Psychology and smoking
Why people smoke and effects of
stopping smoking on the brain
I decided to investigate the psychology behind
smoking because I thought that if we
understood why people smoked we could
suggest ways to prevent them from smoking.
Types of Smokers
Addicted to the actual nicotine. These smokers normally need a
cigarette in the first hour after getting up and crave cigarettes when in
an area where they can’t smoke. It can be very difficult for this kind of
smoker to quit because their body needs the nicotine.
Smoking is a habit, for example having a cigarette whilst having a cup
of tea or whilst watching TV. Sometimes if the smoker doesn’t do that
activity whilst trying to quit they are successful in quitting because
smoking is associated with that activity.
They smoke to cope with stress or worry. It is sometimes very difficult
for this kind of smoker to quit because they become more agitated and
anxious about the situation, give in and have a cigarette.
Types of smokers by quantity
Type by quantity Definition Most likely type of smoker
Chain smoker Lights next cigarette when
present one is still in mouth can
go through 3 packs/ day
Heavy smoker Someone who can go through 2
Moderate smoker Smokes between 1-2 packs/day Psycological/ Habitual
Light Smoker Smokes ½ -1 pack/day Habitual
Casual Smoker Only smokes when out with
It is important for smokers to distinguish what
type of smoker they are if they are going to quit.
Most people do this by making a smoking diary.
In this, they document the time of the cigarette,
activity, how they were feeling and how much
they enjoyed that cigarette.
After quitting – The Psychological symptoms
Most of the psychological symptoms of quitting smoking are
reasons why people smoked in the first place. Psychological and
Habitual smokers are more likely to experience symptoms like
• Sense of Loss
After quitting – Physical symptoms
People with a Physical addiction are more likely to
experience physical symptoms like:
• Sleep Problems
• Lack of concentration
• Weight Gain*
*Although weight gain is physical, eating more is used to fill the empty
void of smoking felt by habitual and psychological smokers.
• Quitting smoking is definitely not easy and there are
lots of barriers that smokers face. From my chat with
Tracy Black (Nurse) I found out that most people
don’t go to a support group but instead just buy NRT
at the supermarket. These people probably don’t
know what type of smoker they are and may be
doing the wrong things to quit. I think that if more
people used the NHS cessation services, less people
would smoke. Greater advertising of the services
available would make more people aware.
• NHS Lothian’s ‘Your path to a Smoke free life’ Self-help guide