Talk to many smokers and they will tell you not to start smoking. They do not recommend it to others and they still do smoke. Why is that?
Most of those who now smoke started doing so when they were young, during teenage years. This is particularly possible when they had family members or friends who smoked at that point in time. Sometimes, teenagers just want to try it or think it is cool when they smoke. But, this is so much more than just looking cool.
It is very easy to notice that the tobacco industry has a huge influence on modern society. Even if ads are no longer allowed on TV, they are still present literally everywhere in one way or another. And we even have e-cigarettes and other tobacco-based products that are freely available, even for minors, even if the industry will want you to think this is not the case.
A large part of why cigarettes are so damaging is that nicotine addiction is always possible. This is particularly the case when you are a teenager. In fact, the younger you are when you first start smoking, the higher the possibility you will end up addicted.
Keep in mind that 90% of smoking adults now started when they were younger than 18. Close to all started before 26.
We can define addiction as the compulsive, repeated action of using or seeking a substance, even if the consequences are unwanted and the effects are harmful. Based on the substance, addiction can be emotional or mental. With tobacco products, the addiction happens to nicotine, which is actually just as addictive as cocaine or heroin.
Why Is Nicotine Addiction A Problem?
The fact is, the answer to the question “why do people smoke” is simple: nicotine addiction. You can start smoking due to various different reasons, including trying to look cool, to then simply become addicted.
Nicotine in cigarettes affects the body in several ways and you should know them. They are:
- Nicotine (together with other tobacco smoke chemicals) is so easily absorbed inside your blood. It spreads very fast.
- When you only consume small amounts of nicotine, you start to feel pleasant feelings. You then want more because your mood is improved.
- The effects of nicotine disappear in just minutes. This can make you feel edgy and irritated. As a result, looking for the same pleasant feelings, you light up another cigarette. If you do not smoke for a longer period of time, withdrawal symptoms start to appear, and they are worse and worse as time passes.
- The body gets used to nicotine so you start to smoke more. Basically, your tolerance to nicotine is increased and you have to take in more for the same pleasant feelings.
- You can very quickly become dependent and would experience serious withdrawal symptoms if you try to quit, like nervousness, trouble sleeping, headaches, and nervousness.
Special Note: In one cigarette you usually find 1 to 2 mg of nicotine (or more in some brands). How much you actually take in will depend on the deepness of your inhale, the number of puffs you take, and how you smoke.
Nicotine Addiction – How Strong Is It?
If we look at statistics, they are pretty grim. 2 out of 3 smokers want to quit. Around half of them actually try to do so every year. But, only a few do succeed alone. You become dependent on nicotine at a physical level but you also have to deal with a very strong psychological (emotional) dependence.
Nicotine will affect your emotions, mood, and behavior. If tobacco use appears because of managing unpleasant emotions or feelings, it will be even more difficult to quit. Smoking can also be connected to some social activities. Basically, you get used to smoking being an integral part of your life.
Studies highlighted that there is a very good possibility that it is more difficult to quit smoking than stopping to use opiates or cocaine. 18% of those addicted to alcohol manage to quit. 40% of those addicted to cocaine or opiates manage to quit. And only 8% of those addicted to smoking manage to quit.
So, Why Can’t You Quit Smoking?
When you want to quit smoking, you are faced with nicotine withdrawal symptoms. They are both mental and physical. The body starts to react to the fact it does not have nicotine. At the mental level, you have to give up a very strong habit, which is only possible with a major behavior change. The seemingly simple action of moving the hand to your mouth to take a puff is something you get used to at the level at which it becomes second nature.
At the emotional level, many said that quitting smoking is similar to losing a friend. That is how strong nicotine addiction is. This is why even smokeless tobacco users have huge problems giving up smoking.
It is important to note that nicotine withdrawal is not dangerous. However, symptoms are very uncomfortable. They tend to appear in hours after you stop smoking and will peak in two to three days. The symptoms can even last weeks. The most common symptoms of nicotine withdrawal are:
- Trouble sleeping
- Slower heart rate
- Weight gain
- Chest tightness
- Sore throats
- Nasal drip
- Dry mouth
Such symptoms are so strong that they can make you start smoking again.
So, people smoke because they get addicted. It is as simple as that. And getting rid of this addiction is almost always possible only with professional help or special products. Resisting tobacco cravings is incredibly difficult and nobody should be shamed for not being able to quit.
If you want to quit smoking or you want to help someone to quit, remember that it will be a struggle. You have to be dedicated and in many cases you actually need to use nicotine replacement products like patches to help you gradually reduce your addiction level. This is similar to addiction to much stronger and more dangerous drugs.