The Science Behind Addiction, Successfully Quitting Smoking

Tips for those looking to add 'Quit Smoking' to their list of New Year's resolutions

New Year's Eve provides a benchmark for many Americans to take stock of their lives, and create goals and milestones for the upcoming year. It's at this time of year that many people add "Quit Smoking" to their list of New Year's resolutions. On average, it takes a smoker six to 11 quit smoking attempts before they are completely smokefree, and an overwhelming majority of smokers and non-smokers agree that quitting is difficult. Make this year's resolution stick by understanding why quitting smoking is so difficult, and identifying what proven steps you can take to quit for good.

According to the American Lung Association, there is a "three-link chain" of physical, social and mental components to smoking addiction. Smokers have a better chance of quitting and staying smokefree if they address all three parts of the chain:

  1. Physical: Cigarettes contain an addictive chemical called nicotine, that when inhaled causes the release of a chemical called dopamine in the brain and makes you feel good. Unfortunately, after the dopamine release depletes, these symptoms return which causes the smoker to crave another cigarette. Smokers also build up a tolerance and physical dependence on nicotine, meaning they have to smoke more to feel the same effect. Talk to a healthcare provider about quit smoking medications that can help with these symptoms.
  2. Mental: The act of smoking is often a part of one's daily routines. Smokers tend to light up at specific times of day—when drinking coffee or driving—or when they're feeling a certain way, like stressed or tired. Cigarettes can become a crutch, almost like a steady friend a smoker can rely on. Proven methods to quit smoking includes identifying these triggers, and relearning and adjusting behaviors through a quit plan.
  3. Social: Many smokers develop social groups around smoking—people will head out for a smoke break with friends or coworkers. Smoking can also be used as a social icebreaker by asking, "Got a light?" In that same vein, relying on social groups that support a quit smoking attempt can be helpful. In a recent survey, 80 percent of smokers reported that support from others, including friends, family, significant others and coworkers is very beneficial to successfully quitting.

"We know that smoking is the number one cause of preventable death in the United States, and the health benefits of quitting smoking are immediate and substantial," says Harold P. Wimmer, National President and CEO of the American Lung Association. "This month, we honor the millions of Americans that are affected by chronic lung disease through Lung Cancer and COPD Awareness Month, and know that we must do more to provide resources to help individuals quit smoking and reduce their risk of lung disease."

In addition to the in-person and online smoking cessation program Freedom From Smoking®, the American Lung Association has collaborated with Pfizer to create Quitter's Circle a new mobile app and social community designed to help smokers quit through educational, social and financial support. Within a few clicks, smokers can start a quit team with friends and family, personalize a quit plan and track progress, find resources to connect with a healthcare provider and start a quit fund – all in the palm of their hand.

"A quit plan developed in consultation with a healthcare provider can double the odds of successfully quitting smoking," says Dr. Albert Rizzo, Senior Medical Advisor to the American Lung Association. "Whether in-person, online or through a smartphone, the American Lung Association has over 30 years of experience in helping smokers quit, and it always starts with a quit plan."

For more information about quit smoking resources, visit the newly redesigned American Lung Association website at or call the Lung HelpLine at 1-800-LUNGUSA to talk to a certified tobacco treatment specialist and find a local Freedom From Smoking program.

For more information, contact:

Allison MacMunn
[email protected]

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