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Stress and smoking: how to stop smoking when stressed?

Themes :
anxiety behaviour
Published on 7 June 2022

It’s a known fact that smokers reach for their cigarettes when feeling stressed. Is it an excuse, habit or addiction? Can smoking relieve stress?


This article discusses why people believe smoking relieves their stress and anxiety and how to stop smoking when stressed. There are plenty of alternatives to stress smoking – your healthier life starts here.

Why do people smoke when they feel stressed?


Whilst most smokers know they should give up and many want to it’s not that easy. Smoking is an addictive habit and the nicotine in cigarettes is like a drug.


Why does smoking relieve stress? Smoking a cigarette gives an instant ‘high’ which is why people feel their anxiety levels reduce when they smoke. They feel like a cigarette improves their mood and makes them better able to cope with a difficult situation. This is because smoking has an effect on the chemicals in the brain.

Does smoking relieve stress?


When a person smokes, the nicotine reaches the brain in approximately ten seconds and temporarily decreases stress and gives a feeling of relaxation. However, this is only a short-term effect. Smoking can cause depression and nicotine withdrawal symptoms if a person doesn´t have a cigarette for a while.

Can smoking relieve stress?

Smoking reduces stress psychologically but is not a long-term solution. The stress relief a cigarette gives is deceptive as it is causing more harm than good and can lead to serious illness. What’s more stressful – a lung cancer diagnosis or not being able to have a cigarette? Whilst many people think ‘it won´t happen to me’ smoking-related diseases can occur at any time and can be deadly.

Does smoking make you stressed?


Nicotine is a temporary mood enhancer. However, the relief from smoking is brief as once the effect has left the body the urge for another cigarette arises. This can cause feelings of stress if you’re in a situation where you can’t have a cigarette, for example, at a non-smoker’s home, on public transport or in a restaurant.


These feelings of stress can escalate until the smoker has a cigarette, which momentarily satisfies the cravings and then the vicious circle starts again. Nicotine raises blood pressure and heart rate, so the heart has to work harder, which is not good for your health.


Smokers can also feel stressed if they don´t have access to cigarettes. For example, they may have run out and the shops are closed, or they may not have enough money to pay the exorbitant prices for a packet. So yes, smoking can make you feel stressed in several ways.

Is stress more harmful than smoking?


Stress does not harm you more than smoking, but research has shown that it can have serious consequences on your health, as can smoking.


A study carried out by the University of California San Francisco on over 15,000 adults over 4 years found that “Participants with high levels of anxiety and depression were found to face 65 percent increased odds for a heart condition, 64 percent for stroke, 50 percent for high blood pressure and 87 for arthritis, compared to those without anxiety and depression. These increased odds are similar to those of participants who are smokers or are obese”.1


In terms of the question, ‘is stress worse than smoking?’, these figures indicate that stress can be just as harmful to health as smoking. However, this is no reason to smoke as the effects of smoking are life-threatening.

Why you should stop smoking


The obvious reason to stop smoking is for health reasons. Smoking causes many poor health conditions, from a persistent smoker’s cough to asthma, heart disease and cancer. Why would you want to increase your risk of early death due to a habit that you could quit?


The main reasons not to smoke are:


  • Cost – the average price of a pack of 20 cigarettes in the UK is over £12. If you smoke 10 cigarettes per day that adds up to £2,190 per year spent on cigarettes. That’s the cost of a holiday, home renovations, a great Christmas, a new TV, computer, mobile phone… need we say more?


  • Passive smoking harms people around you. Even if you smoke outdoors others can inhale your second-hand smoke which can affect their health. Passive smoking can be particularly dangerous for pregnant women, children and vulnerable people.


  • Smoking and oxidative stress are linked. Oxidative stress weakens the antioxidant defence systems, leading to cell changes which can cause disease.


  • Smokers smell unpleasant – your breath, clothes and hair will give off an odour of stale smoke. As will your car and home if you smoke there. No amount of mints and perfume sprays can cover up the fact that you’re a smoker.

6 tips to stop smoking when stressed


There is a saying ‘once a smoker always a smoker’, but this statement isn´t true if you have the motivation and determination to give up. Some people can stop immediately and go ‘cold turkey’ while others need a focused plan and alternative stress relief to smoking.


Smoking cessation stress management is a way to stop smoking and not use it as an excuse to help with stress. If you suffer from stress one of the ways to deal with it is to find out the source of the problem and look at ways to manage it as an alternative to smoking.


These tips can help you quit and lead a healthier and longer life:


  1. Try a nicotine replacement for stress smoking such as gum or patches. Ask your doctor or chemist what they recommend and slowly replace cigarettes with this.


  1. Take up a sport. If you smoke, you won´t enjoy the breathlessness and exhaustion you feel when running or cycling. Sport is also good for your stress levels as it releases positive endorphins which can lift your mood.


  1. Eat a healthy diet, take regular exercise (even a short walk a day is enough) and get enough quality sleep.


  1. Quitting smoking therapy, hypnosis and apps can all help you stop the habit. Work out which one is right for you – if you’re cheating it’s yourself you’re letting down.


  1. Avoid situations where you’re tempted to smoke. These could be nights at the pub, being with friends who smoke or going out for a cigarette break with colleagues. This won´t be easy, and the secret is to break the habit and remove yourself from the situation. If someone leaves the table to go out for a cigarette do something else and try not to think about it. You’ll be more tempted if you have to justify your reasons.


  1. Reward yourself with the money you save. Put away the money you would have spent on cigarettes and treat yourself occasionally.


Products containing Lactium® are another way of how to deal with stress without smoking. Lactium® is a natural ingredient that is one of the alternatives to smoking for stress relief. This hydrolysed milk protein can help with the feelings of stress and anxiety when you think you need a cigarette and has no side effects.

Remember the benefits of stopping smoking


As soon as you stop smoking your body starts to reduce the risk of diseases such as cancer and heart and lung disease. This timeline shows the benefits of stopping smoking2:


  • 20 minutes – your heart rate and blood pressure slow down
  • 12 hours – your body’s oxygen levels increase, and harmful carbon monoxide contained in cigarettes is expelled
  • 24 hours – your risk of a heart attack or stroke decreases as your blood pressure continues to drop to an acceptable level (smoking raises blood pressure)
  • 48 hours – your sense of taste and smell improve
  • 1 month – you will have more energy for cardiovascular activity as your breathing will get better
  • 9 months – if you were previously prone to coughs and lung infections these should have stopped
  • 1 year – the danger of getting heart disease reduces by 50%
  • 5 years – your risk of having a stroke decreases
  • 10 years – the chance of you getting lung cancer reduces by 50%
  • 15 years – the possibility of contracting certain forms of cancer or getting heart disease are equal to that of a person who doesn’t smoke
  • 20 years – the likelihood of dying from a disease linked to smoking is the same as that of a non-smoker


What better reason is there for giving up smoking than to prolong your life?


Contact us to learn more on Lactium®, our natural ingredient for a peaceful life!

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