Does Smoking Really Calm Your Nerves?

man holding a cigarette on the foreground.
Fans of vintage film remember what it meant for an on-screen starlet with perfect pin-up hair to walk onto the scene and ask the lead man for a cigarette. Smooth music plays in the background, and everyone is too cool for school. Something about that cigarette in their hand increases the likelihood of witty, flirtatious banter. When the dame gets our lead man in hot water, he takes out a cigarette while thinking up a master plan.
Then we tried it; if you like smoking then maybe describing it will take you through the euphoria of the whole sequence: having that full carton, or at least one whole cigarette, lighting it up and exhaling, looking out at whatever as you allow it to take effect. Perhaps it’s not that deep. Maybe you’re a fast-paced person that needs a steady thought while awake for long hours. Maybe it’s just a distraction that secretly feels like a lifeline.

What is it about smoking that makes people feel like those puffs will keep them even-keel?

A 2001 study at Oxford indicates that under stress, smoking nicotine calmed women while actually amplifying stress for most men (I guess that’s why the lead male actor in those films always ended up doing something crazy anyway despite those smoking brainstorms.)
Perhaps, but even scientists have vices. Let’s talk about the ritualistic effects of smoking, or oral fixation if you prefer to call it. People associate smoking with reward; something to do after a victory or completion… is it possible the ritual itself triggers a positive calming effect?

What Consists of the Studies?

Smoking studies can include giving test subjects cartons of cigarettes containing both placebos and nicotine-filled. While the levels of a pep-feeling seem to vary or not be present at all for placebos (a feeling commonly attributed to the nicotine in cigarettes), many subjects still advised some feeling of satisfaction regardless of which ones in the cig-medley box they picked, including the placebos.
In today’s times, “smoking” can mean a few different things; what we smoke can contain substances that have medically proven effects. Nicotine does the Waltz with the right side of your brain and the Macarena with your heart rate; Cheech and Chong have been insinuating to us that cannabis flowers rolled into cigarette form are a good way to adult for those who partake. So we know that we came here to smoke, nicotine or otherwise, to have some effects…it’s just whether or not the brain eventually triggers the exhilaration from ritual more than the actual substances themselves over time.
In either case, human beings seem more open to the idea of being calm when enabled with an apparatus or rolled bits of paper encompassing leaves of an alternative nature. Smoking means having something in our hand, activity, really a meditation and therefore medication to many.
Along with the advancements in rolling paper technology, there are those that still preserve the other methods of smoking: pipes, glass, or in a pinch utilizing something for other than its intended use. Again the ritual of loading a pipe or rolling leaves DIY style can be included as part of what makes smoking calming. Everything leading up to the moment for the smoke itself sets the stage for “insert substance here.”
As long as one has a positive association with the act of smoking, it will calm as part of the course.