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Why Is it So Hard to Quit Smoking?
By the Quitter's Circle Staff
December 01, 2014

Why Is it So Hard to Quit Smoking?

Let’s be real: It’s not uncommon for people to put things off or not honor their commitments. Sometimes, it’s because the initial goal was unrealistic to begin with. We feel disappointment over broken promises or an acute sense of failure over not meeting our goals. Sometimes, we fail because we are afraid to ask for support.

This can be especially true when it comes to quitting smoking. Not only is quitting a difficult task mentally and emotionally, but it can be an intense physical ordeal for your body to overcome an addiction to nicotine.

Some Facts About Nicotine

Only 4 to 7% of people who attempt to quit smoking are able to do it cold turkey. Getting support from your healthcare provider, which includes counseling and medication, can double your chances for a successful quit.

Nicotine can cross the blood-brain barrier within 10 seconds after it is inhaled. When nicotine reaches the brain, it triggers dopamine to be released. Smokers feel pleasure and calm, and their withdrawal symptoms lessen. Unfortunately, after dopamine depletes, these symptoms return, and with it, the urge to smoke. When trying to quit, unpleasant withdrawal symptoms such as irritability, depression, anxiety and difficulty concentrating often leads smokers back to cigarettes.

Quitting Takes More Than Just Willpower

For most smokers, quitting smoking is more than just a matter of willpower. If a smoker who is trying to quit has a slip-up, there is often blame. In reality, there’s nothing to be ashamed of if you go back to a cigarette. On average, smokers may attempt to quit 6-11 times before they actually succeed. With every attempt, it’s important to remember: a slip-up does not mean failure; instead every smokefree day should be considered a success.

It can be hard to think of the long-term benefits of quitting, especially when the short-term urges are loud and nagging. Just because you may not have succeeded in past attempts to quit doesn’t mean you can’t do it this time around. Successfully quitting smoking is a physical, mental and behavioral challenge. If you've tried quitting in the past and it has not worked, don’t despair—there are many tools and resources to help you quit. Your healthcare provider, family, and friends can all provide support, along with the resources here on Quitter’s Circle.

If you are seeking motivation to help you in your quit, know that you are not alone. Quitting can be hard because smoking is more than just a “bad habit” – it’s an addiction.

Give yourself and your loved ones another chance, and try not to put yourself down if quitting takes a while. Every minute you’re smokefree is a success for your health. Becoming smokefree is a journey that you take day by day, one step at time.


See additional quit smoking resources from our partner American Lung Association.