one side or the other predominates and, by and large, usually over-rules whichever is the “weaker” side in themselves. We’ve all known intensely creative people who are forever coming up with brilliant – but ultimately totally impractical or impossible – ideas; and we’ve also all known terribly down-to-earth people who plod steadily through life doing things very reliably and very well, but without a hint of “spark” or any thought as to how whatever it is that they are doing could be done better/quicker/more effectively. What smoking does is balance out the two and enable them to work co-operatively instead of against each other, and it’s this “balancing out” which has occurred in so many massively creative people in the past which has marked them out as truly great, creatively, rather than just averagely good. Just think of Isambard Kingdom Brunel, Oscar Wilde, Winston Churchill, Lennon & McCartney. All had the ability to combine their tremendous inspiration with their keen logical faculties and this gave them the ability to change the world in their respective fields. And all were, certainly at the time of their greatest contributions, keen smokers. Indeed, the over-preponderance of non-smokers in so many fields these days might well answer the question as to why – in this, the 21st century of our history – nothing really works as well as it both should and could, and sometimes not even as well as it did back in the days when smokers were far more highly represented in both workforces and amongst industry leaders in all fields.

    But in view of this, and in view, too, of your comment – why would those in power seek to hinder the progress of those people who could contribute the most to society and make it so much better for everyone? Wouldn’t it be in their interests for us to be still making huge, progressive strides as a society in all areas? Well, clearly for the never-smokers amongst the anti-smoking movement the thought simply hasn’t occurred to them (How ironic! But I digress …); but for the rest who I believe are perfectly aware of the connection, I think it’s a price they (perfectly knowingly) pay. Because of course, the combination of a focussed mind and an active imagination can just as easily be directed towards political structures or social change as they can towards artistic or industrial endeavours. And whereas it might be a marvellous thing for society in general for tobacco-inspired people to come up with life-changing inventions, groundbreaking scientific discoveries, and awe-inspiring works of art, if such talents were directed towards the structure of society and the balance of power and influence (as they could very well be), for our currently largely-non-smoking, fumbling, incompetent political classes it would be nothing short of a disaster!

    • Frank Davis says:

      Lennon & McCartney

      That’s an interesting one. Early ‘tobacco-driven’ Beatles produced all their greatest hits. “Love me do”, “Please please me,” etc. These were all rather optimistic little love songs, and all remarkably similarly structured to one another (in my view).

      I’m not sure when they all started smoking pot, but I would guess that it would be sometime prior to Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, which was (as I’d expect with pot) much more imaginative and inventive. But… from then on, they lost the discipline and coherence and structure of their early days. They started going in different directions, and within about 5 years they had disintegrated.

      I actually liked later Beatles music (Abbey Road) much more than early Beatles.

      Contrast with Jagger and Richards.

      They were also ‘tobacco-driven’ in their early days (roughly the same time as the Beatles) and also produced a set of defining hits, “It’s all over now,” “Satisfaction”, “Jumping Jack Flash”, which also had a similar discipline and coherence and structure. But after a flirtation with drugs and “2000 light years from home” etc, they reverted to their former R&B style and have remained the same ever since, even producing the occasional hit. I think that Mick Jagger is almost drug-free, while Keith Richards has a long history of heroin use (now ended, I believe).

    • Frank Davis says:

      if such talents were directed towards the structure of society and the balance of power and influence (as they could very well be), for our currently largely-non-smoking, fumbling, incompetent political classes it would be nothing short of a disaster!

      But in this aren’t you really suggesting that antismokers are politically conservative? And they don’t want anything changed?

      But, it seems to me that the antis are actually mostly leftist political radicals, who believe in state planning and a command economy. They want to completely change everything, including what people eat and drink.

      But it always seems to me that they want to change everything in order to simplify it, because they don’t understand money and economics or even democracy. So they want to get rid of everything they don’t understand. What they do understand is planning within a command economy (even if it doesn’t work).

      Their understanding of everything is a bit simple-minded. They really seem to believe that, if smoking is made more or less completely illegal, people will stop smoking. They believe they can bully people into doing what they want them to do. They don’t really know what they’re doing.

      • harleyrider1978 says:

        Right on target their Frank as usual!

        Insight: “Green Fleet” sails, meets stiff headwinds in Congress
        FIELD OF DREAMS?

        AT WHAT COST?

        But the initial small-batch cost of some biofuels has raised eyebrows on Capitol Hill, even among lawmakers used to dealing with billion-dollar defense cost overruns.

        The Pentagon paid Solazyme Inc $8.5 million in 2009 for 20,055 gallons of biofuel based on algae oil, or $424 a gallon.

        Solazyme’s strategic advisers, according to its website, include T.J. Glauthier, who served on Obama’s White House Transition team and dealt with energy issues, but also former CIA director R. James Woolsey, a conservative national security official.

        For the Great Green Fleet demonstration, the Pentagon paid $12 million for 450,000 gallons of biofuel, nearly $27 a gallon. There were eight bidders for that contract, it said.

        http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/07/02/us-usa-navy-greenfleet-idUSBRE86106X20120702

        • harleyrider1978 says:

          I could use a raise in my U.s. navy retirement check……….I believe Ive been ripped off!

          But as long as the governments wasting useless Owebummer bucks everywhere why not pass a few quid my way. Oh shit,Im a conservative/Libertarian.

