Despite smoking being the main contributor to preventable illness, disability and death in the US, nearly 40 million US adults still smoke cigarettes. Even more shockingly, over 3 million middle and high school students use some kind of tobacco product. For many, it is apparent that their health is less important than smoking. But why? It seems counterproductive to continue to smoke when you are fully aware of its damaging effects. Today, I will attempt to answer this question, highlighting the key reasons why people still smoke.
Key Reasons Why People Still Smoke
Most people are not addicted to smoking itself but to the key component of cigarettes – nicotine. Nicotine travels to the brain after being absorbed into the bloodstream. Dopamine is released into the brain within seconds of inhaling cigarette smoke, vape mist, or chewing tobacco, which makes people feel good. Over time, people need to consume more cigarettes to achieve the same positive feeling. Nicotine interacts with the adrenal glands to pump adrenaline into the body, meaning that some users may experience an increase in energy or focus when using nicotine. Individuals who are addicted to nicotine will experience withdrawal symptoms which can be intense. Smoking alleviates the empty, restless and tense sensation of nicotine withdrawal. This makes it feel impossible to give up smoking.
Whilst nicotine creates a physical addiction to smoking, some individuals experience a mental addiction to smoking which makes it very difficult to stop. Even after smokers’ bodies stop craving more nicotine, they continue to feel the urge to smoke in certain circumstances. For instance, every smoker will attest to how challenging it is to refrain from smoking after breakfast, lunch or dinner. Others find it difficult not to smoke after having an alcoholic drink as this lowers our inhibitions. It is hard to break these behaviours.
Having Family Members or Friends who Smoke
Being around smokers is another factor that makes quitting smoking difficult. When you spend the entire day surrounded by friends, family or coworkers, it can be easy to slip up and have “just one more”. The worst case scenario is when a person’s friend continues to enable them by giving them cigarettes to smoke despite their wishes to stop. If this describes your situation, tell your friends that you are dead serious about quitting smoking and try to avoid contact with other smokers.
Smoking can be a stress-reliever for two reasons. The first is that it can be habitual. Smokers grow accustomed to soothing their nerves with a cigarette during emotionally charged or stressful situations. The act of pulling out a cigarette, lighting it and inhaling gives the smoker time to think about something else. The person may be diverted from the stressful issue at hand by this. If this develops into a habit, quitting can be incredibly difficult.
Secondly, when someone smokes, the nicotine triggers the release of neurotransmitters which temporarily improve one’s mood. When released, the neurotransmitters beta-endorphin and norepinephrine can lift one’s spirits. Smoking then doubles as a stimulant and mood enhancer. Stress, addiction and having family members who smoke are key reasons for smoking.
How to Stop Smoking
Now that you know the key reasons for smoking, you might be wondering – how to stop smoking.
Knowing your triggers allows you to take more proactive measures to avoid them or better prepare for them should they arise. If you are aware that stress makes you want to smoke, you can try mindful breathing to help manage the urge. Planning ahead will help you stay out of stressful situations and reduce your need to smoke.
Calculate your savings; once you realize how much money you were wasting on cigarettes, this will keep you motivated.
Vaping or Nicotine Replacement
A healthier approach to satisfying cravings is to switch from cigarettes to nicotine replacements or vaping. Prioritizing quitting physical cigarette use will allow you to focus on completely weaning yourself off of nicotine.
There are many reasons why people vape outside of giving up smoking. Some people begin vaping for medical reasons, such as discomfort following chemotherapy, recurrent headaches, persistent joint pain, etc. They need to find a way to alleviate pain and exhaustion because all of these things can be quite uncomfortable and frustrating. Other people might take up vaping due to peer pressure or because they think it’s cool. Increasingly, more young people are vaping for this reason.
To visualise the benefits of giving up smoking, you should create a mind map outlining how smoking negatively impacts your life. You should download a scanner app, scan an image of this mind map and save it as your phone background. This will always remind you of the drawbacks of your smoking habit. This pdf scanner app is fantastic. It enables you to scan documents straight into your iPhone. You can also turn these scanned pdf to docs.
Today, I have discussed people’s reasons for smoking, how to stop smoking, and reasons for vaping. Whilst people know that smoking is bad for them, they continue to do so for a myriad of reasons, but there are ways to stop it!