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Articles    H2'ed 12/10/09

Smoking and Stress

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Message Warren Davies

Quit Cold Turkey or Cut Down Slowly?

Stress, along with the other withdrawal symptoms (irritability, anxiety, anger, poor concentration, strong cravings for cigarettes, restlessness, insomnia, increased appetite, weight gain, impatience, etc.) start about an hour after the last fix. They then increase in intensity, and peak sometime within the next three days or so (The Three Days of Hell, as they are sometimes known).

Studies tracking peoples' moods over time find that the few weeks after quitting smoking invariably bring poor moods because of these withdrawal symptoms. After which, they improve over the longer term.

But, if you smoke during this period - even if you just have the odd cigarette - you'll put yourself back into a state of withdrawal, and you'll have to go through it all over again. You need to quit cold turkey. Try to avoid passive smoking too. From the point of view of trying to quit, it's not really the bad moods that are the problem, it's the cravings. If you smoke after quitting, you'll actually strengthen the cravings for more, not reduce them, which is what you're hoping. Don't worry if you do give in though; it may take a few attempts. Feel like making one today?


(1)McGhee, R., Williams, S., Poulton, R., & Moffitt,T. (2000). A longitudinal study of cannabisuse and mental health from adolescence toearly adulthood. Addiction, 95(4), 491-503.

(2) Parrott, A.C. & Garnham, N.J. (1998). Comparative Mood States and Cognitive Skills of Cigarette Smokers, Deprived Smokers and Nonsmokers. Human Psychopharmacology, 13, 367-376.

See also: Parrott, A.C. (2000). Does Cigarette Smoking Cause Stress? American Psychologist. 54(10), 817-820.

and: Parrott, A.C. (2000). Cigarette Smoking Does Cause Stress. American Psychologist. 1159-1160.

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Warren Davies is a positive psychologist. His website is
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