Like most of us, I’d like to think that in everyday life I can be considered a healthy person.
I eat sensibly, exercise regularly and I’ve never caught myself relating too much to anyone on a Channel 4 ‘health shock’ show.
Why do I and so many other healthy girls reach for the drunk cigarette?
As a vegetarian I’m always browsing clean eating ‘Californian blonde girl blogs’ for new super foods and veggies to put into my meals and as a runner I’m always aware of not going more than two days without getting my heart rate up and limbs moving.
Health wise, I guess I’m a bit of a bore.
It might shock you to hear therefore, that if you caught me in a beer garden this summer, five or six drinks deep and really in need of a glass of water and a taxi home, you may see a Camel Blue in my hand.
Look around a normal pub on a Friday night and you’ll see I’m not alone, so why do I and so many other healthy people reach for the drunk cigarette?
The ‘Non’ Smoker
It’s a phenomenon I like to call ‘the smocialiser’.
Every night out has them, the non smokers that once the booze has done its worst can be found blagging fags off their disgruntled smoker mates.
I never enjoy it. It tastes ashy and makes me breathe weirdly afterwards
I definitely don’t see myself as a smoker. If in a state of Kronenburg inspired misjudgement I do reach for the cigs, I’m talking one or two, I’m not puffing them down like Kerouac on a deadline.
The crazy thing is, I never enjoy it.
It tastes ashy, makes me breathe weirdly afterwards and makes my hair smell like a bad house party when I wake up feeling nauseous the next morning.
Give it a month or two however and I’ll be back in a booze bubble, making the same mistake all over again.
Why Do We Do It?
Apparently, my weird drunken vice might not be entirely down to bad judgement alone.
According to the American Journal of Health Behavior, the urge to reach for a fag after a few drinks could actually be down to alcohol and nicotine ganging up on our poor cider soaked brains.
“Both alcohol and nicotine are addictive and stimulate the part of your brain that acts on rewards,” explains Marina Picciotto, Ph.D, in the journal.
“Taking one is like priming the pump, and it makes you crave the other.”
It could be as easy as remembering that afternoon in the park a couple of summers ago when you had a BBQ, a cigarette and a great time- crafty nicotine can trigger that memory and disguise it as a craving that you don’t really have.
But how bad is it really, when we light up on the odd occasion?
“When you smoke while drinking, you strengthen the correlation among the cigarette in your hand, the friends you’re drinking with, and the drink itself,” explains Picciotto.
“The next time you go to a bar, the environment triggers a cigarette craving.”
How Bad For Us Is It?
The odd drunk cigarette every blue moon can’t make us as at risk as our twenty a day mates, but how dangerous for us is it really, when we light up on the odd occasion?
Well, there’s good news and there’s bad.
When it comes to the risk of heart disease and stroke, you’re not doing as much damage as a ‘real’ smoker, no.
A cigarette can leave the system within 10 days, lowering your risk of these nasty health problems back to the level of any other non smoker.
The bad news however, is that with every cigarette you smoke, you raise the risk of long term problems like lung cancer and obstructive pulmonary disease a little bit more.
The day you stop smoking your risk reverts to increasing at the same rate as a non smoker’s, however the damage that has been done previously is permanent.
Pretty scary stuff, right?
I’m going to have a go at shaping up and not letting my dastardly drunk brain tell my sensible sober one what to do
Before you start panicking too much and berating yourself for your horrible life choices, as long as you are under 35, there is a little more good news.
Until we’re around our thirty fifth birthday, our bodies do a pretty amazing job and regenerate cells like it’s going out style.
A British health study has found that while there is a 10-year loss of life in smokers compared to non-smokers, those that stopped before they were 35 really didn’t have any different life expectancy to those that never smoked.
While I don’t think this means we can all go at it like chimneys till the night of our 35th birthday, it does mean we can breathe a (slightly smokey) sigh of relief.
If like me, you’re also guilty of the drunk cigarette, we are definitely being dumb, but its good to know it’s not all doom and gloom!
Apparently the time to make silly choices is when you’re young. Who knew…
With this good news in mind, I’m going to have a go at shaping up and not letting my dastardly drunk brain tell my sensible sober one what to do!