Being Honest About Why You Smoke

As of Dec. 20, 2019, the new legal age limit is 21 years old for purchasing cigarettes, cigars, or any other tobacco products in the U.S.

Making a list of pros and cons can quickly help you see that the negatives of smoking are much greater than the benefits. After all, most long-term smokers have a love/hate relationship with cigarettes. For many, cigarettes punctuate each and every activity of daily life. It becomes a very heavy load to carry over time.

When you decide to quit, untangling the associations you've built up over a lifetime of smoking takes conscious effort. By making a pros and cons list, you can begin to step out from behind the smokescreen that nicotine addiction forces people to live behind, and you can begin to uncover the truth about your relationship with smoking.

Depressed young girl with a cigarette
Mixmike / Getty Images

What Real Smokers Say

For many people, smoking becomes a source of comfort, companionship, and stress relief. Still, this doesn't counteract the numerous health risks, including asthma, COPD, lung disease, heart disease, stroke, sexual dysfunction, and certain cancers—not to mention the damaging effects nicotine has on your teeth, skin, and bones.

From smelly clothes to money spent on cigarettes (a pack-a-day habit can cost you roughly $200 per month), the cons of smoking go beyond these proven health hazards.

Take a look at the many reasons smokers say they love and hate their nicotine habit, and then create a list of your own.

The Perceived Pros of Smoking

One of the reasons it's so hard to quit smoking is that many people believe that cigarettes help them cope better with life. Here are a few more reasons why the act of smoking may seem appealing:

  • The bonding with other smokers
  • The feeling of creating a ritual
  • The momentary gratification

The Real Cons of Smoking

The very real negative aspects of smoking, on the other hand, include physical and emotional side effects as well as concerns over hygiene and household cleanliness.

  • The after-smell on your clothes, furniture, car, house, etc.
  • The smell of smoke in your hair and on your skin
  • Overflowing ashtrays, ashes, and dust everywhere
  • Burnt holes in car upholstery and on clothes
  • Tar build-up on windows and furniture
  • Late-evening/middle-of-the-night trips to purchase cigarettes
  • Going out in bad weather to smoke alone
  • Spending money on cigarettes
  • Not being able to breathe properly
  • A constant nagging cough
  • Phlegm, throat-clearing, losing your voice mid-sentence
  • Painful heartburn
  • Feeling winded after mild activity
  • Severe throbbing headaches, occasional migraines
  • Lingering colds and bronchitis
  • Racing heartbeat, sweating
  • Increased rate of hypertension
  • Dizziness after smoking too fast or having too many cigarettes
  • Nausea from smoking too much
  • Trembling hands and fingertips
  • Dry mouth and constant feelings of thirst
  • Stinging feeling in your lungs when taking a deep, slow breath
  • Smoke in your eyes
  • Burning your lips on the filter
  • Dry, chapped lips
  • Copper, ashy aftertaste
  • Yellow skin, teeth, and fingernails
  • Slow-growing nails and hair
  • Dulled sense of taste and smell
  • Scaly, unhealthy-feeling skin
  • Anxiety from fear of health consequences
  • A constant feeling of not being satisfied or needing something
  • Mini-withdrawals throughout the day
  • Feelings of shame while spending time with nonsmokers
  • Feelings of inadequacy and substance dependence
  • Not accomplishing tasks because of wasted time smoking
  • Anxiety over falling asleep smoking or catching something on fire
  • Feeling "exiled" in the smoking section/smoking room

Tips for Making Your Own List

Try crafting your own list of pros and cons, so you can better understand what smoking means to you and to open your eyes to the good, bad, and ugly of nicotine addiction. Think about how smoking makes you feel, both physically and emotionally. Try to honestly list out all of the positives and negatives. Don't worry about editing yourself, just jot down whatever comes to mind. You'll soon realize that the pros are insignificant when compared to the long list of problems that come with smoking.

Think in Categories

To better organize your pros and cons list—and to make sure you're including all of the negatives and benefits of smoking—consider breaking up your list into the following categories: 

  • Finance
  • Health
  • Intrapersonal processes
  • Social environment
  • Physical environment
  • Food and weight

Consider Pros and Cons of Quitting

Researchers also recommended listing the pros and cons of quitting smoking, which can help you better distinguish any "pros" preventing you from smoking cessation. For instance, you may say a pro of smoking is social acceptance but then realize that quitting won't make you less accepted by friends.

Involve Friends and Family

Ask loved ones what they like and hate about your smoking habits and add it to your list. And once you decide to quit, make sure to tell these same friends and family members about your efforts so they can help support your smoking cessation goal.

Stay Inspired

Your pros and cons list will also help you after you make the decision to quit smoking. Add it to the notes section of your smartphone or jot the list down on a small piece of paper that fits in your pocket. When you start doubting your decision or struggle with cravings, refer to your list as a source of inspiration. Use it to build motivation to quit smoking once and for all.

A Word From Verywell

In order to take that brave step toward quitting, you need to change your relationship with smoking. A pros and cons list can help you clearly see smoking as a problem rather than a solution. This exercise is a great first step in getting in the right mindset for quitting smoking and soon reaping the rewards of a smoke-free life.

2 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Huijding J, De Jong PJ. Automatic associations with the sensory aspects of smoking: Positive in habitual smokers but negative in non-smokers. Addict Behav. 2006;31(1):182-186. doi:10.1016/j.addbeh.2005.04.014

  2. Bommelé J, Schoenmakers TM, Kleinjan M, et al. Perceived pros and cons of smoking and quitting in hard-core smokers: A focus group study. BMC Public Health. 2014;14:175. doi:10.1186/1471-2458-14-175

By Terry Martin
Terry Martin quit smoking after 26 years and is now an advocate for those seeking freedom from nicotine addiction.