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Every smoker – or former smoker – picked up the habit for one reason or another. Whether because of curiosity, peer pressure, or seeing a parent smoke while he or she was still young, something prompted the smoker to start. The reasons why many individuals continue to smoke long after they’ve taken that first puff are numerous as well. Each person gets something different out of smoking – from relaxation to the nicotine rush.

However, there are a number of good reasons to quit smoking. Maybe you’ve seen someone you love suffer the negative effects of long-term cigarette use. Or perhaps you have found yourself getting winded more easily when running or exercising. Or maybe you just want to quit as a good example to your own children. Regardless of the reason, an important part of kicking the habit is figuring out why you do it. Here are six reasons why you find it hard to quit:

1) Stimulation: “It gives me more energy.”

2) Handling: “I like to touch and handle cigarettes.”

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3) Relaxation: “It gives me pleasure.”

4) Tension Reduction: “It helps me to relax when I am tense or upset.”

5) Habit: “I do it out of habit.”

6) Nicotine Addiction: “I crave cigarettes. I am addicted.”

If you believe that smoking gives you energy, make sure you are getting a good night’s sleep. This will help you feel refreshed and alert. Regular exercise such as taking a walk is another way to keep you energized.

You may enjoy the feel of having a cigarette in your hand. If this is the case, try holding a cinnamon stick, or pick up a pen or pencil when you want to grab a cigarette. Doodling or squeezing a stress ball are other ways to keep your hands busy. Snacking on low-fat, low-sugar finger foods (carrot sticks, air-popped popcorn, or apple slices) is also a good distraction.

Smoking may bring you pleasure and if that is true, surround yourself with people that make you forget about smoking. As your lungs start to become smoke-free you may even find pleasure in running or walking.

One of the biggest influences for smoking is tension or stress reduction. Instead of turning to cigarettes, relaxation techniques such as deep breathing or muscle relaxation can help relieve stress. Exercise is also known to relieve tension and improve your mood.

Sometimes smoking is just a habit and emotions aren’t involved. Keep track of the times and places you felt an urge to reach for a cigarette. Changing the way you do things can decrease the connection with cigarettes.

The reality is also that nicotine is addictive, which is why many struggle to quit smoking. If you become easily tempted, avoid people who smoke or smoke-filled places.

To find out what most drives you to smoke, take the quiz “Why Do I Smoke?” in the Journey to a Smoke-Free Life booklet. This resource also provides information and tips for your journey. You can also enroll in a Smoking Cessation program at many of our UPMC facilities.

About UPMC

A $21 billion health care provider and insurer, Pittsburgh-based UPMC is inventing new models of patient-centered, cost-effective, accountable care. The largest nongovernmental employer in Pennsylvania, UPMC integrates more than 90,000 employees, 40 hospitals, 700 doctors’ offices and outpatient sites, and a 3.8 million-member Insurance Services Division, the largest medical insurer in western Pennsylvania. In the most recent fiscal year, UPMC contributed $1.4 billion in benefits to its communities, including more care to the region’s most vulnerable citizens than any other health care institution, and paid more than $500 million in federal, state, and local taxes. Working in close collaboration with the University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences, UPMC shares its clinical, managerial, and technological skills worldwide through its innovation and commercialization arm, UPMC Enterprises, and through UPMC International. U.S. News & World Report consistently ranks UPMC Presbyterian Shadyside on its annual Honor Roll of America’s Best Hospitals and ranks UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh on its Honor Roll of America’s Best Children’s Hospitals. For more information, go to