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Smoking and addiction therapy seem sort of like two opposing forces. We are all very aware of the scientifically proven addictiveness of cigarettes. However, smoking is often allowed in addiction therapy for things such as drugs or alcohol. For many, this seems like a conflicting concept. Why would a very addictive substance be allowed while being counseled on breaking addictive habits? The answer might be a little complicated but hopefully this article sheds some light onto the question.

Smoking is Legal

There are a number of nicotine addiction treatments and therapies out there. Obviously, smoking is prevented in those situations. However, addiction therapy can also be any other habit forming substance of action such as drugs, alcohol, and even sex. Generally, smoking is allowed in these therapies. One of the reasons it is allowed is because it is legal.

One of the main focuses on breaking an addiction to something such as meth, is removing the situations in which you would obtain it. So you would essentially cut ties with the people you know who use meth. Since cigarettes are legal, it is almost impossible to remove yourself from that situation completely. You can walk into almost any convenient store and purchase a pack of cigarettes. You can’t however, do the same for a drug such as meth or heroine.

Smoking Won’t Kill You (Immediately)

The dangers and health risks of smoking cigarettes is very apparent. It can affect a person’s lips, gums, lungs, fingers, other organs, and much more. Cigarettes are a huge cause of cancer, especially lung cancer. Eventually you may day due to illnesses related to cigarettes. However, it will not kill you right now. This is why all patients are usually encouraged to quit smoking. But the fact is that there are more present dangers that need to be addressed first.

Drug addiction, such as using heroin or meth, can kill you immediately. It only takes one overdose to kill you. It doesn’t matter whether you are a first-time user or a daily user, overdosing can affect anyone. Even alcohol addiction can pose an immediate threat to your life because of the inebriation it causes. If you drink too much and step into a vehicle, there is a very real chance that you can get in a life-ending accident or harm another human being. If you smoke too many cigarettes, you are probably just going to feel extremely sick. However, it won’t affect your motor skills and cognitive abilities like alcohol will.


Alcohol and drugs affect your mind and your ability to make decisions far more than cigarettes. They impair your judgement and often can result in poor decisions that you would never have made if you were sober. While smoking may give someone a little head buzz or calm their nerves, it won’t necessarily affect their overall judgement.

Cigarettes Are Often the Hardest to Quit

Cigarettes and smoking are often the hardest addiction to quit. Drugs such as heroin and meth are much more destructive substances but are also harder to obtain. While it does take a lot of willpower to eliminate drug addiction, the fact that it is illegal and can be cut off by severing personal ties, makes it more of a challenge to obtain.

Cigarettes are legal and readily available. A lot of people smoke and can do so in public. It is much harder to quit an addiction that is socially and legally acceptable. Imagine eliminating your cell phone use. It is legal, most people use them, and it is socially acceptable to be on your cell phone in public. You can also buy a new cell phone at a moment’s notice. Cigarettes are similar to this with the added chemical addiction from nicotine.

So, not only is the goal of addiction therapy to remove the most harmful substance first, but it is also best to start with an easier addiction to promote success and build a foundation for eliminating addictive behavior.

Too Overwhelming

Finally, smoking is allowed in addiction therapy because trying to eliminate that along with a drug or alcohol addiction could be too overwhelming. Trying to remove 100 percent of a person’s addictions at once might be pushing them too hard and result in an 100 percent failure. This means the patient did not eliminate their smoking or more harmful drug addiction.

Imagine that same cell phone scenario, but on top of if you have to cut ties to your computer and television. You might feel completely cut off from your previous life. To treat addiction, it is best to take it step-by-step.


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Michael Orion is a blogger, writer, artist and photographer based in the Bay Area. Besides his maintenance and promotion of Radical Second Things, he contributes to the San Francisco newspaper SF Western Edition, where he writes about local non-profit organizations.

Mark Cappetta is a practicing Catholic and active LGBT activist. He has been instrumental in keeping Radical Second Things and updates the Facebook account almost daily.

Eva Gnostiquette is an artist, programmer, "future scientist," bi-trans girl and graphic designer. She voluntarily helped to create the first print issue Radical Second Things and designed our beautiful banners. Thanks so much, Eva!

Jordan Denato is a professional artist based out of Iowa. He took the initiative to illustrate both Jennifer Reimer's story and Michael Orion's Oscar Romero work. He has his own art studio, Tar and Feather Studios, and is a critical part of Radical Second Things.

Radical Second Things is a liberation theology themed blog that has clear cut goals - we see the structural decline of the United States and much of the west and hope to present alternatives that will offer "a preferential option for the poor" as more become vulnerable.

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