What a lovely dinner. The only thing that could top it off is a quick trip outside to light up. Who wouldn’t want to finish off a meal like this by inhaling a little methane, arsenic and methanol?
Most regular smokers will agree that a cigarette after a meal is one of life’s simple pleasures. Same with the wake-up smoke, the work-break smoke, the stress smoke and the morning coffee smoke. While smokers will list a variety of reasons why they continue to smoke despite the fact that half of them will die younger because of it, the real truth can largely be boiled down to one fact — they’re addicted to nicotine. Most people know the word, but many may not actually know what it is. Here’s the skinny: Nicotine is a naturally occurring colorless liquid in tobacco that turns brown when burned.
It’s no wonder that two-thirds of adult smokers who wish they could quit say they aren’t able to. It shouldn’t be a surprise that only one in 10 smokers can kick the habit. A startling 50 percent of people who have surgery for lung cancer recover and reach for the pack again. A cigarette contains about 2 mg of nicotine. A pack-a-day smoker delivers about 250 hits of nicotine to his or her brain each day. So quitting isn’t just about that one pack, it has more to do with those 250 hits.
But why is it so hard to quit? Stopping smoking is difficult for several reasons:
Nicotine is Highly Addictive
Nicotine stimulates pleasure centers in the brain and is highly addictive. When nicotine is discontinued, the smoker will experience physical withdrawal symptoms, making the person want to start smoking again to stop the withdrawal symptoms. Each person experiences withdrawal from nicotine addiction a little differently.
Rewarding Psychological Aspects of Smoking
The behavioral and social aspects of cigarette use are highly rewarding for the smoker. Smoking behavior becomes closely linked with daily activities and “cues” such as after a meal, when socializing with friends, when consuming alcohol, to “take a break”, when under stress (to relax), when relaxing (to relax further), etc.
The psycho social-behavioral aspects of smoking can be just as challenging to overcome as the physical dependence.
As science advances, the effects of genetics have been found to influence a number of health issues that were thought to be the domain of behavior only (e.g. alcoholism, etc.).
It has also been found that genetics influence the multiple aspects of smoking, such as the urge to start smoking, continuing on to become a “smoker”, etc. This may explain why some people cannot stand smoking at all, some can smoke occasionally with a “take it or leave it” attitude, and others will become regular smokers.
These factors explain why, even using behavioral approaches and anti-smoking medicine, the relapse rate for smoking is quite high.
After quitting smoking, the first few weeks are usually the hardest. It usually takes at least eight to twelve weeks for an individual to start feeling more comfortable without smoking.
Therefore stop smoking over the long term (e.g. becoming a true “non-smoker”). It is challenging but clearly worth the effort.