For most smokers, the desire to smoke is a complex mix of physical addiction, behavioral conditioning and psychological factors, says Daniel F. Seidman, director of Smoking Cessation Services at Columbia University Medical Center and author of a new book, "Smoke-Free in 30 Days." He notes that smoking just a few cigarettes a day can be even harder to give up than a heavier habit, since each one carries more reward. "I think it's a trap—you're never learning other ways to cope."
Here are some of the most common smoking triggers, and suggestions for counteracting them.
<b>• Social Smoking:</b> Lighting up a cigarette may be taboo in many social circles now. But in others, the negative image only adds to its allure. Smoking at parties, in bars that still permit it, on the golf course or in private gatherings can be a way for some people to belong—an image tobacco ads long cultivated.
Some work environments also are known for heavy smoking habits. "Smoking is a huge part of the food industry. When the diners leave, that's when the party starts for the workers," says Jack Taconni, who owns a gourmet store and catering business in Scarsdale, N.Y., and recalls joining in many after-hours smokes until he quit with the help of a smoking-cessation drug three years ago.
<b>Tips:</b> If smoking is a part of your social circle, try enlisting your friends to quit with you and get together in places where smoking is strictly prohibited. Be wary of alcohol, which often goes hand in hand with smoking and weakens inhibitions. If you need the look and feel of a cigarette to fit in, try using a nicotine oral inhaler (a prescription device that looks like a plastic cigarette and contains a replaceable plug of nicotine). But you may need to avoid heavy-smoking friends until you've broken the habit.