Understanding Smoking Behavior

Understanding Smoking Behavior

There is a pile of well confirmed information on the serious health consequences of smoking that mostly lead to a tragic end. Furthermore, smoking has a highly negative impact on a person’s wallet, as well as on the employers profit in the end. One would always tell a child not to smoke, but cannot tell it to himself. Why? How can we understand this contradictory behavior?

“About 70% of smokers say they want to quit and about half try to quit each year, but only 4% to 7% succeed without help,” states the American Cancer Society. Complex interaction of brain chemistry, genetics and psychology can explain this.

We all know how highly addictive nicotine is. We know that it stirs up dopamine and noradrenaline, rewarding us with pleasure sensations. We become addictive, but in what level and how hard it would be to quit later, seems largely dependent on person’s genetics and age of exposure.

Various studies performed on twins showed that inherit-ability estimates for smoking ranged from 46 to even 84%. Others explored what particular genes are liable for certain neurotransmitters’ metabolism and the number of available receptors, as well as what genes influence the metabolism of nicotine. Study conducted by the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital, The Neuro, McGill University showed that fast nicotine metabolism leads to a greater brain response to smoking signals, compared with responses based on a slow nicotine metabolism. And recently researchers identified high-risk genetic profile that plays a significant role in whether a person is going to become a heavy smoker, but that is relevant if one starts to smoke as a teenager. “This suggests there may be something special about nicotine exposure in the adolescent brain, with respect to these genetic variants,” explains Daniel Belsky, a post-doctoral research fellow at Duke University’s Center for the Study of Aging and Human Development.

However, this is not enough for understanding smoking behavior. Environmental factors seem to have a leading role in lighting up the first cigarette, and in maintaining this more than a bad habit. And once again various social factors have the biggest impact during adolescence, especially due to strong peer influence. Further, several individual psychological aspects back up persistence of smoking and one of the leading is low self-efficacy (confidence that one is or is not capable to accomplish a given task). Additionally, impulsiveness and sensations seeking, as well as depression and anxiety have been shown to correlate with smoking behavior. In that context smoking becomes a valuable coping resource for a person.

So, what to do? How to challenge our genetics, former choices and current habits? Experts suggest that the first step realize what is your personal motivation for smoking and for that they offer a useful technique – keeping a diary.

“Every time you smoke, write down: the time, the place, what you’re doing, who you’re with, how you feel before having the cigarette, how you feel after having the cigarette. After a week, you should be able to see trends and patterns to your smoking, which may help to reveal habits and reasons for smoking that you weren’t aware of before,” BUPA explains.

Maybe you could try this, as an experiment, and maybe this would lead to better understanding of your smoking behavior and its resilience. It is certainly worth trying.

By: Milica Zujko

Additional information on ways to stop smoking: BUPA 

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