In times of high tension, cigarettes provide relief, as indicated by the following typical comments of one of the respondents: “When I have a problem, and it comes back and back, warningly saying, ‘Well, what are you going to do about this?’ a cigarette almost acts like a consolation.
Somehow it relieves the pressure on my chest. The feeling of relief is almost like what you feel in your chest after you have cried because something has hurt you very much. Relaxing is not the right kind of word for that feeling. It is like having been in a stuffy room for a long time and at last getting out for a deep breath of air.” That man’s explanation comes very close to stating the scientific reason why smoking brings relief.
Worries, anxiety, depress us not only psychologically but also physiologically. When a person feels depressed, the rhythm of his breathing becomes upset. A short and shallow breath creates a heavy feeling in the chest.
Smoking may relieve mental depression by forcing a rhythmic expansion of the breast and thus restoring the normal pace of breathing. The “weight on the chest” is removed.
This connection between smoking and respiration accounts for the common expression, “Smoking helps us to let off steam.” When we are enraged, we breathe heavily. Smoking makes us breathe more steadily, and thus calms us down.