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Smoking and Habitual Behaviors

Triggers have long been associated with habitual behaviors like smoking. When trying to quit a habit, individuals must often remove so-called triggers from their environment. Triggers for smoking may include sitting at a smokey bar; spending time with friends who still smoke; or getting into an argument with a coworker. Newly smoke-free individuals and those trying to quit may be especially vulnerable to triggers because they have yet to form new habits. Self-control weakens in the face of the trigger because of the overriding rationales about why smoking at that moment is appropriate. The person temporarily forgets that their goal is to quit. However, triggers might also affect persons who have been smoke-free for many years. A research study that demonstrated the effects of triggers–either old ones or newly created ones–on smoking relapses would be an interesting study. Researchers could solicit participants who reported a recent relapse in their smoking behavior to study how and why those individuals temporarily lost their self-control.
Many people smoke moderately or only in social situations such as when drinking. Research has not focused on moderate smoking but mainly on habitual smoking. Because many people find that occasional tobacco does not lead to compulsive smoking behaviors, a research design that examined the differences between moderate and habitual smokers would be helpful, especially as the study would lend insight into different ways of controlling the habit. The study could start by recruiting willing participants who were already self-described as moderate or as heavy smokers. A survey instrument might be useful in finding out what personality factors or belief systems could be variables in whether or not the person becomes a habitual smoker or not. Also, interviews with the moderate smokers might reveal keys to why they can use self-control with their smoking habit whereas heavy smokers seem unable to control …

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