Take a deep breath in…exhale out

When meditating, during yoga, and when stressed people always recommend to “take a deep breath in…exhale out.” Similarly, when you smoke you are increasing the amount of air entering and leaving your body. Last Monday, we visited the Musée de Fumeur where we got to see the history of smoking and how even indigenous colonies hundreds of years ago used to practice it. This made me wonder why it is that humans enjoy taking smoke into their bodies, regardless of nicotine or any other addictive elements. There has to be some pleasurable experience in merely inhaling and exhaling smoke.

It is not a mystery that nicotine is the addictive component and the main reason why people smoke tobacco or electronic cigarettes. However, there are numerous smoking products such as MonQ, which contain no or nicotine/tobacco and is advertised as aromatherapy that people still consume. Indeed, there must be something else in the act of smoking that is attractive to humans. Rose et al. (2006) suggested that “non-nicotine effects”, which provide both sensory stimulation and other influences, may directly or indirectly reinforce smoking behavior. Other scientists stated that smoker perceptions of a “lighter” feel and taste of the smoke may also be an important factor (Rees et al. 2012). They also suggested that the “perception of the physical fullness of the smoke in the mouth” was a main contributor to the individual’s enjoyment of the act.

There is also the appearance component that might get paired with the act. In the displays of the Musée de Fumeur, there were advertisements of slim and beautiful celebrities and “cool” people with a cigarette and smoke coming out of their mouths. A study found that smoking was considerably influenced by having seen a favorite movie star smoke (Das, 2011). In addition, Work by Cole et al (2015) revealed that action observation can influence a range of free choice preferences to the individual, so one person’s behavior can have enormous influence on the subjective decisions of the other. Another study found that subliminal messages in images have great effect on the individual’s biases when judging a behavior, influencing the person to interpret the act of smoking cigarettes based on these images (Rees et al. 2012). When smoking a cigarette, merely the thought of appearing more mature and the sense of appearing more “cool” influences the feeling of the smoke being released from their bodies. Indeed, numerous factors come into play when considering why nicotine patches aren’t so effective and smoking is so hard to eradicate.

Figure 1. Image at Musee de Fumeur depicting old traditions of inhaling smoke

Figure 2. Artifacts showing the pipes people used to smoke hundreds of years ago

Figure 3. Me at a wall at the Musee de Fumeur that was filled with celebrities and elegant individuals smoking cigarettes


Cole, G. G., Wright, D., Doneva, S. P., & Skarratt, P. A. (2015). When your decisions are not (quite) your own: Action observation influences free choices. PloS one10(5), e0127766.

Das, S., Ghosh, M., Sarkar, M., Joardar, S., Chatterjee, R., & Chatterjee, S. (2011). Adolescents speak: why do we smoke?. Journal of tropical pediatrics57(6), 476-480.

Rees, V. W., Kreslake, J. M., Wayne, G. F., O’Connor, R. J., Cummings, K. M., & Connolly, G. N. (2012). Role of cigarette sensory cues in modifying puffing topography. Drug & Alcohol Dependence124(1), 1-10.

Rose, JE. (2006). Nicotine and nonnicotine factors in cigarette addiction. Psychopharmacology (Berl). 184(3-4):274-85.

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