Why am I not addicted to cigarettes?

Addictive behavior to cigarettes

"If you really understand smoking, you can quit it," says Hans-Joachim Ruhr, "and permanently". He has been offering the "Simply Non-Smoking" program for years - with great success. Around half of those who attended his courses are now non-smokers. We asked the qualified psychologist why it is so difficult for smokers to just let go of smoking.

How do I know if I am seriously addicted to nicotine and not just an occasional smoker?
You can tell this very well by how much time passes in the morning before you smoke your first cigarette. Anyone who thinks about smoking immediately after getting up and does it is more addicted than someone who only lights their first cigarette on the way to work. There is also the so-called Fagerström test for cigarette addiction. The degree of dependency is categorized here on the basis of around 6 questions. In the meantime it has been found that nicotine addiction can even be detected with a brain scan. Over time, smokers develop so-called nicotine receptors. However, these also recede as soon as you become a non-smoker.

Is there a certain type of person who smokes?
You can't say that across the board. Anyone can become addicted, an addiction can develop after just 5 cigarettes. On the positive side, the number of smokers has decreased significantly over the past few decades. Around 80 percent of men smoked in the 1950s. today it is only 30 percent. It is worrying, however, that women are slowly catching up and that the curve for female lung cancer patients is rising at the same time.

Why is it so hard for a smoker to quit?

There are two reasons for this. On the one hand the physical dependence and on the other hand the psychological one. The nicotine is responsible for the former because it is simply addicting. The latter reason is much more complex and difficult to understand. At least for someone who has never smoked. After all, smokers associate very specific habits with their cigarette addiction. Changing these habits really triggers the smoker's fear of loss. For them, the cigarette is associated with positive things such as socializing and reward. My challenge is to make people realize that this attitude is absurd. No celebration is more social just because people smoke there. And why should such an unnatural process as inhaling smoke be a reward? The smoker is the only living thing that does not run away when it smells smoke. That should make you think.

With these tips you will become a non-smoker

But isn't the health issue serious enough for a smoker to convince them to quit?
Sometimes I ask the participants in my seminars how many different toxins they suspect in a cigarette. Most think of 20 or a maximum of 50 substances. There are 4,500. Such information may shock a smoker, but if you touch him with your forefinger, he'll block it very quickly. You can't force smokers. You have to come by yourself and have the desire to become a non-smoker. You have to make it clear to the smoker what an enormous benefit he will get from it once he becomes a non-smoker. For example, the sooner you stop smoking, the higher the likelihood of having the same life expectancy as a non-smoker. Another interesting comparison is that a smoker lives just as dangerously as someone who is 30 kilos overweight.

What do you tell the participants in your seminars?
The dilemma a smoker faces is his ambivalence. He is afraid to smoke because he knows the consequences, but he is also afraid of quitting because then panic arises. I try to resolve this ambivalence in them. To do that, you have to understand it and come to the conclusion, 'I'm an addict and I'm completely choosing against it'. In plain language: he decides For something - not smoking. The smoker has to accept that he can only get rid of nicotine through absolute abstinence. This process usually takes a few hours, during which the smoker can really experience an emotional roller coaster ride: There are ups and downs and in the end the positive aspects remain - finally non-smokers!

This is how a nonsmoker's body recovers

Who is actually one of your participants?
On average, these are people around 40 who suddenly feel the physical loss of smoking. Often also those who have received a serious diagnosis from their doctor, such as COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or "smoker's lung"). These patients are highly motivated. Those who are young and healthy and feel in top shape usually consider themselves invulnerable and do not want to be taught better, or not at all.

What do you think of trends like e-cigarettes, shisha or eco-cigarettes?
Nothing at all. These things are just as harmful and sometimes even more dangerous than traditional cigarettes. They contain nicotine and are addicting. As far as the manufacturers' eco-packaging is concerned - this is a clever marketing strategy to ease the consumer's conscience. But the fact is that eco cigarettes are no better than normal cigarettes. It would end up being exactly the same as selling organically grown arsenic.

Our expert: Hans-Joachim Ruhr
The qualified psychologist has his own practice in Berlin and is a member of the German Society for Addiction Psychology. Together with Dr. med. Thomas Hering, he is in charge of smoking cessation at the Berlin Smoking Stop Center. Book tip: My non-smoking book, about 10 euros

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