Information for professionals

Quit education Client groups Order resources
Skip to main content

Why we smoke

Have you ever wondered about the science behind smoking? What makes us want to pick up a cigarette in the first place?

Did you know that there are three common reasons why people smoke?

  • Nicotine (or physical) addiction – the chemical addiction that causes withdrawal symptoms and the ‘need’ for nicotine
  • Situation triggers – the smoke you want when you’re in certain situations or with certain people
  • Emotional triggers – the smoke you want when you’re upset, stressed, bored or happy. 

Usually we smoke because of a combination of these reasons. 


Just dealing with one side of the smoking equation usually isn't enough, because most people then get tripped up by the other.  For example, if you manage to control your cravings for nicotine - but don’t plan ahead around how you will manage stress triggers - a bad day at work might be enough to get you smoking again. 

How addicted to nicotine you are will determine the best methods to deal with withdrawal symptoms and cravings such as medication or nicotine replacement products (sometimes called nicotine replacement therapy or NRT). 

Different people have different triggers so there’s no one single way to quit. Everybody who quits has a different story, but there are some similarities. 

After more than 30 years of helping smokers to quit, we have found the best chance of quitting success is to combine medication or nicotine replacement products with advice and coaching from Quitline. 

That's because nicotine replacement products deal with the physical addiction while our Quit Specialists can help with ways to deal with emotional and situation-based triggers. 

Preparing to quit
Reasons to quit