After action satisfaction – real people relax with … the Internet

Yesterday Mississippi became the first American state to be compensated by tobacco companies for the cost of treating ailing smokers. The state received $170 million, the first in a series of annual payments that will eventually total $3.36 billion over 25 years. Are these the first cracks in the tobacco industry? An industry that has an almost 100% success rate in defending both individual lawsuits and government attempts at regulation?

As individuals we don’t stand much chance against companies who can afford to spend millions of dollars telling us that smoking is actually not that bad. Advertisements showing beautiful people playing with expensive toys in the Caribbean are appealing. I’m now at an age where I know to differentiate the underlying message from the images flashed at me in movie cinemas, but as an impressionable teenager I wasn’t quite so discerning. The subliminal messages from cigarette companies are clear – smoking is healthy, cool and allows you to enjoy a better lifestyle.

Is it possible to do anything to oppose this message which seems a little perverse?

There is a group of people who have got together and are fighting back against “Big Tobacco”. They aren’t starting class action law suites and they’re not picketing outside the corporate offices of tobacco companies. They have grouped together in an Internet newsgroup called ‘alt.support.stop-smoking’ and they are quietly helping each other to kick the habit by breaking down the myths around cigarettes. This quiet pragmatic approach may not seem like much but when there are no more smokers left in the world, there will be no more tobacco companies. A powerful conclusion.

alt.support.stop-smoking kicks off each morning with members reporting back on how they fared the evening before. These postings are typically about the terrific willpower that is needed to kick the addiction. Smokers and ex-smokers from around the world share stories of how they have made it through another 24 hours.

A typical day on alt.support.stop-smoking can consist of anywhere between 20 to 100 messages. Members share their secrets and tips while supporting one another. One can feel the joy as another smoke free week is completed or the disappointment as temptation overcomes willpower and someone has to start again from day one.

The group also periodically includes information on software and web sites that are available to make the transition from smoker to non-smoker that little bit easier. If you’ve been thinking of giving up but were worried about getting support for what is a difficult task, then look no further than alt.support.stop-smoking. The group members, who have a lot of things in common, are a never-ending source of conversation, friendship and inspiration.

One day we will probably look back on the tobacco industry like we do today on slavery. It will be quite unbelievable that the world ever accepted it as normal to smoke. In the meantime, if you’re having trouble fighting off the clutches of those little white smelly things – perhaps you should look for support on the Internet. A lot of others have, and with great success. If you’re a non-smoker already, then drop a message of encouragement to those on their way to joining you.

Author: Dale Williams

Dale is based in Cape Town on the southern tip of Africa from where he maintains connections with people all over the world through his portfolio life.