The Nicotine Trap


I’m addicted to smoking.  

I started several years ago (about a pack a day) and haven’t been able to quit.  Like a true addict, I am planning on quitting in the near future- just not right now. 

Since starting this blog, I’ve been examining more closely the connection between cigarettes and my personal happiness- looking at my tobacco use through an emotional lens, if you will.  The results were illuminating.

When someone smokes a cigarette for the first time, they get an instant tingly jolt that makes them feel better than they did a few minutes before.  Nicotine, a substance previously unknown to the body, hits the bloodstream like a hand grenade filled with joy, sending shards of happiness to the brain.  Like all drug-related highs, it quickly wears off.  Here’s a chart I made.


The happiness level before the first cigarette is referenced by the letter “A.”  The high from smoking is “B,” which is fairly high relative to the initial “A.”  The level a few minutes after smoking is “C.”

Here’s the thing- although with the first cigarette it’s imperceptible, the level of happiness of “C” is lower than that of “A.”  The body is in withdrawal, even after that first cigarette.  We may not notice it, but it’s true.  This simply compounds as we smoke cigarette after cigarette.  What’s worse is that the high of “B” becomes less and less effective, as are bodies adapt to the ever increasing amounts of nicotine in our system. 

At some point every smoker reaches what I call the “event horizon,” which is where the high of “C” is roughly equal to that of the original “A”, which is where the person was at before they began smoking.  Remember, the high is getting less effective, and our happiness level is decreasing due to withdrawal after every cigarette.  This simply means that at some point we are smoking merely to achieve the level of happiness we once had without cigarettes at all.

 The coup de grace comes when the line sinks lower, and even smoking a cigarette does nothing more than bring us a little closer to that original line that we started at years ago.  We have to smoke just to stay half as happy as we were before, because without them we’d be downright miserable.

So why not quit?  Because if we do that, we can achieve our original level of happiness, but only after paying for each and every cigarette by sinking even deeper into misery.  Those first few “highs” have a price- basically, three days of sheer hell if a person quits cold turkey.  So most people continue to smoke- it’s easier to hang out a few levels below where you were, especially if it means you don’t have to go any lower.


8 Responses

  1. I think you explained addiction perfectly here. I get the same thing with ice cream 🙂

    Your wife

  2. I’m enjoying your blog! I think you did a great job of describing cigarette addiction, which I’ve never understood. My only addiction is chocolate, which you may laugh at, but it’s a tough one. It’s not quite like what you describe–with chocolate it’s like you get little jolts of equal joy every time you have some and there isn’t that leveling off. Without it, there are no withdrawal symptoms, but your life is like a flat line of joylessness–just blah, glum. Valentine’s day especially is joyless without chocolate–sigh!

  3. Thanks for leaving a comment. It means a lot (at least to me) when a total stranger takes the time to comment on a blog.

    Perhaps there’s a gene in females that causes chocolate addiction- my wife can surely attest to the fact that she’s addicted to sweets, as you can tell from the comment above. Also, I think several studies have shown chocolate to have health benefits, so I wouldn’t worry about trying to quit!

    I truly think, though, that most cigarette smokers would never have started had they known how serious the addiction can be. However, the mental addiction is more difficult to beat than the physical one, in my opinion. I’ve quit for weeks at a time, only to pick another one up out of boredom.

  4. Very interesting. I have been trying to give up smoking for over a year and have come to realise I’m a drug addict through and through.

  5. From your About page:

    “The purpose of this blog is to explore what happiness is, and more importantly perhaps, how to find it and maintain it in our everyday lives.”

    I found happiness when I escaped from the Nicotine Trap.

    There were only two things that held me in the trap.

    1. The fear of withdrawal.
    2. The fear that my life was not going to be as good without cigarettes.

    You’ll find happiness when you defeat these two fears and escape from the nicotine trap.

    Good Luck—You can do this—Millions of people have!

  6. no happiness is caused by any cigarette. If you are a smoker you should try to understant the nicotine trap. What is nicotine trap?
    Well it is not a long story. After smoking the first cigarette your body
    is disturbed by it after a while in an inceasing intensity till you light
    the 2nd cigarette which gives you releif but it soon starts its own cycle.

  7. Undeniably think that which you said. Your favorite reason seemed to be on the web the simplest thing to be aware of. I say to you, I definitely get irked while people consider worries that they plainly don’t know about. You managed to hit the nail upon the top as well as defined out the whole factor without getting side-effects , people could take a signal. Will likely be back to get more. Thanks

  8. Hi, great article on smoking addition,
    have you managed to quit the cigarettes now?

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