Friday, January 22, 2010

Clinton takes cigarettes to Haiti

It was an unfortunate choice that when taking supplies to Haiti, that some staffer threw in some cigarette cartons along with real necessities such as soap, water and food. But I think this is a sad commentary on how much of our society still thinks of smoking as just a bad habit instead of an addiction. I'm sure whomever bought the cigarettes thought it would bring comfort but I'm also sure that there are some that would think that a couple bottles of alcohol or a baggie of weed,  or a gram of heroin could bring just as much comfort.
"What's the big deal? So what if a little comfort is provided by smoking at this time of intense stress."
It is a big deal. Studies have shown that the high rate of tobacco use in our military can increase the likelihood of developing Post Tramautic Stress Disorder (PTSD). When faced with the atrocities of war or the devastation of a natural disaster like a hurricane, many will turn to a smoke for a quick fix of dopamine to relieve the negative feelings. But it may be that this hit of nicotine is also encapsulating that atrocity, that devastation into the smokers memory that will haunt them later. Nicotine works on a part of the brain that heightens external events which in a normal daily life will lead to the creation of habits--a cigarette goes with a cup of coffee, after a meal, --the brain is alerted by the nicotine to pay attention to what is going on at the same time. Habits can be broken, but developing PTSD can affect someone for a lifetime--ask some of our Vietnam vets.
Up to 60% of individuals with PTSD are smokers and are heavy smokers at that. They will say that smoking helps relieve their symptoms but often smoking is just making their symptoms worse. PTSD is a matter of not being able to forget and nicotine won't let them. The Department of Defense has realized what a problem smoking is and the creation of PTSD, that it commissioned the Institute of Medicine for recommendations and the main item was to eliminate tobacco use from our troops.
Maybe a few smokes won't hurt but why should we encourage any use of an addictive product that causes so many problems down the road. Are we just setting Haiti up for a ward of PTSD survivors by giving them cigarettes?

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