      • jaxthefirst says:

        It isn’t so much that smokers might want to change the structure of things, whereas antis don’t because, as you point out, many antis want to change pretty much everything. I think what I was trying to get at more is that antis – being non-tobacco-balanced – base most of their reasoning on fanciful, idealistic change (i.e. the creative, imaginative side of the mind), where one size fits all and everyone is happy and contented living pretty much the same life as everyone else with only a few very limited permitted variations on a standard theme. So yes, they do want change, but their desire for change is not tempered with the use of those logical faculties which would inform their idealistic side that, whether they like it or not, there are – and will always be – a large number of people for whom that “one size” doesn’t fit and who will be desperately unhappy living the kind of life which the idealists would proscribe for them.

        The trouble is, there’s no doubt that there are some areas of our current political/power structure which do desperately need attention. Not all, I grant you – no point in throwing out the baby with the bathwater (there you go – there’s my own “tobacco-balance” kicking in) – but the lack of accountability and the amount of sheer influence and power granted to our very obviously incompetent leaders (both political and otherwise) and, by default therefore (and even worse, in my opinion) their families and cronies, could really do with some pretty drastic reforms.

        But these aren’t reforms which the people in power would want for a second, because in essence they would mean they would lose a lot of that power. And they’d be reforms which – to be successful and to be fully embraced by the public, without whose support they couldn’t take place, in practical terms – would take both imagination and common-sense because they would be so fundamental and have such wide-ranging effects on the whole of society. So the only people who, if so inclined, would have a cat in hell’s chance of proposing (or enacting) such reforms successfully could almost certainly only come from the tobacco smoking community.

        Which is one very good reason why so many of our most self-serving politicians from across the political spectrum recognise, at a fundamental level, how important it is for their own careers that tobacco smoking, if it cannot be eradicated, must at least be controlled in as many ways and as many places, as possible.

        Sorry Frank – another rather wordy reply. No doubt if you’d have said all this you would have done so using only half the number of words …!

  12. harleyrider1978 says:

    Smokers Rights Group Sues To Have ‘No Smoking’ Signs Removed From Parks

    Back in May, New York State had to delay a plan to ban smoking in state parks when “smoker’s rights” group objected, and sent the plan back for administrative review.

    Now, that group., NYC Citizens Lobbying Against Smoker Harassment (C.L.A.S.H.) has filed a lawsuit against the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (OPRHP) and its commissioner, Rose Harvey, after discovering that “No Smoking” sings were still being hanging in the state parks, beaches and historic sites.

    “The intentional use of signage to fool park visitors into thinking that an unofficial policy has the force of law as a coercive tactic to induce compliance with a moral, rather than a legal, dictate cannot be tolerated,” said Audrey Silk, founder of C.L.A.S.H. ”Government is taking its war on smokers to the new contemptible level when it determines the rule of law is expendable when it comes ‘to those people.’ Rogue governance is a threat to all.”

    The rest of Ms. Silk’s statement, including her encouragement to “smoke ‘em if ya got ‘em,” is below:

    Silk adds, “When already beleaguered adults who choose to smoke are enjoying their outdoor activities this Independence Day holiday we want them to know that they can take to heart words from the day’s founding document that ‘[W]hen a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government…’

    “So feel free to assert your independence from tyranny and smoke ‘em if ya got ‘em because the signs are a lie.”

    Joshpe Law Group LLP, a Manhattan law firm, filed the suit on behalf of C.L.A.S.H. Attorney Brett Joshpe said, “regardless of your view on public smoking, one thing is clear: it is wildly inappropriate for unelected personnel to be declaring behavior prohibited, giving the public the false impression of the force of law, when that very behavior is completely legal.” Joshpe also said that if the Office of Parks proceeds to implement the new restrictions without the legislature passing a law first, his client will sue on that basis as well. The suit was filed in Albany County.

    NYC Citizens Lobbying Against Smoker Harassment (C.L.A.S.H.) is a grassroots organization established in 2000 dedicated to advancing and protecting the interests of adults who choose to smoke cigarettes or enjoy other forms of tobacco.

    http://politicker.com/2012/07/smokers-rights-group-sues-to-have-no-smoking-signs-removed-from-parks/

  13. truckerlyn says:

    Hopping in here, having glanced at most of the posts in the little time have between work and sleep!

    As some of you know, I am a truck driver and I work through the night from mid afternoon. It is totally illegal, but I smoke in the cab of whichever truck I am driving as I find it helps to keep me focused, especially on that last 50 to 100 miles in the early hours when both tiredness and that soporiphic effect takes over.

    The big problem for us that drive through the night is there is nowhere to pull up when you just need 5 to 10 minutes out of the truck. This is because the motorway services closed most of the truck stops down years ago but now cannot cope with the volume of trucks that stop overnight – you would be hard pushed to even park a motorbike in the lorry park after 9 or 10 pm. Consequently just about all the lay bys are also full with drivers who sleep out in their trucks, which means we are buggered! The only spaces are in the SOS Emergency Only lay bys, but if we pull in there the police will move us on, whether or not we are on a legally required break due to being out of hours and if we don’t move they will give us a fine!

    I once asked a non smoker what he did to keep alert when he got tired and he told me he looks around at the scenery and the lights and tries to work out where they are and what they are! I said I would stick to smoking, it has to be safer!

  14. T Payne says:

    I gave up smoking four years ago and all seemed well. Then, two years ago I decided to finish a novel I’d started many years before. It didn’t take long before I was back on the pipe and roll-ups.

  15. Pingback: Nation of Morons | Frank Davis

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