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Why is Using Tobacco So Addictive?

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If you've ever smoked and tried to quit, you know it's a challenge.

The urge to continue can be very strong, and there are a number of reasons for that: Brain chemistry

  • Nicotine is a powerful drug that affects mood, focus and thinking.
  • Behavioural conditioning: In just 7 seconds, a puff of nicotine begins to calm a smoker's brain. The brain gets used to hundreds of nicotine 'hits' each day - and may have trouble calming down without them.
  • Smoking is driven by stimulus-response behaviour; for example, the smell of a cigarette or a cup of coffee can automatically produce a strong urge to smoke.
  • Psychology: A lot of smoking is done automatically, without us really thinking about it.
  • Smokers often feel they need a cigarette to feel right or to think clearly.
  • Social Aspects: People with a family history of depression, schizophrenia, attention deficit disorder or other conditions may have a harder time stopping smoking.
  • Smoking is a social ritual for many people, shared with family, friends or co-workers. When other people light up, it often feels natural to join them.

Did You know? There is support for British Columbians who want to quit smoking or tobacco use is provided 24 hours a day free-of-charge through QuitNow. Go to or call 1-877-455-2233 to learn more.

Last Updated: April 15, 2015