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Berent, I. (1961). A Ritualistic Aspect of Smoking. Am. Imago, 18(3):305-309.

(1961). American Imago, 18(3):305-309

A Ritualistic Aspect of Smoking

Irving Berent, M.D.

Although it is generally accepted that smoking is for the most part related to oral gratifications, this explanation does not fully cover those situations we commonly hear, such as:

“I don't really enjoy smoking, I just like to have something in my hand.”


“Since I've stopped smoking, I don't know what to do with my hands.”


“It's true. I go through two or three packs of cigarettes a day but I don't really smoke much—I just light up frequently and take a few puffs.”

True, these statements may conceivably represent denial to mask the guilt of indulging in such oral gratifications. However, recently a bright young serviceman indirectly shed additional light on this subject when spontaneously describing a ritual he has utilized since his cessation of smoking nine months ago for “economic reasons.”

Before describing the ritual and his immediate associations, a brief thumbnail sketch of the young man might be in order. He is a twenty-one year old (younger appearing), immaculately-dressed, somewhat shy, naive individual of high school training who sensitively related the following complaint: “I'm markedly nervous (diffuse— ‘I don't know why’) and at times my hands begin to shake so severely that I am not able to hold tools in my hand and consequently cannot perform my work adequately (as electronics technician). In fact, at times I am not able to even hold a pen and write.”

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