There may be various reasons why people start and continue smoking. Smoking probably feels like a part of who you are and part of what makes you 'you'! It’s these social and mental attachments that can be the hardest to break1. If you can identify the reasons why you smoke, you are one step closer to putting smoking behind you.
So, what kind of smoker are you?
The social smoker
You don’t smoke all the time … just when there are other people around: when you're out with your friends, in the pub, or that quick smoko with your mates from work. You smoke to be part of a group, to make a connection and feel like you belong. While that all sounds positive, you might be surprised to know that social smoking is actually linked to peer pressure – that thing our parents warned us about when we were kids!2
Don’t fool yourself though, just because you don’t smoke all the time doesn’t make it any better for you. The old saying, ‘Every cigarette is doing you damage’ is true. Smoking as little as 1-4 cigarettes each day TRIPLES your risk of heart disease.3
The invincible smoker
You know about the health risks of smoking: the higher risk of heart attack, stroke and cancer – but for some reason, you think these risks don't apply to you. Even though you think you're invincible, the health risks of smoking really do apply to you. You probably started smoking when you were a teenager, when the thrill of buying and actually smoking cigarettes overcame the sickening effects you felt with those first few cigarettes.2
The stressed smoker
Deadlines, expectations, pressure? Your first thought is 'I need a cigarette'. You smoke to relieve the tension and the nerves, for that little something extra to bolster your concentration, focus your attention and get you through. Don’t worry though, your powers of concentration won’t be diminished when you quit smoking – as you get used to not smoking, you’ll get better at handling stress.4 You might like to read how quitting smoking can actually improve your mental health.
The reward-seeking smoker
Smoking is part of your everyday life. You use it as a reward when you complete a task or activity5 – especially when it comes to the mundane things like cleaning the bathroom! For you, smoking provides a routine that you work to. It marks the end of one job and the start of another. When you quit smoking, you can pursue other healthier ways to treat yourself as you go through your day – and you might just find that you enjoy some of them more than smoking.5
The emotional smoker
You use smoking to help you cope with negative feelings and emotions. Feeling nervous? Have a smoke. Stressed or worried about work? Have a smoke. Smoking temporarily relieves withdrawal symptoms, which can include anxiety, but then the craving for another cigarette quickly looms.1,4,6 There are healthier ways to manage your emotions, and when you quit smoking, it doesn’t mean you won’t be able to deal with the ups and downs of life anymore.4
The weight-watching smoker
You're concerned about weight gain if you were to give up smoking. In fact, not all smokers put on weight when they quit, and even if they do, the amount varies – between 2 and 5 kg in the months after quitting.7 On average, when smokers quit, they simply reach the weight they would have been had they never smoked.4 If you're still worried about weight gain, check out our guide to quitting smoking and managing potential weight gain.
No matter what type of smoker you are, quitting is one of the best things you will ever do for your health. Your blood pressure and circulation will improve, and your chance of developing coronary heart disease is halved after only a year.8 And that’s just the start of it. Everything will taste and smell better, you’ll be able to breathe easier, and the risk of lung cancer drops.8
So you see, you have all that in front of you. Knowing what kind of smoker you are can give you the insight to understand your smoking habit and get the support you need to quit for good.
Pfizer Australia Pty Limited. Pfizer Medical Information: 1800 675 229. Sydney, Australia. PP-CHM-AUS-1031, 02/2020
1. American Cancer Society. Why people start smoking and why it’s hard to stop.https://www.cancer.org/cancer/cancer-causes/tobacco-and-cancer/why-people-start-using-tobacco.html#references Accessed 17 February 2020.
2. HowStuffWorks. 10 Reasons people start smoking. Available at http://health.howstuffworks.com/wellness/smoking-cessation/10-reasons-people-start-smoking.htm. Accessed 17 February 2020.
3. Bjartbeit K and Tverdal A. Health consequences of smoking 1–4 cigarettes per day. Tobacco Control 2005;14:315–320.
4. NIH National Cancer Institute. How to handle withdrawal symptoms and triggers when you decide to quit smoking. Available at https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/causes-prevention/risk/tobacco/withdrawal-fact-sheet#q3 Accessed 17 February 2020.
5. Addictions and recovery. How to quit smoking plan: 8 steps to quitting for good. Available at https://www.addictionsandrecovery.org/quit-smoking/how-to-quit-smoking-plan.htm Accessed 17 February 2020.
6. Hughes JR et al. Nicotine & Tobacco Research 2007;9(3):315–27.
7. US National Library of Medicine. MedlinePlus. Weight gain after quitting smoking: What to do. Available at https://medlineplus.gov/ency/patientinstructions/000811.htm. Accessed 17 February 2020.
8. US National Library of Medicine. MedlinePlus. Benefits of quitting tobacco. Available at https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/007532.htm Accessed 17 February 2020.