Why Is Quitting Smoking So Hard?

Smoking is one of the worst habits a person can develop, and despite it’s harmful effects for both the smoker and those around them being common knowledge, our world continues to treat smoking as a socially acceptable activity.

While the habit has actually been on a downward trend in the last couple of decades, it is still all too common and just as dangerous and unhealthy as ever.

To get a better idea of how common smoking still is and how unhealthy it is, let’s take a look at some of the statistics.

The Numbers

  • Almost 17% of Canadians aged 12 years and older smoke either daily or occasionally – this equates to about 5.2 million people
  • Of these 5.2 million people, 3.7 million of them smoke cigarettes daily
  • 1 in 5 Canadians are non-smokers who used to be daily smokers and have since quit
  • Approximately 40,000 Canadians die each year due to smoking related illnesses
  • 1 in 3 cancer cases are smoking related
  • According to the American Lung Association, smoking contributes to between 80 and 90% of lung cancer deaths in both men and women
  • Men who smoke are 23x more likely to develop lung cancer, while women who smoke are 13x more likely to develop lung cancer
  • Non smokers who are exposed to second hand smoke have a 20-30% higher chance of developing lung cancer than non smokers who are not exposed to second hand smoke
  • Worldwide, smoking causes 6 million otherwise preventable deaths per year
  • 7 out of 10 smokers want to quit, and 5 out of 10 smokers have attempted to quit

But Why Is It So Hard To Quit?

Clearly, based off of the previous statistics, it is not for lack of desire that people are unable to quit smoking.

But why, if so many people want to and attempt to quit smoking, do so many people still smoke? Why is it so hard to quit?

Because smoking is an addiction and kicking an addiction is not an easy task. 

Cigarettes contain nicotine: a highly addictive substance that is naturally occurring within tobacco.

This nicotine gives the smoker a temporary high, more appropriately described as an uplifted mood and feelings of relaxation or stress relief. However, shortly after the cigarette is finished, the smoker begins to go through minor symptoms of withdrawal.

The withdrawal symptoms are a result of the body’s chemical reaction to the nicotine’s effects wearing off. This is what causes the body to crave more nicotine – another cigarette. These negative symptoms, such as irritability, anxiety, and difficulty concentrating, are often the driving forces that make that next cigarette seem irresistible.

Why It’s So Important To Try

It’s not only important for your health and safety, as a smoker, but for the health and happiness of those around you – especially your loved ones.

Smoking not only increases your chances of developing lung cancer, but can also increase your chances of having a stroke, developing coronary heart disease, cardiovascular disease, becoming diabetic, or developing other types of cancer. It can also cause problems with your gums, tooth decay, and can even cause cataracts in your eyes. On top of all of this, smoking has the potential to cause fertility problems in both men and women.

Quitting will not only begin to reduce your chances of developing any of these problems, but will also potentially save your loved ones from having to sit back and watch you suffer because of a dangerous and unnecessary habit.

Tips For Succeeding

Here are some tips for when you start to crave that next cigarette and how to avoid the craving all together:

  • Take a few slow, deep breaths – this can aid in stress relief
  • Go for a walk – physical activity releases a chemical into your body that can improve your mood
  • Drink some water – taking good care of your body is one way to avoid tiredness and stress
  • Find another way to keep your hands or mouth busy (Ie: a stress ball or a healthy snack)
  • Talk to someone – having someone to support you and hold you accountable can encourage you to stick with it

The Best Time To Start Is Now

Quitting smoking is not easy, but the best (and only) way to succeed is to try.

The process of quitting is simultaneously a mental, emotional, physical, and behaviour challenge. It is important to remember that every smoke free day is a success and that relapsing does not mean failure.

For anyone struggling to quit, know that there are always support systems available if you need one.


  1. https://www.drugfacts.ca/tobacco-definition-short-long-term-effects-risks-addiction/
  2. https://www.smartrecovery.org/why-is-quitting-smoking-so-hard/
  3. http://www.lung.org/lung-health-and-diseases/lung-disease-lookup/lung-cancer/resource-library/lung-cancer-fact-sheet.html
  4. https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/82-625-x/2017001/article/54864-eng.htm
  5. https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/data_statistics/fact_sheets/fast_facts/index.htm
  6. https://smokefree.gov
  7. http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/HealthyLiving/QuitSmoking/YourNon-SmokingLife/Why-is-it-so-hard-to-quit_UCM_324053_Article.jsp#.WyPdjBgRqt8


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