Is smoking a bad habit or an addiction? While the tobacco in cigarettes can lead to lung cancer and even death, people continue to puff away. So, why do they not quit, given the potentially harmful consequences?
Habits Vs Addictions
The word “habit” refers to a deeply entrenched behavior that is difficult to alter and usually comes about as a way to reach a goal. It becomes like a reflex over time.
Habits are not the same thing as addictions, although habits can turn into addictions down the road. While habits are a product of a cue-behavior-reward cycle, addiction includes strong cravings and inability to control impulses.
So, into which category does smoking fall: habit or addiction? The reality is that the nicotine found in cigarettes is highly addictive. Therefore, smoking is a physical addiction. Nicotine is inhaled into the body and travels to the brain, where it temporarily relaxes a person. Smoking can also improve mood.
Over time, the body and mind crave nicotine and, if the substance is not obtained, a smoker can feel irritable and anxious, which are signs of withdrawal. You may be addicted to smoking if you try to stop but are unable, feel withdrawal symptoms after suddenly stopping smoking, or avoid social situations where you cannot smoke.
Getting Help for Smoking
Having an addiction can be difficult for smokers to accept; many people are ashamed by it. But realizing and accepting the addiction is the starting point of quitting. It takes strength to quit smoking but is possible with determination and the support of the people who care about you. Ask your doctor if you have questions about the quitting process too.
Most people need a support network to quit smoking successfully, rather than doing it all alone. For a person feeling stressed, healthier ways to relax, rather than to reach for a cigarette, are to journal, exercise, or practice deep breathing techniques.