Your Wellbeing: Cigarette Smoking and Nicotine Cravings

Your Wellbeing: Cigarette Smoking and Nicotine Cravings

Do you struggle with negative habits? Have trouble giving up that cigarette with your morning coffee or glass of wine at the end of the day? You probably know by now that cigarette smoking is one of the worst things you can do for your health. But that doesn’t always help you quit. The nicotine in cigarettes is incredibly addictive, and quitting can be difficult.



Why Cigarettes are so Addictive


Cigarettes contain more than 7,000 chemicals, many of which are harmful or cancer causing. In fact, smoking is linked with some very dangerous diseases and conditions including:


  • Lung cancer
  • Heart disease
  • Stroke
  • Respiratory diseases
  • Peripheral vascular disease or narrowing of the blood vessels outside of your heart.
  • Infertility
  • Lung diseases


And yet despite this harrowing litany, people continue to smoke and that’s because the nicotine that’s found naturally in cigarettes is highly addictive.



Why do You Smoke?


If cigarettes are so dangerous, then why do people still smoke? There are a few answers to this question:





There are some studies that suggest nicotine is as addictive as more serious drugs like cocaine, heroin, or alcohol. As a result, many smokers find themselves on a never-ending rollercoaster of trying to quit and failing. And this is despite the ready availability of products that claim to help.





For some smokers, it’s more about the habits than the cigarettes. If you’re a smoker, then you know what I mean. You get up in the morning, make your first cup of coffee, and light a cigarette almost automatically. Or you go out with friends for a drink and savour a sweet drink with a cigarette in the other hand.


As a smoker, you encounter cues throughout the day. These are events or moments when you always smoke and will be different for each smoker. You might always crave a cigarette at lunchtime, when your kids play up after school, or just before bed. Each time you encounter this cue, you light a cigarette. Over time, this becomes a habit. And a cigarette habit can be incredibly difficult to break.



The Pleasure-Reward Centre


When you smoke or perform any other bad habit, it sets off a reaction in the pleasure-reward pathway in the brain. When you’re addicted to cigarettes, your brain releases serotonin and dopamine every time you smoke. These are feel-good hormones and contribute to the addiction. Over time, your brain stops producing these hormones at the same levels on its own without the presence of the substance you’re addicted to.


So, when you’re stressed, you’ll start craving a cigarette because your brain wants the hormone rush and can’t produce it alone.




Reducing Smoking Cues


Inhaler containing harmless substances (placebo), that might be used whenever you want to smoke might be helpful. However, usually this does not make any difference in the number of cigarettes smoked as some studies have shown. However, if a substance reducing the smoking cues (the places, times, people, or things that make you crave a cigarette) is used, fewer cigarettes are smoked offering up to 40% reduction.


Better stress management might have a similar effect by reducing stress-related drug seeking behaviour. This suggests that another way to stop smoking is to learn and use effective stress management techniques to help prevent relapse once you’ve actually quit.



The Takeaway 


Smoking is a serious health risk and promises to remain that way long into the future. Obviously, preventing people from starting smoking is the most effective strategy to eliminate the issue. But there also needs to be more effective quitting strategies, which can be used to break free of this destructive habit.




Tobacco, Nicotine, and E-Cigarettes:

CDC, Quitting Smoking:

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