Why do Some People Still Smoke?

January 19, 2011 is Weedless Wednesday

OTTAWA, Jan. 19 /CNW/ - Weedless Wednesday, celebrated at the mid-way point of National Non-Smoking Week, helps focus public attention on the benefits of cessation and the community resources available to help people quit smoking. The purpose of Weedless Wednesday is to promote and support quit attempts: whether through spontaneous "I'm done with this" declarations or planned quits through smoking reduction and pre-arranged quit dates.  Many people who have successfully quit smoking promote a "one day at a time" approach, an appealing concept for those who may be discouraged at the thought of an entire week -- or lifetime -- without cigarettes, but who may be able to cope with one smoke-free hour or a smoke-free day.

Most people who smoke, and there are five million of them in Canada today, do so for a range of reasons from "I've smoked for too long and quitting now won't make a difference" to "smoking helps me relax when I'm stressed" or "I only smoke a few cigarettes a day - that's not dangerous" and beyond; despite admitting that they have heard all about the health risks of smoking and know that smoking is bad for them and their loved ones.

Smoking has a very powerful hold on many people, partly because people smoke for a combination of reasons:

Physical addiction: Tobacco is a highly addictive substance. With every puff on a cigarette the brain receives a "hit" of its nicotine and chemical cocktail within seven seconds. This hit makes the smoker feel good - temporarily - and makes them want more.

Physical habit: Each puff of a cigarette helps to create a strong "hand-to-mouth" habit. For example, someone who smokes a pack a day and takes 10 puffs of each cigarette, repeats this hand-to-mouth motion 250 times a day or 90,000 times a year. There aren't many behaviours (other than involuntary ones) that people do with this frequency of repetition.

Emotional support: People who smoke think of cigarettes like good friends that help them through the bad times and boost their enjoyment of the good times.

Personal identity: Many people see smoking as an important aspect of who they are. When smoking is central to someone's identity, it has a strong hold on their life.

Social habit: If someone has a cigarette with their morning coffee or with friends and colleagues at certain times throughout the day, they have trained themselves to smoke in certain social situations (this is one reason smoke-free legislation is important as it removes many of the formerly conventional places people smoked).

Furthermore, smoking is learned from a young age: research has clearly demonstrated that the majority of current adult smokers started smoking before the age of 17 with more than half having started before the age of 15. The tobacco industry argues that smoking is an adult choice, but if addiction occurs before the age of consent, how can we as a society continue to accept this argument?

Taking it one day at time

"For all the reasons listed and many more, quitting smoking is a very challenging undertaking - one that should be supported not only by family and friends but by society as a whole. Using a one day at a time approach however will not work for everyone and so we encourage people who smoke to explore their options," said Executive Director, Bob Walsh.

"There are ever increasing supports to help people who want to quit. There are nicotine replacement therapies (gum, patch, lozenge, etc), 1 800 quit lines, quit websites, seminars and support groups, etc. To learn more, we encourage people who smoke to speak to their pharmacist, family physician or contact their local public health unit," he added "but be sure to ask if they've been trained to support people in stopping tobacco use".

"We also call upon governments to better support Canadians trying to quit. Annually, the federal government collects approximately $2.5 billion in tobacco taxes but spend less than 1% of that amount on tobacco control. Even less investment is made in helping the five million Canadians who smoke to quit", he concluded.

NNSW has been observed for more than 30 years and is one of the longest running and most important events in the Canadian Council for Tobacco Control's (CCTC) ongoing public education efforts regarding the consequences of tobacco use.

To learn more about NNSW, please visit nnsw.ca


For further information:

Robert Walsh
Executive Director
Canadian Council for Tobacco Control
613 567-3050

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