The Continuing Power of Tobacco

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Although tobacco use has reduced significantly over the last decade, the rates of smoking are still too high. In 2020 in the US, nearly 13 out of every 100 adults aged 18 or over still smoked traditional tobacco products – that equates to about 30.8 million people.

In the UK the statistics were about the same, and was split down further into 15.9% of men, and 12.5% of women still smoking (collectively about 6.9 million).

We have known for longer than half a century that smoking causes lung cancer and kills. Yet still generation after generation of young people will still pick up a packet and set off down the road of this pernicious habit. In many western countries it is still the number one cause of preventable deaths, killing more people than obesity, substance abuse, infectious diseases, forearms and traffic accidents.

Why are people still smoking?

There are a number of reasons why people persist in smoking tobacco.

  • They believe they have a physical addiction. Going too long without a cigarette results in them becoming irritable, tired, jittery, stressed and anxious.
  • Lack of willpower – stopping doing something that you really enjoy is tough, particularly when there is no immediate discernible benefit to stopping. Someone might know that stopping smoking long term will be better for their health, but that one little cigarette is not going to kill them, is it?
  • Succumbing to peer pressure – have you noticed how the smokers all hang around with each other.
  • Stress relief – one of the biggest misconceptions about smoking is that it alleviates stress. But when you talk to smokers, they smoke when they are relaxed, when they are stressed, when they are happy, when they are sad, when they are bored, when they are busy and need a break… in fact, smokers are very good at finding reasons to justify why they continue to smoke even though they know how bad it is for them.

What are the main ways of quitting cigarettes?

There are so many different methods now to help people give up smoking.

  • Vaping and e-cigarettes: The vaping market has exploded in the last decade. In the US it is currently worth about $18.5 billion, and this is forecast to rise to $61 billion by 2025. The huge range of kits, disposable vapes, coils, pods, tanks, mods means that it has become a hobby in its own right. Vaping has probably played a significant part in helping to reduce the rates of tobacco smoking.
  • Zyban: this repackaged anti-depressant (also known as Wellbrutin) is advised for use in conjunction with a stop smoking counselling programme. Its effectiveness is debatable.
  • Hypnotherapy: a lovely gentle way to give up – success rates vary between 25% and 90%, depending on who is making the claim!
  • NHS: In the UK you can sign up to the NHS Stop Smoking service. Unfortunately, the success rate is only 8% after a year.
  • Nicotine patches: again, results vary – anything from a 25% success rate, to a 94% failure rate.

What all these methods fail to mention, is that the driving force behind any success in giving up smoking is founded on the desire to actually give up. There has to be a strong will there in the first place. Putting your trust in one method or another will inevitably lead to failure, because you are relying on an external factor to give you the impetus and strength to give up.

Your biggest and most powerful weapon in the giving up tobacco and creating a healthier lifestyle is your mindset. Work in building a “non-smoker” mindset that proves to you that you don’t need to smoke, rather than an ‘ex-smoker’ mindset, where you are constantly battling with yourself.

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