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23. Why is quitting smoking so difficult?


This article is from the Stop Smoking FAQ, by 70424.57@compuserve.com with numerous contributions by others.

23. Why is quitting smoking so difficult?

You have probably quit smoking (or using tobacco in another form) before,
and you have probably gone back to the habit. Whether your "smobriety" (to
use a term from the addiction recovery program Nicotine Anonymous) lasted
an hour or a year, you no doubt learned a basic truth: breaking away from
tobacco products can be, at best, unpleasant, and at worst, a living hell.
And the memory of that unpleasant experience may have left you with a fear
of trying again.

Understanding the source of your physical and emotion reactions can help
get you through those difficult early days. Quitting smoking will be one of
the hardest things that you will ever do. This is because smoking is
actually a three-fold problem: you have developed psychological, social,
and physical needs for the drug nicotine.

As a smoker, all your emotions were medicated with a nicotine packed
cigarette: you relaxed with nicotine; you laughed with nicotine, wept with
nicotine, digested with nicotine. You used smoking to pass the time, ready
yourself for a crisis, calm yourself after one, even (ironically) to catch
your breath during a difficult task. You began your day by dosing with
nicotine, your drug of choice (perhaps one among others), and ended it the
same way. No wonder that, suddenly deprived of all that, your mind and body
go wonky for a little while.

Nicotine attaches itself to you physically. From the American Heart

Nicotine Addiction

When a person smokes a cigarette, the body responds immediately to the
chemical nicotine in the smoke. Nicotine causes a short-term increase in
blood pressure, heart rate, and the flow of blood from the heart. It also
causes the arteries to narrow. Carbon monoxide reduces the amount of oxygen
the blood can carry. This, combined with the effects produced by nicotine,
creates an imbalance in the demand for oxygen by the cells and the amount
of oxygen the blood is able to supply. Smoking further increases the amount
of fatty acids, glucose, and various hormones in the blood. There are
several ways that cigarette smoking may increase the risk of developing
hardening of the arteries and heart attacks. First, carbon monoxide may
damage the inner walls of the arteries that encourages the buildup of fat
on these walls. Over time, this causes the vessels to narrow and harden.
Nicotine may also contribute to this process. Smoking also causes several
changes in the blood. They include increased adhesiveness and clustering of
platelets in the blood, shortened platelet survival, decreased clotting
time, and increased thickness of the blood. These effects can lead to a
heart attack.

The 1988 Surgeon General's Report, 'Nicotine Addiction,' concluded that:

* Cigarettes and other forms of tobacco are addicting.
* Nicotine is the drug that causes addiction.
* Pharmacologic and behavioral characteristics that determine
tobacco addiction are similar to those that determine addiction to drugs
such as heroin and cocaine.

For additional information on this subject, contact your local American
Heart Association office or call 1-800-242-8721.

The social attraction of smoking is perhaps the most insidious prong of the
nicotine addiction. Until recently, even after the dangers of smoking were
well known, smoking was widely seen as essentially harmless; though this
opinion is now held by fewer people (and I'll wager that most of them are
still smoking), it has not disappeared. We still often hear smoking
defended with the argument that the sale, purchase, promotion and use of
tobacco products are legal activities nearly everywhere in the world. While
true, this statement obscures the question of the safety of smoking and
fails to raise other explanations for its legitimate status, such as the
financial contribution which the tobacco industry makes to the world

And, greater public awareness of the harm that smoking does has not greatly
altered its image as sexy, cool, adult, fashionable. Books such as
Christopher Buckley's Thank You For Smoking and movies like Reality Bites
(where the sole non-smoker is Ben Stiller's dorky outsider character)
override those public service announcements and notices on the sides of
cigarette packages in the minds of the tobacco industry's most important
consumers: adolescents and teens. (Incidentally, we have it from a very
reliable source that the people who make a certain brand of popular
cigarettes featuring a certain dromedary on the package paid for the actors
in Reality Bites to smoke their cigarettes. And for more proof of this
common industry practice, here's an interesting letter
http://galen.library.ucsf.edu/tobacco/docs/html/2404.02/2404.02.1.html from
one of America's top action stars.) Give it a minute's thought: do you
really like smoking, or do you just like your smoker image and the props
associated with it (the cigarette, the nifty smoke rings, the ash; the
holes in your clothing, yellow stains on your teeth, nasty taste on your

The minute you quit smoking your life changes drastically. Your identity as
a smoker is gone; the crutch which helped you handle situations is kicked
out from under you; your body and mind begin to play quite clever tricks on
you to get their drug. All these changes can be nearly overwhelming, but
the important thing to remember is that things will get better as you learn
new and better ways to live your life. And everyone can learn; a few
hundred of us at AS3 alone will testify to that!


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