Why do we smoke cigarettes?  It’s an often covered subject and of course can be explained by the addictive properties of nicotine.  This is definitely an important factor but it doesn’t tell the whole truth and only partly explains the incredible hold that smoking has over some people.

The root is probably much deeper than a simple physical addiction which I suspect is in isolation very mild but combined with psychological factors extremely powerful.  After all what is the real root of the pleasure of smoking, it can’t just be the satiation of an addictive craving.   Perhaps it can be traced back to other factors such as a simple connection with relaxation and ‘taking a break’.


I can remember one of the most enjoyable times of my early employment in an office environment was when I would stand outside the building for a few minutes every couple of hours.  Chatting with the other smokers, often finding out useful information and opportunities that the non-smokers never heard about – smoking was much more than a simple physical pleasure.

We often hear about how a cigarette can relax, can help people concentrate or just freshen them up – but it would be surprising if a simple drug could achieve these often mutually exclusive effects.  Some people suggest that a cigarette is a ‘reward’ but crucially one that can be given to ourselves as often as we like.   When we complete a piece of work, a specific task or conclude something we find challenging – we can reward ourselves with a smoke.    However it can go much further than that – having a smoke to finish the day, after breakfast to start the day, a food substitute or even just to be sociable.  The list of ‘rewards’ for cigarettes smoking is almost endless.

In fact it becomes so associated with pleasurable things that it can seem almost impossible to get pleasure without smoking.  This is at the heart of the psychological addiction of cigarettes, where people can’t sit down and enjoy a meal or drink, perhaps watch a movie on Netflix (using this residential vpn)  simply because they think that the cigarette is an implicit part of the pleasure.   Of course people who don’t smoke realise that this is not the truth, but that is because they don’t have the same associations as smokers do.

All these images, have been hard coded into our psyches over decades as well from advertising and movies.  Obviously in recent times tobacco advertising is severely restricted but still the brands have the money and power to sponsor important events.  Yet so they use the same methods in developing countries where advertising is not so restricted.

Almost 20 years after smoking my last cigarette, there still remains some of this in my mind.  I still can feel jealousy from seeing someone light up a smoke on a cold winter morning, because there is still some residual association with pleasure.

Further Reading:

Why we Smoke Cigarettes, Psychology of of Everyday Living, Ernest Dichter

Using VPNs and Stuff, Watching Iplayer and Netflix Anywhere, John Greenhoff

One thought on “Psychology of Smoking

  1. I used the ‘reward’ tactic when I first tried to give up. It works up to a point, however although it’s nice to be able to look forward to some sort of treat like for me it was this Smart DNS service for Netflix, this doesn’t work at those times when you are really hit hard by the cravings.

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