Break addiction, plan to become ex-smoker for good

JANE E BRODY

Few smokers would claim that it's easy to quit. The addiction to nicotine is strong and repeatedly reinforced by circumstances that prompt smokers to light up.

Yet the millions who have successfully quit are proof that a smoke-free life is achievable, even by those who have been regular, even heavy, smokers for decades.

Now, however, the decline in adult smoking has stalled despite the economic downturn and the soaring price of cigarettes.

People ages 18 to 25 now have America's highest smoking rate: about 34 per cent, according to the 2010 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. I had to hold my breath the other day as dozens of 20-somethings streamed out of art gallery openings and lighted up. Do they not know how easy it is to get hooked on nicotine and how challenging it can be to escape this addiction?

Challenging, yes, but by no means impossible.

"There is no magic pill or formula for beating back nicotine addiction," Dr. Richard Brunswick, a retired family physician in Northampton said. "However, with a better understanding of why you smoke and the different tools you can use to control the urge to light up, you can stop being a slave to your cigarettes."

Addiction & Withdrawal

Nicotine beats a direct path to the brain, where it provides both relaxation and a small energy boost. But few smokers realize that the stress and lethargy they are trying to relieve are a result of nicotine withdrawal, not some underlying distress. Break the addiction, and the ill feelings are likely to dissipate.

Physical withdrawal from nicotine is short-lived. Four days without it and the worst is over, with remaining symptoms gone within a month, Dr. Brunswick said. But emotional and circumstantial tugs to smoke can last much longer.

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