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Why is Quitting Smoking Difficult?

You shouldn’t underestimate the difficulty that you will experience in trying to quit smoking. It is one of the most difficult habits to break, because nicotine is an addictive substance. Add to that the behavioral cues that you’ve built up over the years associated with smoking, and it’s a double punch of addictive reinforcement. That’s why many ex-smokers say it was one of the hardest things they ever did in their life.

If you’re like most smokers, you feel hooked and a bit helpless in trying to quit smoking. That’s because you, like most smokers, are addicted to nicotine, a core ingredient found in all tobacco products. Nicotine makes you feel calm and satisfied. At the same time, you feel more alert and focused.

The more you smoke, the more nicotine you need to feel good. Soon, you don’t feel “normal” without nicotine. It takes time to break free from nicotine addiction. It may take more than one try to quit for good. So don’t give up too soon. You will feel good again.

Quitting is also hard because smoking is a big part of your life. You enjoy holding cigarettes and puffing on them. You may smoke when you are stressed, bored, or angry. After months and years of lighting up, smoking becomes part of your daily routine. You may light up without even thinking about it.

Psychologists call this sort of routine a “behavioral addiction,” because as much as nicotine itself is addicting, so is the actual going through the motions of smoking a cigarette. It’s also a social activity for many, so when you stop, so does the social engagement and reinforcement you had with smoking. For many smokers, that’s no small thing to give, and it’s not as easy as it sounds.

Smoking goes with other things, too. You may light up when you feel a certain way or do certain things. For example:

  • Drinking coffee, wine, or beer
  • Talking on the phone
  • Driving
  • Being with other smokers
  • After sex

You may even feel uncomfortable not smoking at times or in places where you usually have a cigarette. These times and places are called “triggers.” That’s because they trigger, or turn on, cigarette cravings. Breaking these habits is the hardest part of quitting for some smokers.

Quitting Isn’t Easy

It helps to acknowledge the battle in front of you. This is not something that most people can just decide one day to quit cold turkey. Most people need help in trying to quit. Luckily, today, there are a wide array of products and apps designed to help you in your journey to quit smoking. With their help, you can and will be successful!

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Just reading a few articles online probably won’t do it. It may take several tries. But you learn something each time you try. It takes willpower and strength to beat your addiction to nicotine. Remember that millions of people have quit smoking for good. You can be one of them — you can be like so many millions of others, an ex-smoker.

There are many free apps and programs online that you can use to help you quit, including social networks that can reinforce your positive behaviors. There’s nothing like having friends and family support you in your decision to live a healthier life!

Why is Quitting Smoking Difficult?

Psych Central Staff

Psych Central Staff writers are vetted, professional authors and science journalists. All work written under this moniker is editorially and scientifically reviewed by Psych Central.

APA Reference
Psych Central. (2019). Why is Quitting Smoking Difficult?. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 26, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 25 Sep 2019 (Originally: 17 May 2016)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 25 Sep 2019
Published on Psych All rights reserved.