Why is it so hard to quit smoking even though no one can deny how deadly it is? Sure, nicotine is incredibly addicting, but it's just a little cigarette, isn't it?

The American Cancer Society tells us that nicotine is as as addictive as heroin or cocaine. That means that even if we think it's safe because it's legal and the effects of nicotine on the body are less extreme than heavy narcotics, getting rid of the addiction could be as hard as kicking a heroine addiction.

Nicotine is found naturally in tobacco, proving that not everything found in nature is healthy. Nicotine can induce both physical and emotional dependence, which means quitters have plenty to deal with to get rid of the addiction.

Nicotine doesn't just hang out in a smoker's lungs, even if lung cancer is what we hear most about. It is absorbed into the bloodstream goes into the heart and brain. Pregnant women aren't just affecting themselves when they smoke - the nicotine goes into the placenta, umbilical cord, or amniotic fluid. It influences hormones and brain patterns and heart rates - in the smoking mother and the unborn baby.

When a typical smoker tries to quit, it usually takes three or four days for the nicotine to leave his or her system. As it leaves, most smokers begin to suffer from withdrawal symptoms. Withdrawal symptoms can include any or all of the following:

  • anxiety

  • restlessness

  • irritability

  • concentration problems

  • increased appetite

  • fatigue

  • headaches

  • feelings of frustration or anger

  • depression
  • This is one of the reasons that smoking cessation aids like nicotine patches and gum can be so helpful. They minimize the effects of withdrawals by taking the nicotine out of the system more gradually. That doesn't mean it isn't still incredibly difficult to power through the cravings, but for those who aren't able to go cold turkey, it helps soften the blow to the system.

    No matter how difficult quitting is, the benefits still outweigh the misery of quitting itself. Did you know that 12 hours after quitting, your CO levels drop to normal? That after 1-9 months, coughing decreases and cilia in the lungs resume normal function? That just one year after quitting, your risk of coronary heart disease is reduced to half or what a smoker's is? That 5-15 years after quitting your risk of stroke is the same as a non-smokers? In the short term, getting rid of the nicotine addiction is miserable, but the benefits are beyond dispute.