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Why do People Smoke?

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beautiful woman smokes a cigarette

“Why do you smoke?”
If you are a smoker, this is probably one of those questions you simply hate being asked. Despite what others may think, you are probably fully aware of the damage that you are inflicting on your body, but nicotine addiction is not an easy habit to break. In many ways, it is one of the hardest addictions to break. Unlike illegal drug addictions, once you quit, you can’t just simply avoid those people and places, smokers are everywhere and so it the temptation to light up.

Here are some of the most common reasons that many people smoke in spite of the ever-present health risks. As you read through these, try and identify the reason (or reasons) that keep you smoking. Once you can identify exactly why you smoke, it may be easier to develop a plan to quit smoking.

1. Lighting up can be used as a reward
It seems the longer you smoke, the more readily you are able to come up with ways to justify it. Often there is a lot of bargaining that goes on. “If I go and do this, I can have a cigarette afterwards.” This is fairly common. It’s the carrot dangling in front of the horse, the light at the end of the tunnel. When we must do things we would rather not do, we can take comfort in the congratulatory cigarette at the end of it all.

2. Smoking allows me to be alone… without feeling like I’m alone
When people quit smoking, it’s not uncommon to hear them say things like, “It feels as if I have lost a great friend.” While this may sound absurd to those who have never smoked, when you think about it, it makes perfect sense. Throughout the good times and the bad, you have had a relationship with smoking. You are comfortable and can think all by yourself without ever feeling alone and no one will view it as strange that you are off by yourself when you have a reason to be there.

3. Watching smoke swirl in front of me makes my problems float away
Since the earliest days, humans have been drawn to fire and feel a type of comfort in watching wisps of smoke curl up towards the sky. As a smoker, you may find that same comfort in the glow of the lighter and the satisfaction of blowing out smoke and watching it disappear.

4. I enjoy the act of smoking – it’s fun
Many people enjoy the act of smoking. It gives you something to do with your hands and many even learn tricks, like blowing smoke rings, that make smoking feel sort of like playing and everyone, no matter their age, enjoys a little playtime.

5. I have an oral fixation
This is, not surprisingly, a common reason people smoke. You have probably met people who are always chewing gum, biting their nails or other behaviors that require constant stimulation of the mouth. As babies and growing children we all had this to a certain degree by sucking our thumbs or a pacifier. It seems some people grow out of this fixation and others don’t. Smoking satisfies this same need in adults.

6. I need one to think clearly
If you ask any deeply committed smoker to have a very thought provoking conversation, you will most likely need to do it in a smoke-friendly area. For many, there is a strong connection between smoking and thinking. Perhaps it’s because you have a minute to pause between thoughts while you inhale or it’s because you are used to having the moment of solitude with no distractions, but many feel it is necessary to think clearly.

7. To relax
Most often, smokers look forward to the moments of the day when there is time for a cigarette. The day nearly revolves around them. In fact, it’s often the most blissful moment of the day. Whether it’s at lunch break or on the ride home from work, when there is time for a cigarette, there is often a moment for relaxation and so the two tend to be lumped together.

8. Ritual behavior
It seems everyone has their own normal daily routine and if you are not a smoker, imagine for a moment the certain things you do habitually each and every day. You would probably feel a little lost if you changed one of these or eliminate it altogether. It’s really no different with smoking. Many start their morning and end their night by having a cigarette and when this schedule is disrupted, the whole day suddenly feels very out of whack.

9. Helps me feel more confident in social situations
So you go to a party with a friend and she is the only one you know there. You are forced to socialize with people you don’t really know and this makes you nervous and uncomfortable. Often, smoking breaks the ice or gives you a reason to step outside alone or to not partake in the conversation. Also, there is a strange bond between smokers that seems to exist nearly anywhere. Whether you are waiting for a bus, sneaking a smoke outside the office or standing outside a five-star restaurant, if someone is smoking, others often follow and even strike up a conversation. Asking to borrow a lighter or bum a smoke is not seen as offensive typically, even among strangers.

This is why if you have voiced your desire to quit around others who smoke, you may be given a hard time. While most often it is in the form of joking and not meant in a particularly mean spirited way, being a smoker is a little like being in a huge extended family and when you leave, you unknowingly force people to go through the whole process of asking themselves the same question that got you here in the first place – “Why do I smoke?”