Smoking? Is it really difficult to break this habit?
National smoking day began on ash Wednesday 1984 but has since been moved to the second Wednesday of march.
When we look back on the last 30+ years of smoking and the transition of public opinion. It’s amazing to see the rise and fall of it. But this year it has got me asking an even bigger question…
Is smoking that difficult to stop?
In this article I’m going to break the myths around smoking but also address the wider subject of breaking other habits that we know stop us from living a life we love.
If we look back 30 years ago, approximately 70% of men and 38% of women were smokers. Flash forward to today and the research tells us only 14% of the UK were identify as being smokers. Experts tell us then that smokers are giving up at approximately 2% every year!
The conclusion that we could draw from this is that smoking is quit an easy thing to stop. Now that might seem like a slightly facetious thing to say seeing as you may be a smoker reading this, or you someone close to you could still be an avid smoker. However we could look at it this way…
If smoking was truly addictive, why have the number of smokers dropped so consistently year on year?
The Smoking Illusion and the addiction game
If you were offering a product or a service that you would do anything to keep me buying, how would you do it? Good marketing, branding, packaging? Sure! But what if you could go deeper?
Research in the 1950’s showed that nicotine consumption had addictive properties due to the ways it was absorbed and stimulated in the brain and the body. So what did the tobacco companies do? They used it. After all, believing you’re addicted to a product makes you a far better customer.
Most independent studies would agree that the physical aspect of smoking constitutes of about 10%. 90% is in the mind.
But what about the patches, the gums and the pills to help you stop smoking. Can you guess which company owns most of them?…..
Understanding that 90% of quitting is amental game doesn’t always make it easier but it does explain why:
- People go to bed at night and stop smoking (no one is waking up at 3am gasping at the air needing the next cigarette)
- If/when people are in hospital, the majority of people stop during this period
- People are able to take a long haul flight on an aeroplane without smoking
- Smokers go to the and sit through a 3 hour film without lighting up
These same examples aren’t true for heroin addicts?
The mental language of a non smoker
Remember the TV ads for the smoking patches and gums? There is still a vivid ad that comes to mind of a man and woman talking, when suddenly a fishing line is thrown into view, the hook pierces the cheek of the man and pulls the man through the supermarket shop before the line – “stop getting hooked to smoking ” is shown.
From the first class marketing of the tobacco companies to the gums, patches and pills of the same companies – It’s so easy to be bought in to the extreme difficulty of what “”becoming a non smoker” entails.
This doesn’t in anyway mean that becoming a non smoker is super easy. However the statistics of increasing non smokers show us that’s easier than we perhaps once thought.
And it’s not just smoking….
If we’re looking to make a change to any area of our lives, whether it’s a toxic habit or the integration of a new one, there is no doubt that the words we say to ourselves and others can absolutely make the next step easier or harder.
If our internal dialogue is telling us that we have to “quit”, “give up”, “stop an addiction” “undo the feeling of being hooked”, then despite the good intention; we are already telling a part of ourselves that we’re about to embark on something difficult that we don’t want to do. After all, who enjoys quitting in any context, since when has “giving up” something been a pleasure? I know I don’t! Using that language internally or externally automatically switches the focus in our decision to what we “don’t get” and “can’t have”. I don’t know about you but whenever tells me that I can’t think/shouldn’t think about a black cat for the next 5 seconds – that mini experiment never goes well for me.
Never quit, never give up
So what if you never had to quit smoking again, what if you never had to give up any vice? What would that look like?
If you were making the decision to lose weight….
In the past have you had to give up carbs? Quit sugar? Stop the addiction of junk food?
I know what I focused on every time I embarked on that journey using that language…
Finally, now that we know what the perception of addiction can do; write down the habit you wish to change (it may be smoking, it may be weight loss – it could be anything) and instead of leaning into the habit of it being hard and addictive. Just allow your mind to ponder on the following questions and see what comes up…. Let’s use smoking as an example:
If becoming a healthy non smoker was effortless…what would that look like?
If it was easy to take the next step, what would I spend my day doing?
It’s amazing the answers that can come out of such powerful questions. Creating a healthy start line only makes the rest of this road easier!