Why Do You Smoke? —by National Institutes of Health


Learning Why You Smoke Can Teach You How To Quit

Smokers use tobacco to fill many different needs. Studies show that most people smoke for one or more of the following reasons:

  1. Smoking gives me more energy.
  2. I like to touch and handle cigarettes.
  3. Smoking is a pleasure.
  4. Smoking helps me relax when I’m tense or upset.
  5. I crave cigarettes; smoking is an addiction.
  6. Smoking is a habit.

Understanding which needs smoking fills for you is important if you want to quit. Finding other ways to meet these needs can make it easier to give up tobacco.

This Booklet Can Help

To help you take the steps you need to quit smoking, this booklet contains:

  • More information on each reason people smoke.

  • Questions to answer that help you find out why you smoke.
  • Tips on how to satisfy your needs without tobacco - and quit smoking for good.

Many smokers will find they smoke for more than one of the six reasons. If this is true for you, try the tips suggested under each group that applies.

If you do not score high on any of the reasons, chances are that you do not smoke very much or have not been smoking for long. Giving up smoking for good should be easier for you.

Reason: Smoking Gives Me More Energy

Quiz: Do you smoke for this reason?

If you answer “often” or “sometimes” to the following questions, this is one reason you smoke.

  • I smoke to keep from slowing down. (O)ften (S)ometimes (N)ever
  • I reach for a cigarette when I need a lift. O S N
  • When I’m tired, smoking perks me up. O S N

Many people use tobacco like they use coffee: to help them wake up, get moving, keep going when they feel worn out. The nicotine in tobacco, like the caffeine in coffee, is a stimulant. But you can find other ways to get more energy. These tips can help.

Tips To Help You Quit

  • Get enough rest. With a good night’s sleep you’re more likely to feel fresh and alert.
  • Exercise regularly. Regular exercise raises your overall energy level, so you may feel less need for a boost.
  • Take a brisk walk instead of smoking if you start feeling sluggish. Moving around is a drug-free stimulant.
  • Eat regular, nutritious meals. Healthful foods are a great natural source of energy.
  • Drink lots of cold water. It will refresh you as it helps clear your body of nicotine.
  • Avoid getting bored, which can make you feel tired. Keep your mind active, perhaps by calling a friend, reading a new magazine, or playing a game.

Reason: I Like To Touch and Handle Cigarettes

Quiz: Do you smoke for this reason?

If you answer “often” or “sometimes” to the following questions, this is one reason you smoke.

  • I feel more comfortable with a cigarette in my hand. O S N
  • I enjoy getting a cigarette out of the pack and lighting up. O S N
  • I like to watch the smoke when I exhale. O S N

This type of smoker gets physical pleasure from handling cigarettes and the rituals of smoking. It just “feels right” to have a cigarette in his hand or mouth. In fact, many smokers say they’ve gone back to smoking because, “I had nothing to do with my hands.”

Getting over this obstacle can make it easier to quit smoking and stay smoke-free. The tips below suggest other ways to satisfy the handling urge.

Tips To Help You Quit

  • Pick up a pen or pencil when you want to reach for a cigarette. Doodle - or make a list of your reasons for quitting
  • Play with a coin, twist your ring, or handle whatever harmless object is nearby.
  • Put a plastic cigarette in your hand or mouth. Some have a minty taste to help you focus on how fresh your breath is without tobacco.
  • Hold a real cigarette if the touch is all you miss. But if handling a cigarette makes you want to light up, stick with the substitutes.
  • Eat regular meals to avoid being hungry. Don’t confuse needing to eat with the desire to put a cigarette in your mouth.
  • Take up a hobby that keeps your hands busy. Try knitting, carpentry, painting, or making bread.
  • Have a low-fat, low-sugar snack like carrot sticks, apple slices, or a bread stick. Suck on a sugar-free hard candy or mint.

Reason: Smoking Is a Pleasure

Quiz: Do you smoke for this reason? If you answer “often” or “sometimes” to the following questions, this is one reason you smoke.

  • Smoking cigarettes is pleasant and enjoyable. O S N
  • Smoking makes good times better. O S N
  • I want a cigarette most when I am comfortable and relaxed. O S N

Almost two out of three smokers say they just plain enjoy smoking. When you associate smoking with “the good times,” it can strengthen your smoking habit. But it can be easier to quit when you focus on enjoying yourself without tobacco. The tips below offer some ideas to help you miss cigarettes less.

Tips To Help You Quit

  • Enjoy the pleasures of being tobacco-free. Savor:
  • How good foods now taste.
  • How fresh you look and feel in social situations without smoking.
    • -walk, run, and climb stairs now that your lungs How much easier it is to are smoke-free.
    • - How good it feels to be in control of the urge to smoke.

