It may seem odd to a non-smoker that despite the obvious negative health effects, tobacco is still responsible for more preventable deaths than any other source in the United States. Why do people smoke when they know it’s bad for them?
Most people begin smoking after succumbing to peer pressure, or a desire to achieve the image they thought tobacco would give them. Lifelong addiction can set in after as few as 3-4 cigarettes, physically gripping the new smoker as it begins embedding behavioral triggers. Before long what began as a desire to fit in becomes a part of the smoker’s life, dictated by physical and psychological dependencies on nicotine.
In this article we discuss the top 5 reasons people begin and continue smoking despite the health risks. Remember that addiction is a complicated issue but not insurmountable and plenty of people have overcome the obstacles to quit smoking cigarettes despite these reasons.
1. To Socialize
Too often people are encouraged to start smoking by their peers, or because they believe smoking will grant them broader social access. Some people believe smoking will give them a certain appearance, such as that of confidence or coolness. To compensate for what they think they lack (confidence, social extroversion, etc.) smokers use cigarettes as a crutch.
To quit smoking, smokers should determine what kind of social crutch they’re using cigarettes for, and work toward being a better-rounded individual by accomplishing that goal without the help of tobacco.
2. To Relax
Smokers often have the misconception that smoking relaxes them, especially in stressful situations. The truth is that nicotine is a stimulant which makes the physical symptoms of stress even worse, and the only reason smokers feel relaxed is because the cigarette calmed the symptoms of withdrawal.
3. To Cope
Smoking cigarettes is a common coping mechanism for smokers faced with depression, anxiety, anger, fear and pain. Seeking to escape unpleasant emotions, smokers rely on the chemical reactions cigarettes produce to make them ‘feel better’, however fleeting.
Just as tobacco becomes a social crutch, it now becomes a psychological crutch, ‘being there’ for the smoker in their darkest times with a quick sense of relief. This behavioral dependence makes it even more difficult to quit, as every time the ex-smoker is faced with a negative emotion they usually solved with a cigarette, they will crave it even more deeply.
4. Weight Control
Some smokers claim that smoking helps control their weight. Using cigarettes to offset the feeling of hunger or to replace to urge to snack is incredibly unhealthy, no matter the results. On average, smokers do weigh marginally less than non-smokers, but they also die 10 years earlier.
Look for a healthier solution to weight control. If you plan to quit smoking, look into alternatives like electronic shisha pens. They’ll give your mouth something to do instead of snacking.
5. Physical Addiction
Everyone knows nicotine is physically addictive, but let’s put it in perspective. Nicotine acts like other addictive substances (caffeine, crack/cocaine), in that the drug reaches your brain and has a chemical effect almost immediately, but the effect is short lived and leaves the addict feeling lesser without the elevated sense of self their drug provided. The pattern of bringing an addict up quickly with a release of ‘feel good’ hormones like dopamine, followed by an immediate crash, is the recipe for powerful physical addiction.
It’s never too late to quit!
The first step to quitting is having the desire, and many smokers already do. After that, smokers have to look at the reasons they smoke, and determine how they’re going to replace the crutch of tobacco. A person will successfully quit when they’ve replaced all the crutches tobacco used to provide with personal strength and resolution.
Good luck, and remember it’s never too late to start improving your health!