It’s important to remember that smoking is both a habit and an addiction. There are many times when you tell yourself you’re going to have a cigarette, but often, the smoking you do is just out of habit.
Habits are affected by your environment. Something you see or do in your daily life (a cue or a trigger) gets them going. Triggers are the stimuli associated with smoking.
What are smoking triggers? Think back to when you had just started to smoke. At first you’re only positive reinforcement might have been social acceptance by your friend, that reward helped to fight against the initial negative consequences—nausea, bad taste in your mouth, tearing eyes, and burning throat. The more you smoked, the less you were bothered by the physical discomfort. And almost without realizing it, you quickly began to enjoy smoking for many new reasons:
You often smoked during the happy times you spent with friends. As a result, you’re now likely to smoke whenever you want to feel happier.
You found that you ate less when you smoked, and that’s helped you to control your weight. As a result, you now light a cigarette whenever you feel hungry but don’t want to eat. You may even smoke between courses at a meal.
Phone calls from your family members may sometimes be stressful. When they call, you frequently light up a cigarette to help yourself stay calm. Now you find yourself reaching for a smoke whenever you make a phone call or answer the phone, no matter who’s on the line.
If you’re alone and have nothing to do, you tend to think about your worries and anxieties. You’ve found that smoking relaxes you and makes you feel happier. Cigarettes have become like “a friend” to you. In fact, you realize that you smoke the most when no friends are around and you’re feeling lonely, worried, sad, or just bored.
People often say cigarettes are a “crutch” because smokers lean on their cigarettes for help in so many situations—being with friends, eating, talking on the phone, or just feeling bored. Triggers can be any number of things, bad and good. And different smokers have different triggers. You may connect a cigarette so strongly with a particular activity that you’d have trouble carrying out that activity without a cigarette.
For instance, some smokers always smoke when they have a cup of coffee. Other smokers can’t go to sleep until they’ve had that last cigarette of the night. Nicotine addiction is the reason. The physiological effects of nicotine combine with the effects of your morning coffee to give you the extra stimulation you need to get going. Similarly, the negative feelings that nicotine counteracts (feeling sad, anxious, stressed out) all evoke strong urges for a cigarette. So you have a cigarette at bedtime, you feel more relaxed, and you’re able to fall asleep.