11:54 19 April 2005
The first step towards kicking your habit is to understand why you smoke. The easiest way to do this is to sit down for five minutes and write a list.
Below you will find five of the most common reasons smokers give to justify their habit:
1. I love to touch and handle cigarettes
You get physical pleasure from handling cigarettes and the rituals of smoking. It just "feels right" to have a cigarette in your hand or mouth. In fact, many smokers say they've gone back to smoking because, "I had nothing to do with my hands".
Getting over this obstacle can make it easier to quit smoking and stay smoke-free.
2. I love to smoke
Almost two out of three smokers say they just plain enjoy smoking. When you associate smoking with "the good times," it can strengthen your smoking habit. But it can be easier to quit when you focus on enjoying yourself without tobacco.
3. Smoking helps me relax when I'm tense or upset
Lots of smokers use cigarettes to help them through bad times. If you've used cigarettes as a crutch, finding another way to cope with stress can help you stay quit. Otherwise, you may want to smoke again whenever problems arise.
4. I crave cigarettes, I am addicted
Many smokers are addicted or "hooked" on the nicotine in tobacco. When addicted smokers quit, many go through a withdrawal period. They may have both physical symptoms (feeling tired and irritable; headaches; nervousness) and an emotional need for a cigarette. Smokers often compare their craving for cigarettes to the longing you feel for a lost love.
5. I smoke out of habit
You are no longer getting much satisfaction from your cigarettes. Unlike people who smoke for pleasure, you might not miss it very much if you stopped. The key is breaking your smoking patterns.
6. Smoking gives me more energy
Many people use tobacco like they use coffee: to help them wake up, get moving, keep going when they feel worn out. The nicotine in tobacco, like the caffeine in coffee, is a stimulant. But you can find other ways to get more energy.
But why am I addicted?
You don't need us to tell you that cigarettes are addictive. Why else would it be so hard to quit? But in order to break the addiction cycle you need to know how it works.
Like any habit, smoking works in a cycle. Your body relies on nicotine from cigarettes to relax, to make you feel happy, or to ease your nerves. When your body is topped up with nicotine after a cigarette, you are fine. But as the effects gradually wear off, the craving comes back and the cycle starts again.
The addiction cycle works like this:
10 seconds after taking your first drag the nicotine hits your brain.
Once there, it releases chemicals which stimulate feelings of pleasure and relax you. This chemical is called dopamine.
In time you become dependent on this feeling. This encourages you to keep smoking and leads you to develop a dependence on nicotine.
Eventually you develop a tolerance to the effects of nicotine, which encourages you to smoke more in order to satisfy your craving.
By now the presence of nicotine in your brain is necessary for you to function properly. Without it, you will experience withdrawal. It is this which encourages you to keep smoking in order to overcome them.