We all know smoking is bad for us and costs money. But why do we find it so hard to quit?
Here are some reasons why it’s so hard to quit smoking:
It’s uncomfortable to quit smoking
If we have been smoking for many years, our mind has built a strong automatic habit. Changing the habit cold turkey creates a strong sense of discomfort and can make us feel uneasy. It is human nature to avoid discomfort whenever possible.
The overwhelming mental triggers
We are reminded of smoking in many ways. It could be a work break, social situations or meal times. Many smokers use a cigarette to signal the beginning and the end of tasks. When smoking is absent, our minds can tell us that something important is missing and remind us to pick up a cigarette. That is also the reason why nicotine patches alone tend to not be effective.
Nicotine is a powerful chemical reminder
Nicotine affects the body’s dopamine system which controls our reward pathways. Smoking withdrawal symptoms can create uncomfortable feelings such as irritability, fatigue and cravings. Most people would rather continue smoking than experience the high levels of discomfort from quitting.
The belief that smoking is stress relief
Many believe that they need to smoke to relax or to help them cope with stress better. As a result, many smokers are reluctant to give up their perceived coping crutch. On the contrary, smoking sharply increases our blood cortisol levels. This stress hormone dramatically increases the strain on our body.
Using willpower alone to quit smoking
To quit smoking effectively requires more than just willpower. Using willpower alone, smokers can attempt to quit over a dozen times before they succeed, and then they often relapse afterwards. It is estimated that only 3% of people are able to quit smoking cold turkey.
Fear of blame and failure
When a smoker attempts to quit but experiences a relapse, they often blame themselves. So many avoid the quitting process to avoid the feelings of failure. Successful quitting requires a change in mental and behavioural habits.
The true cost of smoking are hard to see
In day to day life, it is difficult to see the big picture when it comes to smoking. Smokers often do not think that they will be affected by the effects of smoking, but statistics paint a very different picture.
Smoking clearly harms in more ways than one. It is estimated that up to 75% of smokers will die from smoking related diseases at some point. Understanding some of the reasons why quitting smoking is difficult can bring us a step closer to quitting.