Smoking is a dangerous and destructive habit, but it’s estimated that over 34 million Americans smoke. Smoking-related deaths number somewhere close to 800,000 annually and the healthcare costs of the habit are in the billions of dollars. Why, then, do so many people still smoke? What is it about the habit that’s so appealing?
The short answer would be the addiction to nicotine that cigarettes cause. Nicotine is highly addictive, and even just one cigarette can leave you longing for more. With nicotine in cigarettes at higher levels than ever, it’s easy to see why so many are still taking part in the unhealthy habit.
Let’s look closer at some reasons why people smoke and why it’s so hard to stop.
We live in an anxiety-inducing world. From the bad news we see on a daily basis flashed in front of our eyes on a screen to the rigors of jobs, raising a family, and financial responsibilities, stress and anxiety surround us. It’s not surprising, then, that so many turn to smoking as a relief from their anxiety.
The fact is, smoking doesn’t actually alleviate the anxiety you’re feeling, and can actually make the sensation worse. What you’re feeling is relief from your nicotine addiction when you smoke, and your anxiety comes back twofold once you’ve gone without a cigarette for a few hours.
Studies have shown that teens who suffer from poor self-esteem are much more likely to adopt bad habits like smoking and drug abuse. This disturbing fact drives many adolescents to a predatory business that depends on their addiction to a deadly substance to boost profits.
Mental health is something we sadly don’t take seriously enough, especially among young adults. Suicide is one of the leading causes of death for people between the ages of 11-35, and yet, we still don’t seem to focus enough on the mental health of our youth.
Peer pressure doesn’t just affect school-age adolescents. Adults can be subjected to the phenomenon as well, getting caught up in pressure from friends, co-workers, and even family. Peer pressure is actually the way a lot of smokers find the habit. If everyone else is doing it, it must be cool, right?
At the helm of the tobacco industry’s massive progress is clever advertising. Before certain ad formats were banned entirely, big tobacco spent billions on TV, radio, and other ads aimed at making their products seem sexy and socially relevant, as well as bringing children into the habit. Disturbing, right? Unfortunately, this was the case for most of the time after World War II, until Richard Nixon signed a law in 1970 effectively banning cigarette ads on TV and radio.
Even with bans in place, cigarette companies still spend billions on advertising to make up for the fact that smoking rates continue to decline.
With the amount of information readily available at our fingertips via smartphones, there should be no excuse for ignorance on the subject of smoking, right? We even learned about it in school through various awareness programs, and yet, some people truly don’t understand just how dangerous smoking really is.
Ignorance of the effects of smoking affects some smokers, leaving them in dark about what they’re truly doing to their bodies. Or, alternatively, they’re aware of the information but choose to either ignore or discount it as a “scare campaign”. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Cigarettes contain over 7,000 chemicals, 70 known carcinogens, and even uranium. It’s that serious.
If your parents smoked regularly, you’re much more likely to smoke. The same goes for all kinds of habits, both good and bad. As parents, we have a responsibility to set a good example for our children, and even if you quit long ago, your children may be more likely to smoke after seeing you do it.
Nicotine is incredibly addictive, and combine with the everyday stress of life, it can be a deadly concoction that feels nearly impossible to give up. Even when thousands of smokers die each year, people still remain addicted to nicotine and often don’t seek help to ditch the habit.
A common attempt at quitting involves going “cold-turkey”, or not using any kind of nicotine therapy or assistance. This actually has a low success rate, being that nicotine is so incredibly addictive that most people give in to their cravings to alleviate the withdrawal symptoms. You can quit, however. There are so many resources and professionals available to help, and alternatives do exist if you can’t quit cold-turkey, but you’ll never get there if you don’t take the first step.