Abolish The Word “Habit” For Smoking Addiction

The Ontario (Canada) Lung Association recently came out with a recommendation to abolish the word “habit” for smoking addiction. On the face of it, this makes a great deal of sense. But there’s always more to it than a literal interpretation. The reasoning behind urging a ban on the word “habit” is to combat the prevalent attitude that smoking is simply a matter of choice and to raise awareness and increase understanding of the true nature of smoking – that it is a serious addiction. In making the announcement in Toronto, George Habib, the Lung Association president and CEO said, “Too many Ontarians believe smoking is a habit, implying it is something easily overcome with willpower alone, not acknowledging how addictive nicotine is and why it is so difficult for people to quit.” In Ontario, a province of Canada, approximately two million people still smoke and at least half of them have tried to quit in the past year without success. This mirrors the experience of U.S. smokers who have made an attempt to quit smoking. In 2008, according to figures from the American Lung Association, an estimated 46 million (20.6 percent of U.S. adults aged 18 and older) were current smokers. Also in 2008, an estimated 48.1 adults were former smokers. Among the estimated 46 million current smokers that year, 45.2 percent stopped smoking at least one day in the preceding year because they were trying to give up smoking completely. In 2009, the percent of adult smokers trying to quit reached 47 percent. But what’s really frustrating is that only 4 to 7 percent are successful in their attempts to quit smoking. Many need to go through multiple attempts to overcome their addiction to nicotine. The Ontario Lung Association says that, on average, smokers attempt to quit five times before achieving success, and only between 5 and 10 percent manage to do so cold turkey. Here’s another quote from the Ontario Lung Association’s Habib: “If it was easy to quit smoking, there would be about a million people [in the province of Ontario] that would quit today. The numbers speak for themselves. Smoking is so much more than a habit and Ontarians [and smokers in the U.S.] need help to quit successfully.”

Canadian Survey of Smoker Attitudes

In a recent survey, Leger Marketing surveyed smokers, former smokers and non-smokers in an attempt to discern various attitudes about smoking. What they found is instructive and shows that attitudes about smoking clearly need to change.

  • Interestingly, non-smokers have the greatest belief that smoking is an addiction. Only 8 percent of the survey respondents identified that they most saw smoking as a habit.
  • On the opposite spectrum, smokers clearly don’t have the same level of understanding. Almost 1 in 5 smokers (18 percent) believe smoking is simply a habit.
  • Smokers were least likely to believe that smoking is an addiction alone (27 percent) compared to former smokers (35 percent) and non-smokers (46 percent).
  • Smokers are most likely to believe that smoking is only a habit when compared to former smokers (15 percent) and non-smokers (8 percent).

What’s Necessary to Successfully Quit Smoking

Anyone who wants to quit smoking for good has to overcome their addiction to nicotine. This is a challenge that frustrates and discourages millions of people who sincerely want to give up smoking – because of nicotine’s addictive properties. Nicotine is as addictive as cocaine or heroin – and yet millions continue to think of smoking as merely a habit. It isn’t a habit. So, let’s abolish the word habit when what we’re really referring to is smoking addiction. The first step in quitting smoking is to understand what you’re up against and recognize that smoking is an addiction. You may not like the term addiction, but that’s what it is. There’s no sense denying it. That will just give you more room to rationalize smoking. You may tell yourself, for example, that you can simply quit whenever you want. The trouble is, every time you try this, guess what happens? That’s right. You give up rather quickly and go right back to smoking. Some people who’ve been frustrated in their half-hearted attempts to quit start smoking even more. But smoking really can be overcome – with the right kind of help and the right smoking cessation plan. Smokers can work with their doctor or healthcare professionals to tailor a program that begins with developing a quit plan and includes discussion about the different treatments and support services available to help them quit. Such a discussion also helps prepare the individual for the quitting process, including a thorough conversation about withdrawal symptoms. There are currently seven medications approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to aid in quitting smoking. Nicotine patches, nicotine gum and nicotine lozenges are available over-the-counter, and a nicotine nasal spray and inhaler are currently available by prescription. Two non-nicotine pills often prescribed for smoking cessation are Buproprion SR (Zyban) and varenicline (Chantix). The American Lung Association says that individual, group and telephone counseling are also effective. Telephone counseling is both widely available and may be effective for many different groups of smokers.

