The multiple facets of cigarette addiction and what they mean for encouraging and helping smokers to stop

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Addiction involves powerful motivation to engage in an activity repeatedly to an extent that is harmful often accompanied by impaired capacity for self-control. To effectively combat addiction to cigarettes requires an understanding that there are several mechanisms underlying it. The PRIME Theory of motivation aims to provide a model that can encapsulate these mechanisms. It recognises that evolution has led to multiple levels of motivation from basic impulses and inhibitions, through 'motives' (feelings of want and need), to 'evaluations' (beliefs about what is good or bad), and plans (intentions regarding future actions). Self-control involves self-consciously generating motives from evaluations or plans; it requires and depletes mental energy. Nicotine from cigarettes generates the motivation to smoke and undermines self-control by interacting with all of the level of motivation. It: creates stimulus-impulse associations resulting in cue-driven urges; impairs inhibitory control; gives enjoyment resulting in 'wanting' to smoke; it leads to 'nicotine hunger', withdrawal symptoms and beliefs about benefits of smoking (e.g. stress relief) all of which can result in a 'need' to smoke. Evidence is emerging that wanting to smoke (because of enjoyment) is a major deterrent to making quit attempts but does not influence success, while cue-driven impulses to smoke, nicotine hunger and adverse mood and beliefs about the benefits of smoking are important in relapse. Combating cigarette addiction requires attention to all of these factors.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Addiction
  • Motivation
  • Nicotine
  • Smoking

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