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Smoking - Habit or Addiction

hand holding a cigaretteMany people believe that smoking is an addiction. I believe that it’s only a bad habit.

To discuss this, we need to define the difference between a habit and an addiction. So to keep it simple, a habit is an acquired pattern of behaviour which occurs automatically while an addiction can be defined as a chronic, relapsing brain disease.

The smoker gradually acquires the habit as she smokes more and more at specific times. A good example is after meals. By always “enjoying” a cigarette after eating, it becomes a habit, so much so that the smoker always associates eating and smoking. In the olden days ( as recently as the 80s & 90s) people would light up between courses or even while others were eating.

If smoking was addictive, everybody in the olden days would have taken up smoking. It was socially acceptable to smoke almost anywhere unless there was a danger of starting a fire, as for example, at service stations. Almost everyone was subjected to secondhand smoke in their daily lives.

You probably know couples where only one person is a smoker and the other person is consistently on the receiving end of secondhand smoke. That second person doesn’t become addicted and often actually detests smoking. The things we do for love.

Smokers (not all) advise me that if they know they can’t have a smoke, they can deal with it. An extended air flight is a good example. Because for most people, flying is not an everyday occurrence, they haven’t developed the triggers that cause them to desire a cigarette and so they’re ok without a cigarette for the duration of the flight.

Most smokers can go to sleep at night and sleep through to morning without having to have a cigarette through the night. The ones who can’t last through are extremely rare and it’s usually only on random occasions that they get up for a cigarette.

Triggers are the signals that cause someone to smoke. Coffee, drinking alcohol, talking on the phone and driving are some of the common ones.

These signals are thoughts and by breaking the association, the habit is broken. This is one of the reasons why hypnosis is the most effective way to quit smoking (New Scientist Magazine, 1992). By tailoring your hypnosis sessions to your triggers and behaviours, your hypnotherapist helps you break those associations.

Obviously, this also applies to the resolution of other life problems that you may be encountering.

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