Smoking: a public health Menace and a private Inferno

One year later, it still holds true: (and has been updated again, in 12022 HE…)

In an earlier blog article related to this global pandemic, the #coronavirus, also known as covid-19, I pointed out that allowing accurate news coverage of public health information is vital for public safety. This point is illustrated by season 2, episode 13 of Spanish Public Television series El Ministerio del Tiempo. But what is not mentioned in the episode is the danger posed by smokers to those who are either ill or recovering from a virus, particularly one like the current malady, which attacks the lungs, much like SARS. For anyone who has allergies, asthma, any sort of lung-based or respiratory illness, or even merely a common cold, cigar or cigarette smoke, or even marijuana for those who are also sensitive to it, creates further breathing difficulty, hampering recovery. Thus, a public health problem is aggravated by smoking anywhere within at least a 20 ft. But that does not take into account the other side of smoking: the personal side.

For many individuals, suffering from anything from emphysema to asthma, the hazards of smoking, both first and second-hand, are clear. But there is another side, which is not as often seen. For survivors of long term very early childhood abuse, cigarette or marijuana smoke can often trigger unwanted memories, flight/flight/freeze reactions, or even panic attacks. And to confuse the matter further, the very survivors may not even realize the source or the connection between smoke and their anxiety or panic reactions.

One survivor of very early and long-lasting childhood abuse explained it this way, when asked why the mere smell of cigarette smoke could make anyone panic:

“As long as I can remember, I have always flinched, or had the urge to run and hide (which we now call the fight, flight, or panic response), at the slightest smells of cigarette or marijuana smoke. As I sat in a place where there was strictly prohibited smoking, having been reassuring by a manager on the property that someone would find the source of the cigarette smoke right way, I relaxed for a moment and closed my eyes.

I suddenly found myself a 4-year old back in a place I never want to live again in a dark room sitting on the floor, hoping that the person with the cigarette would keep walking past the door. As the door opens can I come back to a memory of being asked for forgiveness many years later. Reasons for never given, but in my gut, I knew immediately.

What my gut knew, when I was in my late 20s, took me until I was 51 years old to come up to my conscious mind. It happened at 3 in the morning on a day when I finally feel reassured by someone that I would be protected. Not from the cigarette smoke, but from the person carrying the cigarette.”

So, please, for the good of those suffering with the novel Coronavirus, and also for the good of those suffering with buried memories triggered by smoke, please help all of us to be healthy, and stop smoking.



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37 thoughts on “Smoking: a public health Menace and a private Inferno

  1. So interesting and valuable, Shira. I never knew about the smoke evoking hard memories. When I worked with the mental health center, many young people smoked, and the counselors didn’t discourage them because there were so many other issues. ) I assume they got around to cessation later.) Thank

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you, Annie: PTSD, especially C-PTSD, is one of those complex emotional anxiety disorders that can hide for a while under the guise of ‘functionality,’ but pop up suddenly and harshly when brought back into the acute stage by a smell, or other trigger that is attached to the adrenal (gland?) response mechanism. Part of the problem with traumas in pre-verbal children, and part of the reason that we need so much more protection and early intervention and education for kids and parents. And yes, also smoking cessation, but this particular issue is more of any empathy and understanding issue than a smoking issue, really. Much like Hawkeye in that M.A.S.H. episode, any smell associated with the (usually forgotten or repressed) trauma can do it, but cigarette smoke is so much more penetrating and long lasting as well as damaging that you’d think it would have been addressed as a general public health problem by this time, especially in places where all residents get health care, and thus do not pay higher premiums for the added damage that smoking causes in themselves and the general population.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. what could have brought the memory back, and Sidney suggests Private Caputo, who came into camp frightened and smelling, as Hawkeye said, “like a wet burlap sack.” Sidney remarks that an odor is a very powerful memory trigger, and concludes that it was the smell of the moldy water that set off Hawkeye’s “mental land mine.”

    This seems to be a report from one of the wars fought on your world…

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Wow Shira,

    I never even thought that there was a the connection between cigarette smoke and anxiety or panic reactions. We all knew the association between cigarette smoking, second-hand smoke, and lung disorders/diseases. You of course know this up close and personal. I tried to smoke in high school once and it made me sick to my stomach. I couldn’t understand how people enjoyed this habit.

    I have been around smokers but I couldn’t stand being around them and would move away. The scent in their hair or on their clothes and breath were nauseating to me and I would constantly cough and gag. 😦 But to associate it with mental triggers is a new one on me. Thanks for keeping us enlightened. 🙂

    Such toxicity from

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you, Kym: yes, as in that old M.A.S.H. episode, we’ve known for a while now that smells can trigger repressed traumas, but this is something that most of the general public is not aware of, and could likely benefit from knowing.
      Thank you for reading and contributing to both of our continuing enlightenment, Kym!

      Stay safe,

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Oh my pleasure my friend. Education is the product of learning such life-saving information and to make a change for the better. We learn, we teach, and we learn some more.

