Both former and current cigarette smokers know that quitting is the best thing they could do for their health, but that's easier said then done.
Sure, there’s the physical addiction component and the psychological addiction, but it turns out that those two aren't the only things that make people go back to those sweet, sweet cancer sticks.
A new study shows that one of the things ex-smokers crave the most (besides the nicotine rush) is their old identity. The research shows that smoking becomes a key part of who a person thinks they are, and when they quit, it is difficult to rebuild that.
The study, published in the Journal of Substance Use, shows that ex-smokers see quitting as a loss, rather than a gain, which makes it more difficult for them to stay away.
"Although many people do manage to quit, relapse is very common," says lead researcher Dr. Caitlin Notley. "Of course we know that smoking is physically addictive, and there has been research about the psychological side of it—but this assumes that people are unable to resist physical urges, or are vulnerable to social cues."
"We wanted to understand other social factors that might also be important."
The scientists did in depth interviews with 43 former smokers about their relapse history, and then choose 23 cases to really dig into.
They found that subjects wanted to feel like they are a part of a social group, and when 'smoker' has been a key part of their identity for most of their adult years, it’s difficult to leave it behind.
This shows that it’s not just guilt and shame that people feel when they relapse, but also a sense of relief when they regain that feeling of identity.