Riding motorcycles still carries that Easy Rider-style rebellious edge, and tobacco company marketing strategists would have you view smoking in the same way. But this cynical ploy could easily lead some riders into smoking, and the consequences could be serious.
Motorcycles invoke images of free-wheeling rebelliousness, as you zip through traffic unconstrained by the bulk of a four-wheeled car, vulnerable to danger but brushing it off with effortless style. However, motorcycles are also practical, with low up-front costs (in comparison to cars), excellent gas efficiency and less problems with things like parking in busy cities, and their rise in popularity is completely understandable. However, the rebellious nature of riding is exactly the sort of spirit cigarette companies are hoping to tap into, and riders could be at increased risk for smoking as a result. But what can we do to break this link between motorcyclists and smoking?
Smoking and Motorcycle Riding: A Terrible Combination
While there may be some motorcycle riders who smoke during riding, it goes without saying that most understand the risks and challenges of doing so. With smoke streaming back from the tip of the cigarette into your eyes, no opportunity to flick ash away and the possibility of burning embers finding their way onto your clothes, the risk of an accident is too high for comfort. Even smokers driving cars appear to be at greater risk of an accident than non-smokers, so for riding a motorcycle, the risks will understandably be much higher. It almost goes without saying that the link between smoking and motorcyclists could have serious consequences.
Rebelliousness, Motorcycles and Tobacco Advertising
Tobacco advertising historically appealed to rebelliousness as a core strategy. This is particularly relevant for motorcycle riding, because rebelliousness is intimately linked to motorcycles, with counter-cultural films like Easy Rider firmly embedding the link into popular consciousness. Although most motorcycle riders won’t be doing so to express a rebellious attitude, this will certainly be a factor for some.
These individuals may be more susceptible to tobacco advertising messages that appeal to rebelliousness, and they may be more likely to smoke as a result. However, with advertisements for cigarettes being unable to show on TV, only the leftover perception of smoking as rebellious creates this link in the minds of many.
In short, while cigarette ads are rarely (if ever) seen in modern society, and even if most motorcycle riders aren’t envisioning themselves as Hell’s Angels, a rebellious attitude still forms the core of the link between motorcyclists and smoking.
The problem is that while smoking may be rebellious in some sense, the severe consequences for your health mean it may be better to express your rebellious streak in a way less likely to do you harm.
The Health Risks of Smoking
Smoking fits in with the rebellious air of the motorcycle rider, but unfortunately, it stands a substantial chance of being his or her downfall. The health risks of smoking are well-known, but they’re worth repeating to underline the potential consequences from picking up the habit. Smoking causes a wide range of different cancers, in many locations from the lungs to the colon, quadruples your risk of strokes and coronary heart disease, and makes it 12 to 13 times more likely you’ll die from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
This list really just scratches the surface. Smoking also causes type 2 diabetes, reduces fertility, has numerous harmful effects on your baby when you’re pregnant, impacts your dental health, makes cataracts and age-related macular degeneration more likely, causes rheumatoid arthritis and much more.
For the link between smoking and motorcyclists, the question is: does (possibly) making yourself look rebellious make up for all of these risks? Is it worth it?
Staying Smoke-Free As You Ride
Quitting smoking should be a priority for motorcycle riders who smoke, but it isn’t always easy to do. With support from medications like Zyban and Chantix, nicotine replacement therapies like patches and gums, and even alternative nicotine products like smokeless tobacco and e-cigarettes, you can increase your odds of successfully quitting.
Whether you smoke for the rebellious aspect or not, the wide range of options for how you quit means you’ll be able to find something to suit your preferences. For motorcycle riders who don’t want to quit or like the aesthetic appeal of smoking, e-cigarettes are a great solution because they emulate smoking in most ways but reduce the associated risks. Smokeless tobacco is a similar approach, but doesn’t capture the look of smoking in the way vaping does.
The important thing is that you choose an approach that suits you and stick with it. You’ll still need willpower, but with the support of an evidence-based quitting strategy, you’ll do a lot better than you would have done quitting “cold turkey.” All you have to do is use your chosen approach to help fight withdrawal symptoms and cravings, stick with it, and you’ll be smoke-free in no time. The sooner the link between motorcyclists and smoking is broken, the faster their health will improve.