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Why smokers return to the habit

For any smoker looking to quit, the idea can be daunting. 

“I want to quit, but I’ve been a smoker now for 30 years so we’re talking about altering a major part of my life here,” Lovell Jensin said.  “I’ve tried to stop a few times, but I end up going back to it because quitting isn’t easy.”

Many of the 23 million smokers in the U.S. have tried to quit at one time or another, and now a new study looks into why smokers return to the habit.  The study found that people trying to quit cold turkey said overwhelming cravings pushed them back to smoking, whereas craving was the sixth most reason cited among people who used the smoking cessation aid Zyban to kick the habit. 

“Although some people can successfully quit smoking on their first attempt, understanding the person who returns to smoking has been a challenging issue for researchers and public health advocates,” said Michael Durcan, Ph.D., Principal Clinical Research Scientist for the Central Nervous System Clinical Research Group of Glaxo Wellcome, the maker of Zyban, the only non-nicotine pill approved by the FDA as an aid to smoking cessation treatment.

Those quitting cold turkey cited the following reasons for returning:
*overwhelming craving (49%)
*stress
*presence of other smokers
*situation where I normally smoke
*frustration

Those quitting with Zyban cited the following reasons for returning:
*presence of other smokers
*stress
*situation where I normally smoke
*frustration
*Overwhelming craving (22%)

“These results are a step forward in helping us understand how cravings can affect the smoker beyond the initial cessation phase and throughout the cycle of tobacco dependence,” said Dr. Durcan. “This gives medical professionals more knowledge about how to treat smokers, and shows us that some of the hurdles may be best addressed by modifying behavior or changing habits, such as not spending time around other smokers and avoiding situations where they normally smoke.”