An extra view on smoking

Why do people carry on smoking,
and why is stopping smoking so hard to do?

An internal locus of control is when people feels in control of themselves, they feel they can and do affect their own lives, make their own decisions and so on.

An external locus of control is where people feel they don’t have control over their own lives, so that it does not matter what they do or don’t do as it won’t affect them because outside forces and people have the power and make the decisions.

A 2012 USA study has now shown that ‘nicotine dependent’ participants, i.e. people addicted to smoking, are vulnerable to feeling a loss of self-control, to having an external locus of control. The study also found that smoking a cigarette had a double effect, improving mood and restoring a more external locus of control (increased self-control). Clearly this can go some way to explaining why people smoke and why it is so hard to quit the habit. However stopping smoking might be a little less daunting if alternative improving-self-control strategies could be taught, especially if these also raised mood. Suggested strategies include exercise as this puts the person in control and the endorphins released would boost positive mood.

Heckman,B.W., Ditre,J.W. and Brandon,T.H. The restorative effects of smoking upon self-control resources: A negative reinforcement pathway.. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 2012; 121 (1): 244