     

  • Spend the money you save on cigarettes on another kind of pleasure: a shopping spree, a night out, a party to celebrate your success.
  • Remind yourself of the health benefits of quitting. Giving up cigarettes can help you enjoy life’s other pleasures for many years to come.

Reason: Smoking Helps Me Relax When I’m Tense or Upset

Quiz: Do you smoke for this reason?

If you answer “often” or “sometimes” to the following questions, this is one reason you smoke.

  • I light up a cigarette when something makes me angry. O S N
  • Smoking relaxes me in a stressful situation. O S N
  • When I’m depressed I reach for a cigarette to feel better. O S N

Lots of smokers use cigarettes to help them through bad times It you’ve used cigarettes as a crutch, finding another way to cope with stress can help you stay quit. Otherwise, you may want to smoke again whenever problems arise.

The tips below include ideas that have helped former smokers handle tense times without tobacco.

Tips to Help You Quit

  • Use relaxation techniques to calm down when you are angry or upset. Deep breathing exercises, muscle relaxation, and imagining yourself in a peaceful setting can make you feel less stressed.
  • Exercise regularly. Studies show that exercise relieves tension and improves your mood.
  • Remember that smoking never solves the problem; figure out what will, and act.
  • Avoid or get out of stressful situations that might tempt you to smoke.
  • Get enough rest. Take time each day to relax, no matter how busy you are.
  • Enjoy relaxation. Take a long hot bath. Have a massage. Lie in a garden hammock. Listen to soothing music.

Reason: I Crave Cigarettes; I Am Addicted to Smoking

Quiz: Do you smoke for this reason? If you answer “often” or “sometimes” to the following questions, this is one reason you smoke.

  • When I run out of cigarettes, it’s almost unbearable until I get more. O S N
  • I am very aware of not smoking when I don’t have a cigarette in my hand. O S N
  • When I haven’t smoked for a while l get a gnawing hunger for a cigarette. O S N

Many smokers are addicted or “hooked” on the nicotine in tobacco. When addicted smokers quit, many go through a withdrawal period. They may have both physical symptoms (feeling tired and irritable; headaches; nervousness) and an emotional need for a cigarette. One ex-smoker compared his continued craving for cigarettes to the longing you feel for a lost love.

It isn’t easy to get over an addiction to tobacco, but many people have succeeded - often on a second or third try. But once you’re back in control, you won’t have to beat smoking again. For many ex-smokers, that’s a powerful motivation to stay tobacco-free. The tips below include ideas to help addicted smokers make it through withdrawal and stay away from cigarettes for good.

Tips To Help You Quit

  • Ask your doctor about using a nicotine patch or nicotine gum to help you avoid withdrawal symptoms.
  • Smoke more than you want to for a day or two before you quit. This “overkill” may spoil your taste for cigarettes.

Go “cold turkey.” Tapering off probably won’t work for you, because the moment you put out one cigarette you begin to crave the next. Tell family and friends you’ve quit smoking. Ask for help if you need it. Keep away from cigarettes completely. Get rid of ashtrays. Destroy any cigarettes you have. Try to avoid people who smoke and smoke-filled places like bars if you’re having withdrawal symptoms or cigarette cravings. Think of yourself as a non-smoker. Hang up “No Smoking” signs. Don’t relive your days as a smoker. Remember that physical withdrawal symptoms last about two weeks. Hang on!

Reason: Smoking Is a Habit

Quiz: Do you smoke for this reason?

If you answer “often” or “sometimes” to the following questions, this is one reason you smoke.

  • I smoke cigarettes automatically without even being aware of it. O S N
  • I light up a cigarette without realizing I have one burning in an ashtray. O S N
  • I find a cigarette in my mouth and don’t remember putting it there. O S N

If you are this kind of smoker, you are no longer getting much satisfaction from your cigarettes. Unlike people who smoke for pleasure, you might not miss it very much if you stopped. The key is breaking your smoking patterns. The tips below can help.

Tips To Help You Quit

  • Cut down gradually. Smoke fewer cigarettes each day or only smoke them halfway down. Inhale less often and less deeply. After several months it should be easier to stop completely.
  • Change your smoking routines. Keep your cigarettes in a different place. Smoke with your opposite hand. Don’t do anything else while smoking. Limit smoking to certain places, such as outside or in one room at home.
  • When you want a cigarette, wait one minute. Try to think of something else to do instead of smoking.
  • Be aware of every cigarette you smoke. Ask yourself: Do I really want this cigarette? You may be surprised at how many you can easily pass up.
  • Set a date for giving up smoking altogether and stick to it.

For More Quit-Smoking Tips and Advice

Whatever your reasons for smoking cigarettes, you can quit. For more information:

  • Ask your doctor or clinic.
  • Call 1-800-4-CANCER. The phone counselor can give you proven stop-smoking ideas and send you additional materials.
  • Call your local office of the American Cancer Society, American Lung Association, or the American Heart Association.
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