Though it might seem odd to discuss tobacco in the same vein as cocaine or heroin, tobacco is, a dangerous and addictive substance.
Of course, when discussing comparative harm, consuming tobacco may be less of an immediate risk compared to something like fentanyl. It also has fewer serious effects on mental health outside of nicotine use disorder. However, tobacco has been linked with a higher risk of premature death from a wide assortment of chronic diseases, particularly different forms of cancer.
If you’re already a regular smoker, you probably already know how hard it can be to quit. But if you’re not a tobacco user yourself, you might find it very difficult to understand why some people just can’t kick the habit. Here, we’ll discuss some of the reasons why tobacco use is so hard to stop, even compared to other substances.
1.) Strong Socio-Cultural Aspect
Culture and relationships can be an extremely reliable predictor of whether or not someone develops certain habits and preferences. While tobacco use has gone down considerably in the past few generations, it is still seen as a kind of identity marker in many circles and subcultures.
A 2014 review of smoking trends showed that people who work in the food industry, construction, mining, and sales are far more likely to pick up a smoking habit compared to educators or healthcare workers. There are also distinct subcultures among cigarette, cigar, and hookah smokers, vapers, and tobacco chewers which can also influence the substance use behavior individuals engage in. This all influences how difficult it could be to quit.
2.) High Availability
Tobacco is widely available at most gas stations, convenience stores, and airports throughout the United States and is legal for adults to purchase with few, if any, restrictions. Additionally, controls to keep it out of the hands of minors are relatively weak. Compare this with the much tighter controls on alcohol and cannabis, substances that are legal in many jurisdictions throughout the country.
What this means is that anyone who wants tobacco can get it. This is not always the case with other legal substances which may have limited distribution or illicit substances that require that an individual get “hooked up”.
3.) Low Cost
Not only is tobacco widely available, but it also tends to be extremely affordable as well. Over the years, taxes on tobacco have made it more expensive than it was in previous generations. However, even lower-income individuals can still buy tobacco products regularly. People with moderate or severe nicotine use disorder will also typically make room in their budget to buy tobacco, regardless of current prices.
4.) Extremely Habit-forming
Whether it’s chewed, smoked, or vaped, tobacco is extremely habit-forming, even compared to other highly-addictive substances like cocaine or opioids. This means that a person can develop a nicotine use disorder even if they only use tobacco infrequently.
5.) More Accessible to Children and Teens
Substance use disorder (SUD) can develop extremely quickly when addictive substances are consumed at a young age. This is likely because young people’s brains are extremely malleable at this stage, exhibiting high amounts of neuroplasticity or brain cell growth.
This rapid development is responsible for young people’s high aptitude for learning complex skills like languages, sports, or musical instruments. However, it may also be related to their high vulnerability to mental health issues like substance use disorder and trauma.
Because cigarettes and chewing tobacco are legal and highly accessible, many adults don’t really think much about keeping these away from children in their households. Additionally, illicit access to cigarettes is not given much of a priority by law enforcement compared to alcohol and other drugs, further increasing one’s lifetime risk of developing a nicotine use disorder.
Find Smoking Cessation Clinics in Dallas, TX
Though many people attempt to quit tobacco by themselves, the vast majority of self-attempts are unsuccessful, a testament not only to tobacco’s addictiveness but also to its ubiquity and strong cultural presence. Consulting with an addiction treatment specialist or other mental health professionals who deal with substance use disorders can significantly improve one’s chances of successfully quitting nicotine.
Call us at +1(214) 935-2287 to find rehab programs in North Texas that address nicotine use disorders or to find tobacco-free drug and alcohol treatment facilities.
- Syamlal, G., Mazurek, J. M., Hendricks, S. A., & Jamal, A. (2015). Cigarette smoking trends among U.S. working adults by industry and occupation: findings from the 2004-2012 National Health Interview Survey. Nicotine & tobacco research: official journal of the Society for Research on Nicotine and Tobacco, 17(5), 599–606. https://doi.org/10.1093/ntr/ntu185
- Henningfield, J. E., Cohen, C., & Slade, J. D. (1991). Is nicotine more addictive than cocaine?. British Journal of Addiction, 86(5), 565-569.
- Targowski, T., From, S., Różyńska, R., & Mierzejewska, J. (2004). Influence of some demographical and social factors on degree of nicotine addiction and motivation to quit smoking in healthy people. Advances in Respiratory Medicine, 72(5-6), 198-200.
- Benowitz, N. L. (2010). Nicotine addiction. New England Journal of Medicine, 362(24), 2295-2303.
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