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The Psychology of Smoking

Why did you start smoking?
Every pack of cigarettes has a warning from the Surgeon General stating that smoking can be harmful to your health. You are not stupid. You understand this. You feel the harmful effects every time that you cough or have a sore throat, but this has not stopped you from smoking. Why? Because the reasons for smoking are mostly psychological.

People are seduced to try tobacco by the glamorization of smoking in the movies and in advertisements. Addiction to nicotine makes it hard to quit smoking once you have started, but this addiction can be overcome in two weeks once the psychological reasons for smoking are eliminated.

Association of activities
establishes Pavlovian reflexes

the intellectual smoker
Smoking cartoon character
Marlboro Man
Woman Smoker

You need to understand and eliminate the psychological root of the problem. Here is a list of the reasons why people start smoking. Look at them carefully and think about your own experience. Most of these reasons are related to how you perceive yourself in the company of others. You generally start smoking in an attempt to change your self-image and appear more attractive, more manly, more feminine, or more intelligent. Sometimes you start smoking in a misguided attempt to calm your nerves, cope with stress, or lose weight, but smoking does not help to solve the source of your problems or to compensate for poor eating habits. Denial that you are addicted to tobacco is the greatest barrier in overcoming the habit.

Reasons why people start to use tobacco:

Tobacco companies have encouraged habitual use of tobacco by including coupons, such as Camel Cash, that can be collected and redeemed for merchandise. Although advertising by tobacco companies has been curtailed on television, there is sufficient promotion in other types of media to hook the next generation of users. The tobacco industry and the attorneys general of 46 states agreed to ban the use of cartoon characters in tobacco advertising in 1998 because of the appeal of cartoons to minors. In 2006, a U.S. District Judge ruled that tobacco companies violated racketeering laws by deceiving the public about the health hazards of smoking, and ordered the companies to stop using deceptive labels with the terms "light", "ultra-light", "low tar", or "mild".

To perpetuate tobacco addiction, cigarette manufacturers have also boosted the amount of nicotine in tobacco and modified cigarette designs to increase the number of puffs per cigarette. Harvard School of Public Health researchers found that the amount of nicotine that smokers typically consumed per cigarette, regardless of brand, rose by an average of 1.6 percent per year between 1998 and 2005 across all the major cigarette market categories (mentholated, non-mentholated, full-flavor, light, ultralight, etc.). This is an increase of 11 percent in the amount of nicotine per cigarette over a seven-year period. The higher drug levels make it harder for smokers to quit.

Why do you smoke now?
You have been smoking for a while and you have matured. Now you know that smoking has not made you smarter, or cooler, or sexier. Smoking has not helped you to achieve your goals. Your accomplishments have been made in spite of smoking, but you are more aware that your health suffers. You can tell by your burning eyes, your hacking cough, and the phlegm in your throat. So, why do you still smoke? Most people continue smoking out of habit. They light a cigarette without even thinking. But sometimes people smoke under specific situations as a kind of ritual. Associating activities with smoking establishes Pavlovian reflexes. Pavlovian reflexes are named after Dr. Ivan Pavlov who was able to make his dogs salivate in the absence of food by just ringing a bell that had been associated with the dog's feeding time. In the same way, activities that you have associated with smoking, such as drinking coffee, will act as triggers. The mere sight of a cup of coffee will cause you to reach for your cigarettes without any conscious thought. Seeing friends smoking cigarettes, watching movies where the actors smoke, or the smell of cigarette smoke may trigger the psychological desire to smoke. Researchers have found that smokers with a damaged insula, a region of the brain linked to emotion and feelings, quit smoking easily and immediately. The study provides direct evidence that addiction to nicotine in tobacco smoke takes control of some of the neural circuits in the brain.

These are some of the reasons why people smoke:

Review this list and think about what you would do under each of these circumstances if you did not smoke. You need to start thinking about how you are going to cope in these situations without using tobacco.

How much do you smoke?
Many smokers feel that they don't smoke enough to be harmful, but this kind of thinking is only self-delusion that justifies a bad habit. You need to understand your degree of dependence on tobacco to be able to quit successfully. Answer the following questions and write down the answers in a log book that you can use to monitor your progress as you reduce your dependence on tobacco.

Cost of Smoking Cigarettes Calculator
 Number of cigarettes smoked per day:    
 Number of cigarettes in a pack:
 Price per pack:

Cost per day:   
Cost per month:
Cost per year:  
Cigarettes per year:  
 Wasted Hours per year:    (at 4 min./cigarette) 

A carton containing 10 packs of 20 cigarettes costs from $30 to $70 Dollars depending on the taxes imposed by the state. A smoker who consumes one pack per day at a cost of $4.00 Dollars per pack, will spend approximately $1,460 Dollars per year. The cost is much higher when you consider the increased premiums for health and life insurance. In addition, each time that you stop to smoke, you are wasting approximately 4 minutes per cigarette.

CONTINUED: Fighting Tobacco Addiction
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