Challenges of Quitting

Whether you call them obstacles, barriers, or roadblocks, you can overcome them all with curiosity, courage and commitment.

Most people keep smoking because tobacco is highly dependence-producing and they believe it helps them in some way, or they want to avoid the possible side effects of withdrawal.

Four Significant Barriers to Quitting

The first is the addictive need for nicotine.

Cigarettes deliver nicotine to your brain, really quickly, and your brain releases feel good chemicals that you associate with pleasure. Nicotine is a powerful addictive substance which can cause chemical addiction after just a short exposure. 

Addiction affects the frontal cortex of your brain and hijacks your impulse control and judgment. Your brain's reward system gets altered in such a way that the memory of previous rewards can trigger craving for both the nicotine and the rewarding experiences, in spite of negative consequences. And therein lies the problem. Continued use, despite negative consequences is the main definition of any addiction. Smokers also fear the thought of withdrawal and want to avoid unpleasant side effects like becoming tired, irritable, or not sleeping or experiencing chest discomfort. 

Nicotine cravings are temporary and typically last for 5-10 minutes and are just a physiological response where your body wants something it has adapted to over time, and become tolerant of. For people choosing vaping as a pathway to quitting, vaping may curb cravings and lessen the effect. If you’re not, riding it out until the wave passes is recommended.

Not all symptoms are nicotine related. After you quit, the cilia in your lungs will return to its normal shape and function, pushing toxic deposits out of the lungs to be coughed up. Drinking more water and soothing your throat with honey or other lozenges is super helpful. 

The second is the social need.

The actual act of smoking gets connected with SO many things a person does throughout the day, like drinking coffee, taking a break, having alone time, rewarding themselves, having a beer, or hanging out with friends. These become what's called the behavioural and social aspects of cigarette use, and they're highly rewarding for a smoker. Learning about triggers can help immensely.

Common social obstacles can include:

Lack of social support and lack of family/whanau support. 

Not wanting to offend. Social cultural norms often mean that accepting cigarettes from friends is a token of friendship. Remember, you're a good role model and doing family and friends a great service by showing them that change is possible. That said, don't let them pull you back into the life you’re leaving behind.

What else helps? 
Breathing techniques, avoiding friends and or workmates who smoke and situations that might make you want to smoke, especially in the first day, first week and first month. It gets easier after that. Learning to say no to offers or temptations is advisable. Cutting down on, or ideally avoiding drinking alcohol in the first 2 weeks is a great idea. Reducing caffeine by half is an absolute necessity and so is 
committing to not one puff ever. (N.O.P.E.)

The third is the emotional need.

Common emotional obstacles can include:

Uncomfortable feelings and the need for cigarettes to relieve or manage stress. 

  • To relax.
  • To relieve boredom.
  • To gain pleasure. 

Personal and lifestyle factors like believing you’re unable to quit. Or that you’re too old, or believing in myths and misconceptions.

Not standing up for yourself. Being coerced. The old “C’mon, it’s only one.”

Not having enough skills to be able to modify behaviour to deal with urges or cope with high risk situations.

Quitting requires a plan and swapped behaviour. It’s about modifying your lifestyle, having a good plan that actually goes over all the possible challenges and obstacles. It’s also about changing your mind from what you’re missing out on, to being excited about gaining better health and wellbeing and improved finances. 

Keep learning new skills and be sure to connect with social support. 

This barrier is overcome more easily by reaching out for the counselling help we offer, especially to identify high risk situations, and to come up with problem solving strategies to deal with and avoid conflict without using your addictive behaviour for comfort and escape.

And the fourth is the simple hand to mouth habit to overcome.

Previous failed attempts, having tried ways that weren’t user friendly or easy to understand can be off-putting. Some people say that NRT has either made them nauseous or didn’t fulfil the hand to mouth habit. For those of you choosing to vape as a pathway to quitting, you may find vaping keeps your hand and mouth occupied.

Although vaping is not the same as smoking (that’s a good thing, no tar, ash or combustible chemicals that cause cancer) it may offer the most similar experience to smoking along with delivering nicotine. A couple of the Ministry of Health's key messages say that, "The evidence on vaping products indicates they carry much less risk than smoking cigarettes but are not risk free. Evidence is growing that vaping can help people to quit smoking."

“E-cigarettes that contain nicotine enable users to replicate the same smoking experience as regular cigarettes, but without the harmful effects of toxic fumes.” Professor Colin Mendelsohn.

“For those smokers who won’t or can’t quit, the next best thing would be to switch to vaping.”
Professor Hayden McRobbie.


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