Why Is It So Difficult To Quit Smoking?
Smoking Is An Physical Addiction
Starting smoking is easy. Quitting is far, far harder. If smokers can put this knowledge directly into the mind of their own children and let them understand how truly negative smoking is then smoking would cease within a generation and never appear again.
We can all agree that smoking is addictive to some extent. Some people will say it's more addictive than heroin whilst others say it's purely a psychological addiction with only minor physical side effects. Put simply - not everyone is affected the same way by nicotine addiction. Some people can quit easily and others struggle for years.
The active substance in tobacco is nicotine. When smokers inhale, the nicotine gets absorbed into the bloodstream where it affects brain chemistry. Because nicotine is absorbed by the lungs, which have a large surface area, the chemicals are passed into the bloodstream very quickly. This means everytime a smoker inhales the chemical rush is passed straight to their brain - instant satisfaction. This just makes the addiction harder to get away from. You always know you're never more than a lit cigarette away from feeling better (or at least thinking you feel better).
Nicotine primarily affects the mid-brain - the part of the brain that controls moods and emotions. When your body gets a hit of nicotine it produces pleasurable sensations. By the same token when nicotine is not supplied to an addict in sufficient doses it produces withdrawal symptoms such as anxiety and extreme cravings for a cigarette. The use of nicotine gum or patches can help alleviate these cravings and eventually lead to the permanent cessation of smoking. However, the continued use of patches and nicotine replacement gum is simply replacing one addiction with another.
Because smokers get immediate satisfaction from smoking, the association with pleasure is drastically reinforced. This makes quitting even tougher when the time comes because on top of the chemical addiction there is also the mental association that needs to be broken. Smokers associate nicotine with happiness and relaxation. Therefore, if you take away the supply of nicotine then a smoker's mind instantly associates this with unhappiness and stress.
Smoking And Social Habits
Outside of the addiction issue there are also strong social links to smoking. A cigarette with coffee at the end of a meal was/is considered normal. If you go to a bar or pub with friends then smoking was or is the norm. Social stress is also a common reason for people wanting to smoke. This all adds to the problem of breaking the habit.
Addiction And Genetics
The fact remains, however, that some people become more addicted to nicotine than others. The reason for this may be genetic. It seems that some people metabolize nicotine more slowly than others and this makes them less likely to become addicted to the substance. There is a particular enzyme that is present in the liver which is responsible for breaking down nicotine. People who have a genetic defect related to the production of this enzyme are less likely to smoke, and if they do smoke, they smoke fewer cigarettes than people with the normal enzyme.
There could also be genetic reasons related to behaviour that may be linked to smoking addiction. Reaction to stress can be genetically determined, and it seems that stress relief is one of the major reasons that people smoke.
How To Quit?
It is possible to quit smoking. It may be difficult for some more than others but millions of people all over the world have quit. Hundreds or thousands more have quit while you were reading this article.
There are resources available to help you - everything from Government hotlines to medical treatments, self-help books, hypnosis and counseling. The biggest hurdle for most quitters is the change in lifestyle. In the future when they feel stressed or lonely they will have to find another way, other than smoking, to deal with their feelings. This is what scares smokers most. Don't let that fear stop you from quitting. Anything worth having in life takes effort and a life without nicotine is no exception. Those moments of stress will pass and you'll learn how to deal with them minus the poison of nicotine.