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Why Quitting Smoking Is Hard

By Pfizer Medical Team - This article originally published on Get Healthy Stay Healthy

When you’re planning to quit smoking, it can help to know why becoming an ex-smoker is so difficult. As many smokers know, tobacco addiction is both mental and physical. Yet each day, about 1,000 people under 18 years of age become daily cigarette smokers. To stay smoke-free, you’ll need to learn how to manage both the mental and physical challenges so you can overcome each one.    

It’s A Physical Addiction
Most people who smoke tobacco regularly are addicted to its main chemical component, nicotine. The nicotine in cigarettes affects your brain when you smoke, causing you to want more nicotine. And nicotine withdrawal is why you probably feel irritable or anxious when you don't have a cigarette regularly. Over time, as your brain gets used to nicotine, you may need to smoke more to have the same feelings of pleasure and calm that smoking once created. Of course, the more you smoke, the more you inhale toxins in cigarettes that are linked to smoking-related illnesses.

It’s A Behavioral Challenge To Overcome
Smoking can easily become a part of daily life. Certain people, places, feelings, events, and even moods are linked with smoking. Smoking routines can also become smoking triggers. Do you smoke a cigarette because you have a cup of coffee? Or do you have a cup of coffee so you can smoke a cigarette? For many people, it's hard to know. Everything you do creates pathways or connections in the brain. Let's say you routinely smoke in the kitchen. You're actually training your brain to know that the kitchen is a place to smoke. Eventually, if you walk into the kitchen, your brain will have an automatic response to light up.

Getting Support Can Help
Quitting smoking is hard, but it is possible. The first step is to have a plan in place. Setting a course toward quitting can help you better handle both the physical urge to smoke and your personal behavioral triggers. Once you’ve created a plan, you should ask for help from family, friends and health care professionals. Many former smokers say that the support of family and friends helped them quit and stay nonsmokers.  You should also talk with your doctor. According to studies, about 5% of people are able to quit cold turkey and stay quit for 1 year. The other 95% could use a little help. There are many options that can help with the physical addiction and behavioral challenges of quitting smoking that you and your doctor can consider. 

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