By Cleo Zifovski
The growth in consumption for nicotine products occurred for many reasons, but was mainly driven by the mass production of cigarettes. The mildness, packaging, addictiveness, convenience of the product, glamorization of smoking in movies and on television, and persuasive advertising campaigns all made smoking quite compelling. ("Epidemiology of Tobacco Use: History and Current Trends"). When tobacco use peaked in the mid-1960s, more than 40 percent of the U.S. adult population smoked cigarettes (National Center for Health Statistics 2005). In Western countries, smoking is more prevalent among people with mental health problems, alcohol and drug problems, criminals, and the homeless ("Epidemiology of Tobacco Use: History and Current Trends").
Although nicotine is highly addictive and people know it is addictive, people still pick up this habit. Probably because when a person uses tobacco, either by smoking cigarettes, using chewing tobacco, or using another form of tobacco, it acts on receptors in the brain to make you feel better by stimulating the pleasure center. Cigarette smoke is a stimulant and will give you a feel similar to caffeine ("Why does smoking make me feel good?"). Many substances have stimulant qualities which produce fleeting feelings of improvement in mood.
Smokers like to enhance a good mood or escape a bad one. Attitudes like being stressed, anxious, excited, bored, down, happy, lonely, satisfied, or cooling off after a fight are prevalent in people who smoke. Smokers may like to smoke while talking on the phone, drinking alcohol, watching TV, driving, finishing a meal, drinking coffee, taking a work break, after having sex, and before going to bed. Finally, going to a bar, going to a party or concert, seeing someone else smoke, or celebrating a big event goes hand in with lighting up for smokers.
The good news is many Americans who once smoked eventually quit smoking. However, withdrawal symptoms (from anxiety and depression to bad dreams, nightmares, weight gain, and more) can be challenging to overcome. One way to curb withdrawal symptoms from intense cravings for nicotine is with NRT (nicotine replacement therapy) and services, which continue to have the stimulant in the product; thus, the smoker will still have the effects of the pleasurable feeling. So then the question becomes -why do more people not use NRT to replace cigarettes and other tobacco products? The answer may lie in emotional, pattern, and social triggers.
Thankfully, gone are the days when one could smoke at work, in restaurants, bars, and on planes. You can no longer buy cigarettes from vending machines. Tobacco is no longer portrayed in the movies and on TV and advertised on billboards lining the highways ("Smoking in America: Why more Americans are kicking the habit"). According to the CDC, real strides in decreasing smoking have come from prevention efforts. Outstanding education aimed at children, has spread the word about tobacco's effects. Furthermore, "Cigarette smoking among adults has been on a downward trajectory for decades," said Brian King, deputy director for research translation in the CDC's Office on Smoking and Health. "It's the lowest percentage we've seen since we started monitoring smoking rates in 1965 ("Smoking in America: Why more Americans are kicking the habit."
The preliminary 2017 data indicates 34 million Americans still smoke, according to King. How do we reach them? It is clear, people say that they use tobacco for many different reasons—like stress relief, pleasure, or social situations. One of the first steps to smoking cessation is to learn why you feel like smoking cigarettes and this may be different from person to person. Then you can think about the motivation you have to quit.
Epidemiology of Tobacco Use: History and Current Trends.... https://www.nap.edu/read/11795/chapter/4
Reasons People Smoke | Smoke free Veterans. https://veterans.smokefree.gov/nicotine-addiction/reasons-people-smoke
Smoking in America: Why more Americans are kicking the habit.
Why does smoking make me feel good? | Quit Smoking. https://www.sharecare.com/health/quit-smoking/why-smoking-make-feel-good