Why Quitting Is So Hard
It is difficult to quit smoking—even for those who are highly motivated. Mainly, this is because the nicotine in tobacco is a highly addictive drug. “In a ranking of the addictiveness of psycho-active drugs, nicotine was determined to be more addictive than heroin [and] cocaine,” states WHO. Unlike heroin and cocaine, nicotine does not produce dramatic evidence of intoxication, so it is easy to underestimate its power. Yet the mild sense of euphoria it produces keeps most people smoking so as to experience the feeling repeatedly. Nicotine really does alter your mood; it does soothe anxiety. However, the tension the cigarette reduces is caused in part by the craving for nicotine itself.
It is also difficult to quit smoking because smoking is a behavioral habit. Apart from being addicted to nicotine, smokers develop frequently repeated routines of lighting up and puffing. ‘It’s something to do with your hands.’ ‘It fills time,’ some may say.
A third factor that makes it difficult to quit is that tobacco is woven into everyday life. The tobacco industry spends almost six billion dollars each year on advertising campaigns that depict smokers as glamorous, active, healthy, and intelligent people. Often they are shown riding a horse, swimming, playing tennis, or engaging in another appealing activity. Movies and television programs show people smoking—and not always the villains. Tobacco is legally sold and is readily available virtually everywhere. Most of us are never far from someone who smokes. You can’t escape these influences.
Sadly, there is no pill that you can take to eliminate the desire to smoke as an aspirin might eliminate a headache. To succeed in the difficult task of quitting, a person must be motivated. Like losing weight, it requires strong commitment for a long time. The responsibility for success lies with the person who smokes.
A study in the United States showed that 1 in 4 young people who tried cigarettes eventually became addicted. This was similar to the addiction rate of those who experimented with cocaine and heroin. Though about 70 percent of adolescent smokers regret having started, few are able to quit.
What Is in Cigarette Smoke?
Cigarette smoke contains tar, consisting of over 4,000 chemicals. Of these chemicals, 43 are known to cause cancer. Among them are cyanide, benzene, wood alcohol, and acetylene (a fuel used in torches). Cigarette smoke also contains nitrogen oxide and carbon monoxide, both poisonous gases. Its main active ingredient is nicotine, a highly addictive drug.
Helping a Loved One Quit
If you are a nonsmoker who knows the dangers of smoking, you likely feel frustrated when your friends and loved ones continue to smoke. What can you do to help them quit? Nagging, begging, coercion, and ridicule seldom meet with success. Neither do condescending lectures. Instead of quitting, the smoker may reach for a cigarette to ease the emotional pain these tactics may cause. So try to understand how difficult it is to quit and that for some it is much harder than it is for others.
You can’t make a person quit smoking. The inner strength and conviction to quit must come from the person who smokes. You need to find loving ways to encourage and support a desire to quit.
How can you do that? At the right time, you might express your love for the person and say that you are concerned about his or her smoking habit. Explain that you will be there to support any decision to quit. Of course, if this approach is used too often, it will lose its effectiveness and meaning.
What might you do if your loved one does decide to quit? Keep in mind that he or she may have withdrawal symptoms, including irritability and depression. Headaches and difficulty in sleeping might be problems too. Remind your loved one that these symptoms are only temporary and are signs that the body is adjusting to a new and healthy equilibrium. Be cheerful and positive. Express how happy you are that he or she is quitting. Throughout the withdrawal period, help your loved one avoid stressful situations that could lead to a relapse.
What if there is a relapse? Try not to overreact. Be compassionate. View the situation as a learning experience for both of you, making it more likely that the next attempt will be a success.