Smoking: Habit or Addiction?

Saturday, November 02, 2013

In the Student Health Survey 2006, 71% of current smokers aged between 13 and 16 years agreed with the statement 'I can quit smoking anytime I want to'. Studies, have shown this to be far from true. Contrary to popular belief, smoking is often not just a habit but an addiction. It is easy to become dependent on tobacco products and be controlled by cravings for them, more so if you are a young person. However, with persistence and professional help, a smoker can overcome this addiction.

What causes the addiction?

All tobacco products contain nicotine, a substance which is as addictive as heroin and cocaine.

When a smoker takes in a puff, the nicotine hits the brain in 10 seconds and brings about a sudden release of glucose, and increases blood pressure, respiration and heart rate. These effects are caused by the drug's stimulation of the adrenal glands which releases adrenaline into the bloodstream. Over time, this leaves the smoker's body and mind craving for more nicotine, and if the levels of nicotine are not maintained, a smoker will experience withdrawal symptoms such as irritability, frustration and anxiety. As a result, a smoker finds it very difficult to simply stop using the tobacco product.

The younger one is when he starts smoking, the harder it is to quit later. There has also been recent scientific evidence that shows that just one cigarette is enough to get a person addicted to nicotine.

Nicotine is not only found in tobacco products that are smoked like cigarettes, cigars and shisha; smokeless tobacco products such as snus, snuff, and betel quid also contain nicotine.

Are you addicted to nicotine?

Even a small amount of tobacco can quickly lead to nicotine dependence.

Some of the symptoms include:

  1. You tried to stop smoking but you cannot. You have made serious, but unsuccessful attempts to kick the habit.
  2. You experience withdrawal symptoms when you go "cold turkey". You experience strong cravings for tobacco products, anxiety, irritability, restlessness, difficulty in concentrating, depressed mood, frustration, anger, increased hunger, insomnia, constipation or diarrhea when you attempt to stop smoking.
  3. You cannot stop smoking despite having health problems.
  4. You give up social or recreational activities in order to smoke. You may stop or avoid social situations where you cannot smoke.

Seeking help

A person who is trying to quit should recognise that quitting smoking can be as difficult as giving up other types of drug addiction. Rarely does one hear of smokers who successfully stopped smoking on their own. On the other hand, a good treatment plan that addresses physical and psychological aspects of the addiction can go a long way in helping a smoker kick the butt for good.

If you are addicted to nicotine, you can:

  1. Talk to your school counselor for assistance to quit smoking.
  2. Call QuitLine at 1800 438 2000
  3. Click here for a list of quit smoking services available.

For more information, please call QuitLine at 1800 438 2000.

Contributed By: Health Promotion Board (HPB)
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