I smoke because I enjoy it
The nicotine you consume while smoking releases dopamine, a chemical in your brain that creates feelings of pleasure. It’s what makes you feel relaxed after a few puffs, so it’s not surprising that many smokers say that they smoke because they like how it makes them feel. This reaction is similar to that seen with other drugs, such as cocaine and heroin.
Unfortunately that fleeting feeling of pleasure comes with a high cost: one in two smokers will die from a smoking-related illness and many more will endure ill health linked to their smoking. That feeling of wellbeing is also very short-lived and over time your brain craves more nicotine – this is why at least two-thirds of those who try cigarettes go on to become daily smokers.
Although it’s what gets you hooked, nicotine is not linked to the major health harms caused by tobacco. It’s not the nicotine that will kill you but the other chemicals within your cigarettes. So if you smoke because you enjoy it, try switching to an e-cigarette which is at least 95% less harmful to your health. Find out more about e-cigarettes.
I smoke because I’m stressed or anxious
Many smokers think that smoking helps them deal with stress and anxiety but in fact the opposite is true – smoking increases the stress and anxiety that you feel. Whilst the nicotine in cigarettes creates an immediate sense of relaxation, this is short-lived and quickly leads to anxiety as the body craves another cigarette.
Smoking reduces nicotine withdrawal symptoms, which are similar to the symptoms of anxiety and stress, but it does not reduce stress or deal with the underlying causes. In fact, scientific studies show people's stress levels are lower after they stop smoking.
Find out more about the links between smoking, stress, anxiety and mental health
I smoke because I’m addicted
If you think you smoke because you’re addicted, you’re right. But you’re not alone. More than two thirds of people who try a cigarette go on to become daily smokers. That’s because nicotine is a highly addictive substance. But the good news is that most of those people also go on to successfully quit smoking, and you can too!
Even if you have tried to quit multiple times before, keep trying. The majority of ex-smokers tried to stop smoking on many occasions before they quit for good. With determination and the right support you can quit for good. Find support near you.
Although it’s what gets you hooked, nicotine is not linked to most of the major health harms caused by tobacco. It’s not the nicotine that will kill you, but the other chemicals within your cigarettes. So if you smoke because you’re addicted, phasing out your addiction to nicotine by using NRT (nicotine replacement therapy) or an e-cigarette is a great idea if you’re trying to quit.
I smoke to get a bit of ‘me time’
For many people nipping out for a cig is a way to take a short break during their busy day. Whether it’s for a few minutes away from work, your kids, your partner or just everyday life, a cigarette break is a great excuse for a few moments to yourself.
You don’t have to quit your ‘me time’ just because you stop smoking. Instead of having a cigarette, think about nipping out for a five minute walk around the block – you’ll get a bit of thinking time and the fresh air and exercise will give you a mini mood boost. Or spend five minutes listening to a favourite song or watching a silly video – anything that makes you smile and gives you a moment out from your routine.
If you quit smoking you’ll have a bit more money so you could buy a little something to treat yourself, or maybe just some earplugs to give yourself a break from those around you!
I smoke when I’m socialising
Lots of people smoke when they’re in a social situation. It’s convenient. Others are doing it and you don’t want to miss out on the conversation when they all head outside to have a cigarette. Many people think cigarettes taste better with a drink. And if you’re out and meeting new people, having a cigarette can feel like a good way to calm any nerves.
It’s easy to get drawn into social smoking, so try and avoid sitting with groups of smokers. Second hand smoke is still dangerous and could tempt you. It’s much easier to avoid smoking when you’re socialising with friends inside - like in a bar or restaurant - where smoking isn’t allowed.
If you know that social situations are a trigger for you to smoke, ask friends to help you stay quit. They can keep you away from social smoking situations and help make sure your friends who smoke don’t offer you cigarettes.
I smoke because it’s part of my every day routine
If you’re a regular smoker, you might find yourself sparking up almost without thinking about it.
The first thing to do is take note of when you automatically reach for a cigarette. Is it when you sit at the breakfast table, or is it on your way to work? If you know the triggers you can manage them. Instead of reaching for a cigarette, grab a glass of water and drink it all. You’ve made a tangible swap already, and you’ll be hydrating your body to reduce any cravings you might have.
You can also replace that cigarette with a stop smoking tool, like nicotine gum or an inhalator or with an e-cigarette. Find out more about tools to help you quit.
Nicotine is one of the most addictive drugs. That’s why so many people who try smoking go on to become regular smokers, at least for a while.
When nicotine reaches the brain, it boosts levels of a chemical called dopamine, which makes you feel relaxed or happy. When people use nicotine for an extended period, it leads to changes in the balance in their brain, making it harder for the brain to produce dopamine without nicotine. This is why you crave cigarettes.
The good news is that, when you stop smoking, your brain stops wanting nicotine fairly quickly. The cravings usually peak after 1–3 days, and then decrease over 3–4 weeks. After this time, the body has expelled most of the nicotine.
As anyone who’s tried to quit will tell you, the biggest challenge is getting through those first few days of intense nicotine withdrawal and the following weeks as you try to teach your body to stop expecting nicotine.
Smokers who quit with support from other people, whether trained advisers or family and friends, are more likely to quit successfully.