Smoking – Addiction or Habit


AQuit the Habit todayddiction or Habit?

Call it what you will, I am a reformed smoker, someone that  finally found a way to quit ‘the habit’.

Until recently I never even knew that there were people who believe that smoking is not an addiction.  There is a successful smoking cessation program out there which makes just that claim and not long ago, I had a lengthy discussion with a hypnotherapist colleague of mine on this very issue.  Now this hypnotherapist is someone that I admire greatly and has a high success rate with her program.  If it works it works, so I can’t knock it, but the discussion really made me think, is smoking really only a habit?

As a former smoker my lingo does refer to habit rather a lot, but I find it unfathomable that I continued to smoke for twenty years, out of just habit.  I know I found quitting hard (until I had hypnosis) and habit certainly underpinned so many of the cigarettes that I lit up, from first thing in the morning to last thing at night.  Definitely many were smoked out of habit.  But for me habit also equalled opportunity; walking to the bus stop, waiting for the bus, after a meal, during a break etc.  The times that I didn’t smoke were just events that stood in the way of me permanently having a cigarette in my hand or mouth.  I can’t argue that I smoked many out of habit, but only a smoker knows that itchy feeling of wanting to get out of a meeting for a ‘breath of fresh air’ or needing to cut short some fun time with their kids’ to sneak to the garden shed for a crafty smoke.

If it was just habit why do so many fall off the wagon years down the line?  I have met too many smokers over the years that quit the habit for five, ten, or twenty years, only to light one up during a time of stress, only to pick back up ‘the habit’ once more and at the same heavy rate they smoked previously.  I know that I can never light up even one, if I did, I would be back to 30-a-day.  Fortunately, I have no desire to light up nor to resume the ‘habit’.  Hypnosis definitely helped me to break those ties.  And maybe that is why hypnosis sessions which work on the ‘habit’ are so successful.  Anything that helps a smoker to break the ties, change the patterns of behaviour, break the associations with smoking, must surely bolster them in their endeavours.

But still, habit or addiction, even if it doesn’t really matter, the question nags away at me.  Now, I know there is evidence that proves that smoking is not an addiction.  But there is evidence too that refutes that.  I understand that quantifying addiction is hard. Cigarettes are not like Heroin or Crack Cocaine. There are no rehab establishments for smokers.  They  don’t usually steal to support their ‘habit’, but if it is not an addiction, then how do NRT patches help some people to quit.  Maybe they would quit anyway.  I know when I tried them, they certainly took away the urgency for a smoke, but they didn’t really help with the ‘habitual’ side of smoking. So there we go, back to the habit side of the equation.

I stopped smoking in 2001.  I still have not forgotten the repeated attempts to stop, the pull of the nicotine, hating every cigarette, the taste, the smell, the cost, and standing outside buildings in London on cold wet winter days.  I haven’t forgotten the frustration at lasting five hours and then caving in.   I haven’t forgotten the cravings, the incessant thinking about how I would survive without my ‘old friends?’ the ‘what will I do if I am not smoking?’ feeling.  But all of that is a distant memory, there is no longing.  The memory that lingers most is how danm good it felt when I realised a whole day had passed and I hadn’t even thought about smoking.  I have not forgotten the triumph of realising that I really had quit, and was now among the ranks of the non-smokers.


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