Cigarettes: The Deadliest Habit

We all know that smoking is bad for you, potentially lethal in fact, and that the nicotine in tobacco is addictive. Yet, despite government warnings on cigarette packs and billboards and commercials warning people of the dangers of cancer and heart and lung disease, 44.5 million Americans still smoke. But giving up this habit is the best thing you can do for your health.

Less Of A Decline

While smoking declined steadily for years, it seems to have leveled off at about 20 percent of the American population. According to the compiled statistics at

  • Cigarette smoking has been identified as the most important source of preventable morbidity and premature death in the United States and the world.
  • Smoking-related diseases cause an estimated 440,000 American deaths each year. Smoking costs the United States more than $150 billion annually in healthcare costs.
  • A 2004 Study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion found that cigarette smoke contains more than 4,800 chemicals, 69 of which are known to cause cancer.
  • Women account for 39 percent of all smoking deaths.

Facing Reality

Millions of people every year face these realities and quit smoking or attempt to quit smoking. Many methods have been developed over the years to help smokers kick their habit, including quitting cold turkey, hypnotherapy, psychotherapy, detox programs and non-cigarette nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) products, such as chewing gum, nasal sprays and transdermal patches. NRT products are considered the go-to products these days, with more people trying to get off the so-called cancer-sticks by replacing the cigarette nicotine fix with an alternative nicotine source and steadily winding down the daily dose over time.

I’d like to share some interesting – and perhaps surprising — information with you from two recent studies on nicotine therapy.

You Must Remember This

Since the 1980s, scientists and doctors have known there is a link between memory and nicotine: Nicotine stimulates the receptors responsible for thinking and memory. It’s no wonder smoking has a long tradition among writers and artists, who need creative stimulation and thinking power. However, recent research published in the journal, Neurology, shows that small amounts of nicotine may limit memory loss and Alzheimer’s in an aging population. The study involved 74 non-smokers with a mean age of 76 years. The group was divided in two groups. One group received transdermal nicotine patches and the other half got transdermal patches with no nicotine (placebos).

After a six-month period, the nicotine group “regained 46 percent of normal performance for age on long-term memory, whereas the placebo group worsened by 26 percent over the same time period.”

It is interesting that in this study of using nicotine for non-smoking related health issues, the placebo group did not fare well. However, where nicotine therapy is used specifically for smoking cessation (its intended medical use) another study shows it is not effective. The positive outcomes of gum, spray and patch application, in this case, are the result of placebo.

Quitting Effectiveness

According to a recent study by Harvard University School of Public Health, nicotine products such as gum, sprays and patches are no more effective than quitting on your own. Harvard research scientist and study lead Hillel Alpert says: “The study shows that using NRT is no more effective in helping people stop smoking cigarettes in the long term than trying to quit on one’s own.”

This study was conducted among 787 participants who had recently quit smoking, following them over three different time periods between 2001 and 2006. During that time, about 30 percent of participants who used NRT relapsed, which is the same average for those who try to quit without their use. This is interesting because there have been numerous studies to the contrary, showing that nicotine replacement therapies are effective. However, the Harvard scientists stand by their finding and assert that “although previous randomized studies have shown NRT to be effective in helping smokers quit, the latest research shows the weakness of those trials among the general population in a real-life setting.”

Use It And Lose It

Just to be clear, the latest research does not say that NRT is useless in helping smokers quit — only that it is no more effective at keeping them off cigarettes over the long run than quitting without spending money and time on their use. However, many tobacco addicts find it difficult to gather the emotional strength to even attempt quitting on their own, so NRT offers a crutch or an emotional support for them, based on the belief that by using them the process of quitting will be successful. In addition to the chemical addiction there is a behavioral component to smoking cessation that also needs to be addressed. I recommend a combination of detox, energy balance and behavior change tools to support long-term success.

Nicotine is a toxin that affects blood, tissue, lungs, heart, liver and other parts of the body. The main organs used for cleansing the body and its fluids are the skin, liver and kidneys. However, cigarette smoke contains large amounts of nicotine and other dangerous chemicals that prevent true self-detoxification.

A good way to begin a smoking cessation program would be to detox for a few days (longer if possible) with the “Master Cleanse” otherwise known as the “Lemonade Cleanse.” This is a popular and widely used detox method wherein you only consume water fortified with fresh lemon, organic maple syrup and cayenne pepper for a period of time. (Check out the details of the Master Cleanse.)


While you are detoxing, it is a good time to examine your personal belief systems in relation to why you smoke, how you feel about it, why you want to quit and how successful you think you can be. There are many good programs available that offer behavior modification methods for habits like smoking. I like using techniques from Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) and The Sedona Method. Have fun doing some searches and looking for various programs. It’s all part of the process of taking responsibility for the process of quitting and sticking to it. You need to have clear reasons why you are quitting, a clear plan to follow and a strong belief that you will succeed.

It is also a good idea to enlist a method to help support your quitting efforts. This can take the form of NRT products or hypnosis.

I have found auricular (ear) acupuncture to be very effective in helping people stop smoking. An acupuncturist inserts tiny needles into your ear and hooks up a “stim” device to activate your energy more quickly. Although it originated in China, the practice and development of auricular acupuncture was really advanced most effectively by French physicians. Many acupuncturists who perform auricular-stim acupuncture for smoking cessation also recommend you drink West Lake Tea. This earthy-tasting tea helps clear the toxic nicotine and other chemicals from your system. If you do not wish to fast on the Master Cleanse, then drinking this tea helps the detox process. Without detoxing, there remains a chemical addiction in your body that makes quitting smoking more difficult to do in the long run.

Best Interests

In the end, quitting smoking is in the best interest of everyone: you, your family, those who inhale your toxic secondhand smoke and the planet. Smoking is one of the preventable causes of disease whose eradication rests squarely on every individual who smokes. And while nicotine replacement therapy may be no more effective than not using it to quit smoking, small amounts of nicotine in the elderly population does help memory and cognitive functions — just so long as they don’t get their nicotine from cigarettes.

Dr. Mark Wiley

By Dr. Mark Wiley

Dr. Mark Wiley is an internationally renowned mind-body health practitioner, author, motivational speaker and teacher. He holds doctorates in both Oriental and alternative medicine, has done research in eight countries and has developed a model of health and wellness grounded in a self-directed, self-cure approach. Dr. Wiley has written 14 books and more than 500 articles. He serves on the Health Advisory Boards of several wellness centers and associations while focusing his attention on helping people achieve healthy and balanced lives through his work with Easy Health Options® and his company, Tambuli Media.