Peer pressure persuades many young people between the ages of 10 and 18 to begin experimenting with smoking. The most common reasons are:

  • to be the same as others in the peer group
  • to appear cool and grown up
  • to rebel against authority
  • to relax in awkward social settings

This is one of the many reasons we work so hard to keep cigarette prices high and to ban advertising to teens — if we can reduce the experimenting, we can reduce the number of smokers.

How habit leads to addiction

Cigarette smoking can become an addiction in the same way as alcohol, tranquilizers and other drugs do. And it’s probably the toughest addiction to beat.

Tobacco contains nicotine, a powerful addictive drug that enters the brain very quickly with each puff on a cigarette. The nicotine changes how your brain works, boosting your mood and making you feel calm and more alert. Over time, your energy level or mood can drop, causing you to crave a cigarette for another boost. The more you smoke, the more nicotine you need, which then leads to more smoking.

Why do smokers continue to smoke?

They continue smoking because they are addicted to nicotine, but also because it seems to them that smoking plays a useful role in their lives.

Some people who smoke may be worried about the symptoms of withdrawal. They may have tried to quit before, and when they weren’t successful they decided to give up.

Although dealing with withdrawal can be hard, withdrawal symptoms are a sign that the body is healing. Not all smokers have the same symptoms and some don’t have any at all.

Many quitters find that withdrawal symptoms may be at their worst for the first few days after they stop smoking. Generally symptoms will lessen in a week or so, but in some cases they may not disappear entirely for a few weeks or longer.