5 Reasons Why People With COPD Still Smoke

Lack of motivation and a defeatist attitude contribute to the problem

Despite overwhelming evidence that smoking worsens airway obstruction and results in early death, people with COPD struggle to quit smoking and have the poor smoking cessation rates to prove it. Since quitting smoking is the most effective way to manage the disease, identifying the underlying reasons why you can't kick the habit may give you the insight needed to leave cigarettes behind for good.

Why Quit Now? I Already Have the Disease

Woman Smoking Cigarette
Megumi Kurosaki / EyeEm / Getty Images

Although the majority of smokers with COPD realize that continuing to smoke contributes to worsening lung function and a decline in overall health, studies published in 2012 suggest that many people falsely believe that because they've already been diagnosed with the disease, there's no reason to quit or that it's too difficult. Nothing could be further from the truth. There is always a health benefit to quitting smoking, no matter what stage disease you're in. In fact, lung function decline in COPD can actually normalize in some patients who quit smoking, meaning that once you quit, your lung function will decline at the same rate as anyone else of the same age, sex, height, and weight. Discover more about the benefits of smoking cessation.

Lack of Internal Motivation to Quit

Research from 2012 supports that, in order to maintain autonomy, the decision to stop smoking has to come from within. Despite awareness of the consequences of tobacco consumption, all the nagging in the world by well-intentioned loved ones won't help someone quit if they lack the internal motivation to do so. Although some studies suggest that motivation to quit smoking is elicited by worrying about future health problems, other studies show that unpleasant respiratory symptoms are simply not enough to convince a person to jump aboard the quit-smoking bandwagon. If you need reasons to quit, consider these.

It's a Lifelong Habit That's Difficult to Break

For some people, smoking cigarettes is a lifelong habit that is consequentially very difficult to break. In fact, studies published in 2013 suggest that smoking initiation at a young age is strongly associated with a lifelong dependence on smoking. What makes quitting so difficult? Smoking is often associated with pleasant events and positive feelings, such as smoking after a meal, during a coffee break at work or when drinking alcoholic beverages. Some people even consider smoking a reward after a long day on the job or doing a good deed. Others revel in the feeling they get from just holding a cigarette between their fingers and will light up even when they don't have a craving to smoke. If this sounds like you, here are some helpful tips to break the addictive pattern of smoking.

Never Finding the Right Time

If you cite having a hectic, worrisome lifestyle as one of the reasons you still smoke, you're not alone. Many people with COPD attribute their chaotic lifestyles to why they can't quit smoking, even when they don't necessarily long for a cigarette. Additionally, some people associate smoking with comfort and suppression of worries and feel they'll be tossed out of their comfort zone if and when they finally decide to quit. Those who are dealing with chronic illness or death of a loved one often postpone the occasion to quit, feeling justified when they do so because of the stress they're under. Some people experience weight gain after they quit, which weakens their resolve to remain abstinent and eventually compels them to start smoking again. If you're struggling to find the right time to quit smoking, chances are, you'll be struggling forever. The key to smoking cessation is making the right time, right now. 

Smoking Continues to Be Pleasurable

Perhaps the number one reason why people don't quit smoking is because they continue to enjoy it. Even the most hazardous of consequences don't seem to override the pleasure one gets out of lighting up and taking a long, extended drag off that first cigarette. Because addiction to nicotine is so strong and is related to sensations of pleasure, smoking eventually becomes a habit that is difficult to break. 

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