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Why is Quitting Smoking Difficult?

Many ex-smokers say quitting was the hardest thing they ever did.

Do you feel hooked? You’re probably addicted to nicotine. Nicotine is in all tobacco products. It 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. 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?

National Cancer Institute

APA Reference
Cancer Institute, N. (2018). Why is Quitting Smoking Difficult?. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 15, 2019, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Oct 2018
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Oct 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.