We all know that smoking is unhealthy. Tobacco consumption is the primary preventable cause of death in the world, responsible for an estimated 5 million deaths annually. While there exists an overabundance of resources regarding the health risks from smoking, as well as information on how one might go about quitting, data concerning the reasons we choose to smoke and how we do so is considerably less plentiful.
Discovering your individual smoking type is the first key step toward formulating a practical quitting plan that actually fits your lifestyle and needs. So, what’s your smoking profile?
The Skinny Smoker
If one of your primary reasons for sticking to the smokes involves your waistline, you’re certainly not alone. In fact, more than half of female smokers say that concerns regarding their weight and their cigarette habit go hand in hand, with nearly a quarter of men saying the same.
Nicotine does inhibit appetite, though the carcinogens in tobacco smoke are hardly worth the negative side effects that accompany a slightly smaller pants size. Truth be told, the average ex-smoker doesn’t gain all that much weight upon quitting. Though the initial amount of weight gained after quitting ranges between four and ten pounds, the majority of people who stick to an average diet and exercise regimen find that their weight returns to normal within three to six months.
The Social Smoker
Social smokers are not typically hooked on nicotine, the addictive substance found in tobacco cigarettes, but rather to the sensation of smoking and the social aspect of the behaviour. They engage in smoking at parties, with friends at school, at night at the bar, or only on the weekends, but always with other people.
For some social smokers, the only time the craving for a cigarette creeps in is when alcohol is involved. They may even only ‘tap’ a few from a friend for the evening, never purchasing an entire pack for themselves.
Though many social smokers don’t consider themselves “real” smokers at all, they are still at an increased risk of developing potentially serious health complications. Though this lower level of tobacco consumption certainly doesn’t present a health risk as high as, say, a 20 pack-a-day habit would, the toxins within any amount of cigarette smoke cause cell damage throughout the body.
In addition, a 2005 study revealed that one in five individuals who begin smoking socially go on to become everyday smokers.
The Stressed Smoker
Do you find yourself immediately reaching for your cigarettes after a major fight with your best friend or spouse? Does a long day at work or a full day of finals warrant an hour-long chain-smoking session to end them all? It’s not surprising: A whopping 47 percent of smokers claim that stress is the main reason they reach for their cigarettes. What is surprising is that the feeling of being relaxed or less anxious while smoking or after having finished a cigarette doesn’t correspond with the physical effect nicotine actually has on the body.
While you’re smoking, the pleasure centres of your brain are directly affected by nicotine, making you feel more relaxed. At the same time, however, your breathing becomes more shallow, your heart rate increases and your blood pressure rises. Researchers are still looking into how these contradictory reactions may result in the perceived need for yet another cigarette to continue the “de-stressing” effects of the first.
The Addicted Smoker
This smoking style represents the smoker who simply smokes for smoking’s sake. They smoke not for the enjoyment of the act, for the flavour of the smoke, for the social aspect or even for the enjoyable little head rush we get when nicotine stimulates the dopamine receptors in our brains.
For this type of smoker, nicotine is now a necessary component of daily life and it doesn’t come with much physical pleasure to speak of, aside from the basic fulfilment of a physiological need. This is considered the most dangerous smoking style, as the initial addiction to nicotine generally results in a need to increase the dosage over time in order to achieve the same results.
Approximately 10 million adults smoke cigarettes in the UK, each of them choosing to light up for their own personal reasons. If you’re searching for an effective way to quit, really understanding why and how you smoke may prove to be a helpful asset in pursuing that endeavour and ultimately succeeding.
Of these four common smoking profiles, which one best fits your style? Are you a combination of a few or do you fit into a different group altogether?