Cost to Society is High

Various sources cite the fact that cigarette smoking is the number one cause of preventable disease and death worldwide. The American Lung Association and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) state that smoking-related diseases claim approximately 443,000 American lives each year, including those affected indirectly. Smoking cost the U.S. over $193 billion in 2004, including $97 billion in lost productivity and $96 billion in direct healthcare expenditures, or an average of $4,260 per adult smoker.

The Time to Act (to Quit Smoking Addiction) is Now

Give yourself – and your loved ones – a gift of life. Resolve to act now to quit smoking addiction. Forget about thinking that your smoking behavior is simply a habit that you can get rid of anytime you want to. That’s never going to happen. Smoking is an addiction, and it will only get worse as time progresses. Not only that, but your health will suffer, you could shorten your life by many years, and your children may lose out on having their parent around to see them grow up. Think this is stretching the facts a bit? It really isn’t. Look again at the statistics on how many Americans currently smoke. Then revisit the number of smoking-related deaths caused worldwide each year. Are you still so sure that smoking isn’t that big a deal? Don’t tell yourself that you can’t do it. If you set your mind to it – and get the right kind of support – you can overcome your addiction to smoking. And your life will be immensely better because of your decision to act now.

U.S.-based Resources to Quit Smoking

Where do you go for more help if you’re thinking about overcoming smoking addiction? The first thing you’ll probably want to do is get as much information as you can about smoking addiction, how you can quit, and resources to help you quit – as well as support once you do quit smoking. Here are some U.S.-based resources to get you started. The American Lung Association has a wealth of information on their website on how to quit smoking as well as their programs to help smokers do so. There’s also information on the ALA’s advocacy efforts to reduce use of tobacco and exposure to secondhand smoke and tobacco use trends. Interested parties can also call the Lung HelpLine at 1-800-LUNG-USA (1-800-586-4872). The American Heart Association has a good FAQ section on quitting smoking on their website. The AHA also has a toll-free number to call: 1-800-AHA-USA-1 (1-800-242-8721). Find answers to questions such as:

  • Is it safe for me to use nicotine replacement medicines to help me quit smoking?
  • What about using smokeless tobacco products to help me quit smoking?
  • Which medicine should I choose to help me quit smoking?
  • Will these medicines keep me from gaining weight?
  • If I get depressed when trying to quit smoking, is there something to help me so I can quit?
  • If I continue to smoke, are there programs in the community that can help me?
  • Do you have any information that I can keep with me while I quit? offers a step-by-step quit guide, talk to an expert, tools to help you quit, and topics related to quitting. MedLine Plus has information on local smoking cessation resources (from the National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health). Check out the “Guide to Quitting Smoking” section on the American Cancer Society website. Or call their toll-free helpline at 1-800-ACS-2345 (1-800-227-2345). The American Cancer Society also has a number of publications on quitting smoking available through their website or to order, many of which are available in Spanish. National Network of Tobacco Cessation Quitlines provides more information about quitlines in your area. You can also call 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669) for free quit smoking support, including quit coaching, educational materials, and referrals to local resources. Looking for clinical trials on quitting smoking? Go to the National Institutes of Health – Clinical Trials on Smoking Cessation website. Nicotine Anonymous is a 12-Step fellowship program of men and women dedicated to helping each other live nicotine-free lives. Nicotine Anonymous welcomes all those seeking freedom from nicotine addiction, including those using cessation programs and nicotine withdrawal aids. The primary purpose of Nicotine Anonymous is to help all those who would like to cease using tobacco and nicotine products in any form. The Fellowship offers group support and recovery using the 12 Steps as adapted from Alcoholics Anonymous to achieve abstinence from nicotine. On the Nicotine Anonymous website you can find meetings, obtain books, tapes and pamphlets through their online store. Call toll-free for information 1-877-TRY-NICA (1-877-879-6422).

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