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Does Smoking Cigarettes Relieve Stress?

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Does Smoking Cigarettes Relieve Stress?

Does smoking a cigarette relieve stress? So many smokers swear to the fact that smoking a cigarette calms their nerves and relieves stress. In times of stress or pressure a cigarette is the only thing that will make them stay calm. Is this true? Is there really a direct correlation between cigarette smoking and stress relief? The researcher does not believe this to be true. Cigarette smoking is not a tranquilizer that will calm you during a time of duress. Actually the opposite is true. The dependency on nicotine is the key to it. The lack of nicotine in your body causes the stress and the cigarette you smoke when you are stressed is only feeding your addiction not relieving stress.

According to Andy Parrott, a professor at the University of East London (1999), “stress levels of adult smokers are slightly higher than those of nonsmokers” (p. 817). All smokers have a slightly higher stress level than non-smokers. “Nicotine dependency seems to exacerbate stress”(Parrot, 1999, p. 817). Therefore smoking a cigarette during a stressful time does not actually relieve stress but it just reverses the feelings of tension and irritability that occur during nicotine withdrawal. Smokers that are addicted to nicotine need it just to feel a sense of normalcy. This gives the illusion that smoking a cigarette relieves stress but a non-smoker that smoked a cigarette during a time of stress would not feel calmer after smoking a cigarette.

Cigarette smokers also sometimes feel less stress after smoking a cigarette because of their expectations of the result of smoking a cigarette. It is essentially a placebo effect. Smokers believe that smoking a cigarette will relieve stress and in their minds at least, it does. Smokers are convinced that smoking will make them more at ease and relieve their tension. According to an experiment published by William G. Shadel (1993), smokers in a cessation program that had low expectancies of their ability to cope with stress during a period of abstinence from cigarette smoking experienced far more urges than those that had high expectations (444). This shows that the need for a cigarette during peak stress times is something in your mind rather than an actual need for a cigarette. Those who believed they would be fine without smoking experienced far less cravings. This is important because it shows that smoking does not relieve stress, but someone’s expectancies about its stress relieving capabilities can cause stress.

Saul Shiffman conducted a smoking research group at the University of Pittsburgh (2004, p. 192). He concluded that of the people he was researching that had quit smoking, those who experience a higher level of stress in their daily lives were more likely to have relapses than those who led less stressful lives. This shows that cigarette smoking is not a stress reliever but actually a form of stress itself.

A possible experiment that could be done to test the correlation between smoking a cigarette and stress would be to use a control and an experimental group. Two groups of restaurant servers that work in very busy restaurants could be the two groups. The control group would be filled with servers who are non-smokers and the experimental group with servers who smoke regularly. They would be chosen at random and chosen because they hold a job with a decent amount of stressful activity involved. They would all be given a stress test when screened for participation to gauge their initial stress levels. After a stressful shift everyone in both groups would be given a cigarette. Recordings would be taken of their expectations of the effect the cigarette will have on them. The groups would all then smoke the cigarettes and a follow up survey on the way they feel after smoking it and whether they feel calmer. As well as the survey a stress

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