Why is it so difficult to quit smoking?

Have you ever wondered why some people find it easier than others to quit smoking?


Research has found that there are far more intricate factors involved in why some people find it easier to give up smoking, whilst others despite trying, fail. Recognising which smoking cues make someone reach for the cigarettes will help them in breaking this highly addictive habit. 

Smoking triggers

There are a number of smoking triggers ranging from the smell of cigarettes, seeing others smoke, drinking alcohol, feelings of boredom, feelings of anxiety or being stressed to physiological cravings.

For instance, if we take someone who is trying to give up smoking, they may find that the smell of cigarettes gives them the urge to light up. Let’s say for argument's sake, they’ve abstained from smoking for five days and suddenly they’re walking along and smell cigarette smoke. What researchers have found is that in the first few weeks of giving up, the actual smoking cues become heightened stimuli linked to nicotine in particular (the smell and taste that a person associates with going out for a drink or socialising). This creates a physiological and psychological craving which could be so overwhelming, they simply give in. Some people are also far more sensitive to nicotine, which may mean they relapse within the first few weeks.

Whilst nicotine may cause strong cravings in the first couple of weeks, research has found that this is replaced with what they term 'psychomotor habits'. This is the habit formed when reaching for a cigarette. This behaviour is automatic and without conscious thought. Once again the brain at this stage becomes extremely heightened at circumstances that you associate and before you know it, you’re reaching for the cigarettes.  

Can hypnosis help me quit smoking?

Some people may say it is a 'fait accompli'; they are doomed to ever give up smoking and so they don’t bother. This is not the case. Hypnosis can be a powerful tool to quit smoking. It can help you tackle the smoking cues, for example, the hypnotherapist could build in an aversion to stopping you from lighting up. This is when a suggestion is made to a person whilst under hypnosis, that if they light up and attempt to smoke, it will taste foul. Perhaps a taste they dislike (marmite, tar, bitter lemons). This has been found to be effective in preventing relapse in the first couple of weeks, especially in tackling nicotine cravings. 

There are however some schools of thought that question the ethics of using such a technique. But it has been suggested that by adopting a time-specific aversion strategy, lasting two weeks and associated with cigarettes only, is far more beneficial to a client than smoking.

The hypnotherapist can also help you tackle all the smoking cues by giving you suggestions for your success at quitting smoking. They can help your subconscious ‘re-learn’ behaviour, knowing that it doesn’t need to smoke. There is no denying that giving up smoking isn’t easy, but if you are motivated to give up and you know your smoking cues, then hypnosis has been shown to be an extremely effective weapon against this killer habit. 

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Hypnotherapy Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Northampton, Northamptonshire, NN2
Written by James Tiley, BA (Hons), MSc, PGCE, Dip Hyp CS
Northampton, Northamptonshire, NN2

James Tiley is a hypnotherapist based in Stevenage, Hertfordshire who originally he trained in Psychology, and was a researcher at both Cardiff and Bristol Universities.

He specialises in hypnosis for IBS, pain management especially for hypermobility syndrome, weight-loss and quit smoking.

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