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    Why quitting smoking is hard

    On this page
    1. 1. Nicotine is extremely addictive
    2. 2. Smoking is a psychological habit
    3. Is it harder to quit smoking the longer you smoke?
    4. What is the most successful way to quit smoking?
    5. How can I make quitting smoking easier?
    6. Nicotine replacement therapy
    7. Prescription medicines
    8. Exercise
    9. Do your research
    10. Get support

    According to the American Cancer Society, about 70% of smokers want to quit, and about 40% try to do so every year. However, only a very small percentage do so successfully (about 6%). Quitting smoking often requires multiple attempts and a lot of willpower to overcome cravings and unpleasant withdrawal symptoms. So why is it so difficult to quit smoking? According to our NHS experienced clinicians there are 2 main reasons:

    1. Nicotine is extremely addictive

    The main reason why it is so difficult to quit smoking is that nicotine is physically addictive. The nicotine inside cigarettes gives you a temporary, and extremely addictive, high. It can rev you up, making you feel more alert, more focused and happier. After a while, this becomes a regular, necessary fix, and having nicotine in your body feels normal. Quitting smoking and eliminating that fix can cause your body to experience intense cravings and physical withdrawal symptoms such as headaches, fatigue, difficulty concentrating and nausea.

    2. Smoking is a psychological habit

    As well as being addicted to nicotine, smokers are often caught up in the act of smoking as a daily ritual. It may be automatic for you to have a cigarette after your morning coffee or after dinner, or to hang out with other smokers during work. Smoking can be a way of dealing with stress, fatigue or even boredom. It may be that smoking becomes so habitual for you that in order to quit you not only have to deal with the physical addiction of nicotine, but also significantly change your lifestyle to resist dozens of daily triggers.

    Considering quitting smoking?

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    Is it harder to quit smoking the longer you smoke?

    The longer you’ve been a smoker the more it will be part of your everyday routine and lifestyle. This may make it harder to kick the habit, as not only do you have to stop smoking, but you also have to change the way your routine works day-to-day. It’s been found that it can take up to and over 30 attempts to quit, so the sooner you start thinking about quitting, the better. 

    What is the most successful way to quit smoking?

    Champix has been found to be one of the most successful treatments to help people to quit smoking. However it’s important to remember that a medication alone will not make you kick the habit. You need to be in a positive mindframe and make changes to your lifestyle to help support your decision to stop smoking. 

    How can I make quitting smoking easier?

    Quitting smoking can be very difficult for some people, but the good news is that there are many different techniques and medicines that can help you.

    Nicotine replacement therapy

    Patches, lozenges, gums, inhalers, tablets and nasal sprays can all be a huge help. They release nicotine into your body but without the toxic tar and chemicals that come with cigarettes. This reduces your cravings and withdrawal symptoms.

    Prescription medicines

    Champix and Zyban are prescription-only medicines that can be highly effective in helping you quit smoking. Unlike nicotine replacement therapy, they don’t contain nicotine, but rather affect your brain’s reaction to nicotine, thereby dampening cravings and reducing the effect of withdrawal symptoms.

    The evidence suggests that taking Champix trebles your chances of successfully quitting. You can order it through our safe and convenient online doctor service.


    Physical activity can help reduce cigarette cravings and relieve withdrawal symptoms as it releases endorphins (pleasure hormones) which make you feel good, reduce stress and give you the willpower to resist cigarettes.

    Do your research

    Finding out about the many harmful effects of smoking may well give you that incentive boost you need to quit. Here are just some examples:

    • Nearly half of all chronic smokers die from a smoking-related condition.
    • Smoking is the single biggest cause of cancer in the world.
    • Smokers under 40 are 5 times more likely to have a heart attack than non-smokers.

    For more information, see what are the effects of smoking?

    Get support

    Your local NHS Stop Smoking Service can provide you with a free ‘Quit Kit’ and expert advice over the phone, by email or by online chat.

    If you would like a consultation to find out how smoking medicines such as Champix can help reduce your cravings, please visit our stop smoking clinic.

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