Anybody who has ever tried to quit smoking cigarettes will tell you it is the hardest thing in the world to do. So many people try and fail. But why? The news magazine The Week looks at six studies that help explain the difficulty:
1) Certain smokers are hardwired to smoke
Researchers at the University of Michigan say brain scans can predict whether a smoker will quit or not. They hooked up smokers to MRI machines while they watched anti-smoking TV ads. Those whose brains showed activity in the medial prefrontal cortex during the ads were doing much better at quitting a month later.
2. E-cigarettes and other alternatives don't work
Smokers frequently turn to tobacco alternatives such as snuff or chewing tobacco to try to quit cigarettes. The problem, according to the American Heart Association, the FDA, and several studies, is that most such alternatives aren't safe, and don't make people smoke any less. As far as electronic-cigarettes, one FDA study found carcinogens and an antifreeze chemical in two popular brands.
3. Night owl? Good luck quitting
Finnish researchers found that self-identified "evening types" are three times as likely to be smokers as "morning types," and significantly less likely to quit. Nicotine, a stimulant, may simply keep people up at night, says Ulla Broms at the University of Helsinki, but another explanation may be that people whose brains have active opioid and dopamine systems, tied to pleasure and addiction, are more likely to both smoke and stay up late, she suggests.
4. Quitters, and doctors, are too impatient
Some people quit smoking right away but others take more time and a few lapses, says a study from Oregon Health Science University. Unfortunately, smokers in this second category, and their doctors, often give up trying.
5. Some smokers just live in the wrong state
If you're having trouble quitting, consider moving to a less smoker-friendly area, suggests a study from Harvard Medical School and the Massachusetts Tobacco Cessation and Prevention Program. When that state started offering free anti-smoking drugs, patches, nicotine gum, and other treatments to Medicaid participants, 40% of Medicaid smokers said yes, and smoking dropped 10 percent. Only five other states offer comparable programs, while another 20 or so offer partial insurance coverage for smoking cessation treatments. The researchers suggest that smoking bans help, too.
6. Anxiety disorders encourage smoking
People with anxiety disorders are more likely to smoke and find it harder to quit, say University of Wisconsin researchers. They also respond poorly to common treatments like nicotine lozenges and patches, and experience harsher withdrawal symptoms, the study found. Perhaps not surprisingly, people with histories of panic attacks, social anxiety and general anxiety were more jittery about quitting, even if they weren't heavy smokers.
To read more, go to ReadyToQuit.com.