Thursday, February 26, 2015

Can Smoking Relieve Stress? The Effects of Tobacco on Emotional Wellbeing

A study coming out of the United Kingdom finds that - contrary to the 1 in 3 smokers who think smoking can relieve stress - smokers are 70-percent more likely to report they are anxious or depressed compared to non-smokers. This study was lead by University College London's Professor Robert West.

These study findings are consistent with an earlier meta-analysis study published in the "British Medical Journal". In that study, smoking cessation was associated with reduced depression, anxiety, and stress, as well as improved positive mood and perceived quality of life. Links to both research studies are below.

Perceived Stress Reduction Attributed to Smoking by Some Smokers

In my experience working with smokers who ask for help kicking the habit, those who express the belief that smoking helps them relax are less likely to successfully leave tobacco use behind. The truth, of course, is from a physiological and emotional standpoint the opposite is true.

Some smokers conclude smoking lowers stress because they often feel calmer and more relaxed after smoking a cigarette. What is actually going on, however, is the smoker feels calmer temporarily because of a change in thoughts and slower, deeper breathing. 

Unfortunately, what the smoker is breathing into his or her lungs is anything but healthy. If the smoker spent that same amount of time breathing deeply without the cigarette, s/he would feel even better physically and emotionally.

Smoking Effects on Emotional and Physical Health

In commenting on the most recent study findings, lead researcher Professor West commented:

"Quitting smoking could be the key to improving not only your physical health, but your mental health too."

Dr. Claire Knight, from Cancer Research UK which helped fund Professor West's study, added:

"Breaking that addiction and becoming a non-smoker is the best thing smokers can do to improve their health."

If you are a smoker the greatest gift you can give yourself and loved ones is to quit. Even if you have tried to quit in the past without success, recall what investment advisors have to say:

"Past performance does not necessarily predict future results."

Most ex-smokers try quitting multiple times before they ultimately succeed. Helpful actions include:

  • Find and magnify a big "Why" to keep you going. Focus on that big "Why" frequently to help you move toward your chosen smoke-free life.
  • Recognize the desire for a cigarette is really a desire to dampen stress and uncomfortable sensations. If you don't give in to the urgings, they will become weaker in about five to 10-minutes and usually disappear a few minutes later.
  • Do something other than smoking to relieve urges. Meditate, exercise, take a walk, call a friend or snack on healthy foods such as raw veggies. Avoid sugary or starchy foods.
  • Recognize that during the first few days after quitting you may experience periods of higher agitation. Tell yourself, "Yes, I'm feeling agitated, but it's only temporary. It's only a thought and feeling. This too shall pass".
  • If you experience agitated thoughts or emotions, simply notice them. Say or think, "Oh, there is a thought about cigarettes" and then turn your attention to the task at hand.
  • Use EFT to tap out cravings. To learn about EFT visit my Stress Solutions, LLC website at
  • Seek help from a doctor, hypnotist, EFT practitioner, and / or smoking cessation programs in your community.

My Father's Experience:

In recalling the many attempts my father made to quit smoking before he ultimately succeeded, I'm reminded of President Calvin Coolidge's profound words about the importance of persistence:

"Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not: nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not: unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not: the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.

Be persistent. Better health and emotional wellbeing are ahead.

Warm blessings,


Stephen Carter
CEO, Stress Solutions, LLC

Important Note: This and all other postings to this blog are for informational purposes only. This and all other posts are not intended to diagnose, treat, or otherwise recommend any treatment for any medical or psychological condition. Anyone using any of the information contained in this or any other posting on this website does so at his or her own risk. You are urged to seek competent medical consultations with appropriate licenced medical professionals for any and all medical or physical conditions.

Article and Resource Links:

National Cancer Institute Smoke-Free Resource Site:
CDC Factsheet on Smoking:
CDC Guide for Quitting Smoking Site:

Article Links:

"Anxiety & Depression More Common Among Smokers":

"Change in Mental Health After Smoking Cessation: Systematic Review and Meta-analysis": 

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