The desire to fit in, try something new, and look cool are just a few of the many reasons people start smoking cigarettes. Some people start smoking because their entire family smokes and they naturally picked up the habit. No matter what your reason for having your first cigarette, the fact is that there may eventually come a time when you want to stop. Many people that have quit smoking have said that it’s one of the hardest things they’ve ever done in their entire lifetime.
Why are cigarettes so addicting? Nicotine.
The reason that it’s so difficult to kick the habit is because cigarettes are packed with nicotine. It is this nicotine that stimulates the release of beta-endorphins in the brain. These endorphins make smokers feel good and give them a slight buzz. It makes the smoker feel good and in control of their life as well as promotes increased mental alertness. Although the mental effects of smoking cigarettes may be pleasurable, the fact is that most people want to stop because cigarettes can lead to numerous significant health problems.
In addition to the health problems that cigarettes can cause, they can also quickly burn a hole in your wallet (literally and figuratively). Once your body becomes accustomed to the drug to supply it with a nicotine buzz, it will require more cigarettes to produce the same effect. Before you know it you’re smoking every day and constantly crave your fix of nicotine. If you have never started smoking, the smartest thing you can do for yourself is never start.
The nicotine from cigarettes is estimated to enter the brain in less than 10 seconds of the first puff. It is the fact that it enters the brain so rapidly that gives the smoker a very quick buzz and desired effect. In addition to the nicotine entering the body and brain, there are hundreds of other additives in each cigarette that can influence how a person feels after smoking.
What makes cigarettes addictive?
Despite the fact that nicotine is the most addicting element of smoking, there are plenty of other outside factors that reinforce smoking behavior. These other factors typically need to be addressed in order to kick the habit.
1. Social activity (Peer Pressure) – One reason that smoking is addicting is because people do it while they socialize. Just like drinking, people that smoke socially are going to have a much tougher time quitting because every time they see the same group of friends that smokes, they will be tempted to light up and join. A guy that I know personally said he started smoking to socialize with his boss at work and get longer breaks by 5 minutes each day. There is a degree of wanting to fit in that goes along with smoking. Naturally most people want to fit in with groups and cliques, so they will follow the behavior of others if it makes them accepted by the group.
2. Buzz (Emotional component) – There is a buzz or low grade feeling of calmness and euphoria that accompanies smoking cigarettes. They improve mental cognition and acuity in many cases and smokers report feeling better following their smoke session. Although smokers aren’t getting “high” per se from smoking, they are getting beta-endorphin stimulation that makes them feel very good. As I mentioned earlier, when the body becomes accustomed to this buzz, it takes more smoking to produce the same amount of buzz as when the person initially started smoking. This can lead to a vicious cycle of addiction.
3. Daily habit – When smoking cigarettes becomes a daily habit, it becomes ingrained in your psychology. Something that I do every day is brush my teeth (typically at least 2X a day). I do this in the morning and at night before I go to bed. Usually if I forget to brush my teeth, the thought automatically pops into my head and I go brush. This will occur with any habit – even smoking. If you condition your body and brain to feel the effects of smoking on a daily basis, you will continuously remember to keep up the habit of smoking. If you forget, you will crave more cigarettes.
4. Outlet for stress – When people get stressed, a lot of times it is a natural habit for them to reach for a cigarette and light up. Due to the buzz that the cigarette produces, it helps the person feel calm and more positive about life. Although it doesn’t do a lot to reduce stress, it can actually help in some cases. For some people that don’t know how to manage stress naturally, turning to cigarettes is one thing that helps them get through the day.
5. Party activity – In the younger generation, a lot of people that try to one up each other by doing more drugs or drinking more alcohol than their counterparts. For many individuals smoking goes hand in hand with drinking. There is peer pressure, there’s the buzz, and once a person gets in the habit of smoking while going out with friends to party (e.g. in college), they maintain the habit.