        Thanks so much for your empowering messages Shira! 🙂

        Much love! ❤

        Liked by 1 person

  4. This makes sense. They say triggers can occur from anything, a smell is included. Not to sound judgmental, but I always wonder, after all these years, why there are still people who choose to smoke?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you, Dr. G!
      I often wonder that too, especially given the cost and addictiveness of those poisonous things.
      Folks used to call them “cancer sticks,” even as they were smoking them! But at least back then they didn’t know how damaging the stuff was even third hand to non-smokers, especially kids. Now we know this, and still people continue this behavior.
      I don’t get it, either.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Big hugs (if wanted).
    I am the rare non-smoker that doesn’t mind the smell of secondhand cigarette or pot smoke, but I’m aware that I’m the exception, not the rule. It’s impossible to know who has an underlying physical condition or PTSD and all the more reason for smokers to be considerate.
    One thing that is frustrating about the vaccine roll-out in my state is that smokers are ahead in the priority for vaccination vs. the general population. I’m not willing to lie to get vaccinated sooner (Husband is considering it; they aren’t verifying whether so-called smokers are telling the truth) and neither of us are willing to take up smoking in order to get vaccinated sooner. But fascinating and frustrating how the roll-out is creating a perverse incentive…

    Liked by 2 people

        1. I shouldn’t really judge individuals who think in the short-term – I am a very short-term thinker and have found myself really struggling to think with any long-term strategy. It is something I have been noticing about myself as of late. Explains why I am a decent Scrabble player for a given rack, but not good at rack management throughout the game, and why I am a dreadful chess player. Also explains certain life choices and lack of goal-setting ability, among other things.

          But policy makers really ought be thinking more long-term…

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Exactly: policy-makers need to think long-term, because they are not looking at simply one individual life.

            Also, you are still young, and it takes time to learn to think long-term. Having examples helps, like my great grandma Marie, with whom I spent much of my extremely early life: she was old since I met her, and she taught me how to make beans, grits, fried chicken, and cream of wheat, as well as how to sew: all of which requires pre-planning and somewhat long-term thinking.
            These are things we generally do not teach nowadays, so it is more difficult for your generation (and even mine: my peers didn’t sew, and certainly not by hand!) to learn without examples.
            Not to mention the new apps and advertising these days, that really push instant gratification…

            Liked by 2 people

            1. I’m 35, which isn’t all that young and I don’t have much excuse for being such a short-term thinker. Looking back, I can also see where having a more long-term focus years ago would have made me happier now. You know what they say about hindsight. In any case, at least I am not making policy decisions….
              Got any beans or fried chicken recipes to share? 😉

              Liked by 1 person

            2. Hmmm, well, first, sort and start soaking your beans the day before…

              I personally prefer pinto beans, and add some dried red chilli and salt to the water, boil, add the beans, turn it down to low, stick the lid on so that the the foam can boil off but not boil over, and go read a book for an hour, then come back, look in your fridge, dice and toss in every vegetable you have into the pot, add a bit more water, and black pepper, and maybe a bit of cayenne, let it go on low for maybe a half an hour, and then cover it tightly and turn it off for about half an hour.
              Once the water is mostly soaked up, or it’s the right thickness, then you can toss in tumeric, cayenne, powdered ginger, maybe some powdered cloves if you’re feeling a bit tired or ill, and some cumin, if you like it, and then give it a try, and probably add more salt.
              It’s been so long since I fried up chicken with my grandma (Z’lB) that I’m sorry to say I cannot give you anything resembling a recipe!

              Liked by 1 person

            3. Oh, yeah: I can never forget how to make grits!
              First, make sure you have real/regular old fashioned grits, not this new quick stuff -it tastes horrible no matter what you do with it!!

              So, get about 3 cups of water, salted, boiling, then add maybe half a cup of grits (I’d check the directions), stir constantly, and either add more grits or add a bit more water as they start to thicken up, then lower the flame and let simmer for about 20 minutes, stirring prettymuch every 5 minutes or more, and then just cut the heat and let it sit tightly covered for a few minutes, maybe 10 or so, until they thicken up to your preference, and serve. The leftovers will gell up like spam or the other stuff whose name I forget, and you can slice off slices and fry them up with your eggs the next day (with tofu bacon, of course!).
              Add butter, more salt, black pepper, and eat with eggs over easy, toast, and your favorite meat substitute!

              Liked by 1 person

            4. Do not feel guilty! I have not tasted actual bacon, but I did work in a non-kosher sandwich shop at one point where I made, among other things, bacon, egg, and cheese sandwiches. It was there that I learned that I really loved the smell of bacon. In any case, food memories are totally a thing! Especially when they are connected to someone you love and miss.

              Liked by 1 person

            5. Thank you!
              Yes, food memories are very strong, and remind me of happy warm DC summers (when with Grandma Marie, I didn’t even have to fan the adults!).


    1. Thank you, JYP, exactly!
      (and, yes, thank you also for those hugs!)
      I get it that logically speaking, those moronic heartless selfish polluters are in fact more at risk, due to their on-going expensive choice to harm all of us with their smoke, but it is a choice that they are litteraly killing us all to make.
      Perverse incentives,
      lies and poisons…

      Liked by 1 person

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