What makes quitting smoking or tobacco so difficult?

Consider this scenario. Rohan has been thinking of quitting smoking since a long time. Yet at about 10am he’s outside his office with a cigarette in his hand, take a ‘fag’ break. Every day he has different triggers. Someday he wakes up in a bad mood, the boss isn’t so nice one day, and work is too much, family stress gets to him; he’s had an argument with his girlfriend and so many more reasons to pick up the ‘stick’ yet again. We all know such people around us, people who are funny, intelligent, creative, curious, humorous, and smart and slave to a habit which seems beyond their control. Maybe you know Rohan personally or maybe you are Rohan.

So what makes quitting smoking or rather tobacco in general so difficult?


Cigarettes contain nicotine which is well known to be a highly addictive substance. According to a 2010 Report of the Surgeon General, nicotine addiction is the primary reason why people continue to smoke cigarettes, despite the knowledge of how hazardous cigarettes are to one’s health.

As the smoke is drawn into the lungs, the nicotine is quickly absorbed into the bloodstream and heads for the brain. There, the nicotine binds to specialized receptors setting off a chain of chemical reactions that ultimately leads to the release of neurotransmitters, including dopamine, which causes the smoker to feel good and compels him or her to continue seeking more nicotine.

Like other drugs, repeated exposure to nicotine leads to tolerance, which leads to intense feelings of craving and withdrawal if the nicotine is removed. Inhalation is also an incredibly effective drug administration method, giving smokers the rush they crave within seconds.

What makes quitting smoking particularly difficult is that the addiction has two sides: the physical and the psychological.

Just like smoking, quitting smokeless tobacco is both a physical and mental process. Usually within a few hours of your last dip or chew, you will begin to experience the symptoms of nicotine withdraw. Nicotine levels in smokeless tobacco are even higher than in cigarettes, which can make the physical addiction even more difficult to break.


Tobacco users know that their habit is unhealthy. But putting off quitting may seem easier than putting up with the pain of withdrawal and the fear of saying goodbye to a longtime love-hate relationship with cigarettes or smokeless tobacco. Nicotine addiction coupled with the habits psychological hold and ritualistic associations make quitting a scary, unwelcome proposition.

Find a reason – a personal, meaningful reason — to kick the habit for good. Whether it’s your family, wife, children, friends or your health itself or to reward yourself with that trip to Europe you’ve always wanted to take – make sure your reason has a strong, personal connection to why quitting tobacco would enhance your life. When the window of opportunity opens, it’s up to you to just make that choice to leap through.

The cold, hard realities

Yes, you’ll probably miss tobacco. And yes, quitting is hard. With each drag off a cigarette, the brain is flooded with dopamine and other neurochemicals that reach the brain’s pleasure centers. The message your brain sends under the spell of nicotine is that it needs more.

But with your nicotine comes all those carcinogens that cause cancer. Of the more than 4,000 chemicals found in tobacco smoke, at least 250 of them have been found to be harmful.

Often, a person’s fear keeps them smoking despite the desire to quit. They may be afraid of the discomfort that comes along with physical withdrawal from nicotine. They may worry about weight gain. They may also worry about being abandoned when they stop using tobacco. Will they no longer be able to spend time in the same places? What if their friends still smoke? Does this mean they will have to find new friends? What if their partner or someone else in their home still offers them gutka? What if you can’t say no? What will this mean for their long-term success?

These can be daunting questions for anyone who is considering quitting.

Try, try again

Initial failure is sometimes part of the quitting process. Letting go of cigarettes or the smokeless tobacco packet entirely and for good is likely one of the hardest things you’ll ever do. Don’t let a relapse discourage you from trying again. Set a new quit date within a month’s time and be determined.

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