Nicotine Addiction: How It Can Trick You Into “Absent-Minded” Smoking.

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When we think of the challenges of beating nicotine addiction we usually think of strong cravings and struggling with severe irritability and restlessness. However, sometimes the addiction works in much more subtle ways. Sometimes the addicted mind can play tricks that are (sometimes subconscious) attempts to sabotage the quit attempt. These are thoughts, decisions or actions that at first are not recognized as leading to smoking, but are really attempts to get you closer to having a smoke. Here are ten "apparently irrelevant" things people do when trying to stop smoking, which are really designed to bring them closer to smoking:

Keeping a pack of cigarettes in the house
Buying cheap cigarettes while on vacation
Lighting or holding other people's cigarettes
Drinking so much alcohol you'll forget you are trying to stop smoking
Sitting in the smoking area at work "just to be sociable"
Thinking "it doesn't count if its (a) in a joint (b) an ultra-light cigarette (c) someone else's cigarette (d) on vacation (e) no-one else sees it "
Offering to "look after" someone else's cigarettes
Thinking "there's so much smoke in this bar I might as well smoke myself"
When craving for tobacco, popping round to your nearest smoker friend's house for a chat.
Picking an argument with your smoker friend/partner knowing that in the end they'll tell you to shut up and have a cigarette (and will be in a position to give it)

Many people who are trying to stop smoking describe it as being a bit like living with a little devil sitting on your shoulder who tries to get you to have a smoke. Every now and again he shouts little messages: "A smoke would help calm you down now,... one won't do any harm......go on..etc etc.." However, at other times he is more subtle than this, and actually provides the smoker with disguised misinformation designed to manoeuvre them into a situation where they'll be more susceptible to direct cravings (e.g. "Don't throw away your cigarettes, that will make the craving worse). In reality that little devil is the addiction itself. The thing to keep in mind is that it can be beaten and that the chances are greater if you can recognize the misinformation and not be fooled by it. This means that whenever you find yourself making an apparently irrelevant decision that makes it easier for you to have smoke (by bringing you closer to tobacco in some way) the warning lights should flash and you should challenge that thought (e.g. "Am I buying a bottle of vodka so I'll have an excuse for smoking?...am I lingering in the smoking room in the hope that someone will offer me one? etc. ). If by doing this you are able to avoid one of these "absent-minded" slips than your chances of remaining smoke-free in the long term should be greater.
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About the Author


MA, MAppSci, PhD

Dr. Jonathan Foulds is an expert in the field of tobacco addiction.

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