The stigma of addiction: cigarettes and lung cancer

It seems that prevailing attitudes towards addicts are still fairly personal and judgmental. Results from a Lung Cancer Stigma Survey published in November 2008 indicate that fifty-nine (59) percent of the general population surveyed said they agreed that lung cancer patients are at least partly to blame for their diagnosis. What stigmas do you carry with you?

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A recent Lung Cancer Alliance announcement has confirmed what lung cancer patients and former smokers have long been feeling — the public does not empathize with them. In fact, public perception of lung cancer is overwhelmingly negative. A majority of people polled felt that lung cancer patients were to blame for their diagnoses.

We know that cigarettes are highly addictive. In fact, my husband has struggled to quit on multiple occasions and still smokes while he is aware of the health dangers that cigarettes impose on him. I try to understand, but as a non-smoker who gets no pleasure from inhaling tobacco, I just can’t condone it. Neither do other Americans, it seems.

My attitude (and theirs) is really one of trying to pin blame for cause-and-effect in the decision making process. I, personally, am one that believe that health consequences are often the result of emotional, mental and spiritual imbalance. When one of the triad is out of whack, that imbalance is displayed in the body. Maybe it’s that I have a difficult time showing compassion and forgiveness even for myself. Maybe it’s a lack of awareness. Maybe it’s both.

But my stigma is that each person is ultimately responsible for their own health. I am a person who partially blames people with type 2 diabetes for making bad food choices and thinks that victims of assault may play a role in a conflict. Nonetheless, I am trying to adapt a new belief and to replace blame with understanding. The following affirmation may be helpful for everyone trying to understand addicts and addiction. Try reading this daily. I know that I will.

“I blame no one for his wrongdoing, but neither do I encourage him in that direction.” – Inayat Khan

About the author
Lee Weber is a published author, medical writer, and woman in long-term recovery from addiction. Her latest book, The Definitive Guide to Addiction Interventions is set to reach university bookstores in early 2019.
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