Why Do You Smoke?

no smoke

Image by Brittany Perry

The facts are out there. One in four cancer deaths are from smoking-related diseases and one in ten adults will die from tobacco-related illnesses. In the US alone 1,200 people die from smoking every day. More than that it’s the most preventable cause of death and if this pattern continues it will kill more than eight million people per year by 2030

Have I worried you? Maybe. Will it change your behaviour? Probably not. As a doctor I preach the benefits of quitting smoking until I sound like a broken record. Not only is it becoming increasingly socially indefensible but stopping smoking will make you healthier in so many ways, richer, more fertile and a freedom from a deadly addiction.

Smoking kills and everyone knows it. So why are so many people still risking their lives smoking?

Why Did You Start?

According to the 2012 Surgeon General’s Report, almost 90% of adult smokers start by 18. By the age of twenty 80% of them will regret they ever started.

Despite smoking prevention campaigns that target teenagers and young adults, more than 3 million high school students smoke cigarettes. Risk-taking behaviour is a rite of passage that allows teenagers to test their imposed boundaries, and smoking is one of the most popular options.

It’s been shown that logical arguments and good judgement go out the window when teenagers are surrounded by their peers. Similarly, being socially excluded is particularly tough at this age, accompanied by a feeling akin to physical pain. Although many social, economic and personal influences will determine who starts smoking, it’s clear that adolescents are an at-risk group that needs increased attention.

If you’re concerned about the risk of smoking in young people this consumer booklet gives some great advice.

Why Do You Continue?

Cigarettes taste and smell disgusting. They contain over 4,000 chemicals, of which more than 70 are known carcinogens, yet once the habit is started it’s one of the most difficult to break. Peer pressure is usually enough to battle though the nausea until the addiction takes hold.

Once firmly in the hold of nicotine the adult brain begins to build walls to protect the addiction. Although the public is bombarded with the health risks associated with smoking, it still remains an abstract concept, and as such is easier to ignore. Unable to see or feel the damage being done smokers can deceive themselves regarding their personal risks.

All doctors will tell you that smokers are first and foremost lying to themselves. The current social stigma of smoking means no-one wants to be labelled as such. They often consciously refuse to monitor their smoking levels or announce that they are about to quit, convincing themselves those scary statistics don’t apply to them.

Why Can’t You stop?

Not only is nicotine addictive, but smoking is extremely situational dependent. This might be at a particular time of day, or associated with another activity, like social drinking. Although nicotine withdrawal will begin to subside after a week, the more complex problem of habitual addiction can last for months, and can be more difficult to address.

The belief that you need a cigarette, rather than simply feeding an addiction, in stressful or social situations is a difficult conviction to shrug off. Nicotine creates a powerful dopamine explosion in the brain, which means that just one puff of a cigarette will reignite your addiction. This causes so many smokers to start again just when they think they’ve got it beaten, after weeks, months and sometimes years.

The barrier stopping smokers from quitting effectively is the refusal to see their smoking problem as an addiction and a chronic disease. Remember once an addict, always an addict.

How To Stop Smoking

What I’m telling you is not new, but perhaps you’ve just refused to listen. My hope is that if you’ve decided to read this blog, then you’re ready to tackle the problem. Like any other addiction it’s time to admit there’s a problem and seek help.

There are many different methods for stopping smoking. From websites giving advice and services that offer support, to medication and nicotine replacement therapies, choose the right one for you.  However it’s important to note that successful interventions need to address, not just nicotine addiction, but also personal situational addiction.

The good news is that stopping will almost immediately improve your health. After that last puff your blood pressure and pulse rate will return to normal in 20 minutes. In 24 and 48 hours respectively carbon monoxide and nicotine have completely left your body. After three days you’ll have more energy and will be breathing easier. Within a year your risk of heart attack has already halved and after ten non-smoking years your risk of lung cancer will be 50% of a smoker.

The news is quit. Quit now.

Are you trying to stop smoking? Do you have any advice? Share your story here.


Bio: Gavin Harvey is a personal fitness instructor who loves to share his knowledge and expertise on health to any one who will listen to his ramblings. This is why he writes for Dr Fox.

Gavin Harvey

Gavin Harvey is a personal trainer with a passion for travel. When he's not busy touring the world, he can be found in the gym or at home with his partner and two cats. You can keep up with his latest adventures by following him on twitter.

5 thoughts on “Why Do You Smoke?

  • June 1, 2013 at 12:11 pm

    I started when I was 17 but stopped at 24 and never turned back. Quitting was actually easy for me. I basically just decided to quit. Couple of weeks it was very strange, but then it all went back to normal.
    The truth is still, sometimes I sort of miss it :)

  • May 31, 2013 at 12:23 pm

    I used marijuana to stop smoking cigarettes four years ago! I can breathe again and I’m not addicted to nicotine anymore. BTW, no withdrawal symptoms at all when the pot ran out!

  • May 31, 2013 at 11:28 am

    I smoked about a pack and a half a day for 13 years. I loved every minute of it. In February, I went to the doctor because I felt like I couldn’t breathe, and he told me I had severe acid reflux, and smoking can cause this problem. I stopped smoking that day,cold turkey and it has been four months. At first it was hard, my boyfriend and coworkers smoke, but I had willpower to overcome the cravings. I still want to smoke sometimes but I will not let the cigarettes beat me! I exercise every day and I even started running. I feel so much better, and I don’t smell like a dirty ashtray. I can taste and smell things I could not before. If you want something bad enough you can overcome it. Mind over matter, don’t let the cigarettes win, and don’t make excuses.

  • May 31, 2013 at 3:21 am

    Today is my tenth day as a non-smoker. I’ve made the decision to never light another cigarette again. I started smoking around age fourteen, and by eighteen, I was smoking two packs a day. I’m now thirty six, and I’ve probably killed myself fifteen years earlier that I would’ve if I’d not picked up the stupid habit to “be cool”. I did quit for two years almost four years ago, but picked it back up during a deployment to Iraq, which I thought I would never come home from. Well, I did and wished I’d never started again. The good news is it’s my choice. No one is forcing me to “light up”, so I never will again. I quit cold turkey once, and I can do it one final time. I wish all of you smokers out there the same determination. I want to see my two daughter’s get married. I want to see my grand children when I have them. There are countless reasons to stop. I just think of those two when I want to step outside. Good luck to you all!

  • May 30, 2013 at 10:24 pm

    I used smokeless tobacco to stop smoking 11 years ago. It was easier to quit in stages…first the “habit” stage of smoking, i.e. holding, lighting, puffing, etc.. Once I had successfully switched to smokeless tobacco, which is a thoroughly disgusting habit, I was able to gradually reduce the amount I used until I was no longer addicted to nicotine. I have Dr. Brad Rodue, an oral Pathaologist, for his suggestion to use smokeless tobacco to quit smoking. Without his idea, I’d probably still be a smoker.


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