World No Tobacco Day: Is smoking good or bad for mental health?

On World No Tobacco Day, know the side effects of smoking on mental health and how it may actually add to your stress levels!
A woman smoking a cigarette
Smoking can lead to public hair turning grey. Image courtesy: Adobe Stock
Dr Chandni Tugnait Updated: 31 May 2023, 04:44 pm IST
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Smoking and mental health are intricately linked, with many individuals turning to smoking as stress relief. Smoking may provide a temporary sense of relaxation due to the release of mood-enhancing chemicals like dopamine, which creates a pleasurable sensation. Additionally, the ritualistic aspect of smoking and taking breaks can contribute to perceived stress reduction. However, despite these short-term effects, smoking is counterproductive for overall mental health and well-being.

Nicotine, the addictive substance in cigarettes, acts as a stimulant that can increase heart rate, blood pressure and induce feelings of anxiety or agitation. As the nicotine levels in the body decrease between cigarettes, withdrawal symptoms emerge, leading to increased stress and anxiety, creating a vicious cycle. Moreover, the long-term health risks associated with smoking, such as heart disease, stroke and cancer, can exacerbate stress and anxiety concerns over one’s well-being.

Although smoking may offer temporary stress relief, it ultimately worsens mental health and increases anxiety and stress levels. Adopting healthier coping mechanisms such as exercise, mindfulness techniques, or seeking professional help, can positively impact mental health while avoiding the side effects of smoking.

Smoking is injurious to health
Smoking is injurious to your health. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

Why smoking for stress relief is temporary

When faced with the pressures and challenges of daily life, individuals often seek quick and accessible ways to alleviate stress. With its calming and sedative effects, smoking is an attractive solution. Nicotine, the addictive substance found in tobacco, triggers the release of dopamine, the feel-good hormone in the brain, creating temporary relaxation and pleasure. This immediate gratification can lead individuals to believe smoking is an effective stress management strategy.

The link between smoking and mental health

Unfortunately, the perceived stress relief from smoking is short-lived, and the consequences on mental health are far-reaching. Research indicates that smoking increases the chances of experiencing mental health disorders such as depression and anxiety. It activates the release of stress hormones such as cortisol, which can heighten anxiety and tension.

The addictive nature of nicotine leads to a vicious cycle wherein individuals become dependent on smoking to regulate their mood and cope with stress, perpetuating the cycle of anxiety and addiction.

Also Read: Don’t fall for these 9 myths if you’re trying to quit smoking

Additionally, nicotine addiction can lead to increased irritability and restlessness when individuals cannot smoke, further intensifying their stress levels. Consequently, the temporary relief experienced from smoking is overshadowed by the long-term negative impact on mental health.

Manage stress in a healthy way
Manage stress in a healthy way! Image courtesy: Adobe Stock

Hidden dangers of smoking for mental health

Beyond the link between smoking and anxiety, smoking is associated with various mental health challenges. Studies have shown that people who smoke are more likely to develop various symptoms of depression, have a decreased sense of well-being, and report lower overall life satisfaction. Furthermore, smoking may impair cognitive function, hinder concentration and contribute to memory problems. These detrimental effects on mental health can significantly impact an individual’s overall quality of life and well-being.

Healthy ways to manage stress and avoid smoking

Recognising the harmful effects of smoking on mental health is crucial for individuals seeking stress relief. Instead of turning to smoking, numerous healthier alternatives and coping mechanisms are available. Here are some effective ways to manage stress.

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1. Regular physical exercise
2. Practise relaxation techniques like meditation and deep breathing
3. Seek support from friends and family
4. Pursue enjoyable hobbies
5. Seek professional help

The bottom-line is that smoking fails to alleviate stress and anxiety effectively and contributes to their worsening. Individuals must recognise the harmful connection between smoking and mental health and seek healthier, more sustainable stress management methods. By choosing alternative strategies and support systems, individuals can take control of their mental well-being, paving the way for a robust and happy life.

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About the Author

Dr Chandni Tugnait, MD (Alternative Medicine), Psychotherapist, Life Coach, Business Coach, NLP Expert, Healer, Founder & Director - Gateway of Healing  ...Read More

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