Good times, Bad times, Going half mad times – why people restart smoking.

The flip-side of quitting (cessation) is not re-starting (re-initiation). Re-starting smoking after quitting is common, especially in the first months, but even in the first few years.

The chemical ‘craving’ aspect is gone by this time, but the ‘memories’ of the enjoyment of cigarettes plus nostalgia may lead some people back to cigarettes.

There is no (or very little) information that I know of that is scientifically published on why people start smoking again after several month or years off, but in my experience – both with people I know who smoke and with patients – is that there are two main reasons –

  1. Stressful life events – death, divorce, illness, financial etc. etc., that leave people looking for any way to ‘calm their nerves’. What usually happens here is that they remember how smoking used to calm them down/ease their anxiety when they were smoking regularly, and try to apply the same thought process here.


Unfortunately, what they are remembering mostly is probably how smoking helped calm them down when they were having nicotine withdrawal etc. They will feel some stress relief with smoking (at a stressful time), and then if lucky they’ll quit again, if unlucky they are again hooked.

  1. Happy life events/Nostalgia

I personally remember when rock was young, and Susie and I had so much fun. Then I went downstairs and had a smoke, somebody spoke and then a man in a pickup truck nearly passed us by. We jumped right in, and the driver grinned, and he dropped us up the road. We looked at the swim, and we jumped right in (can you believe it!) not to mention fishin’ poles.

Ok, so maybe that wasn’t exactly what happened. I have a hard time sometimes separating real nostalgia from classic rock…, but nostalgia often occurs when fishing. There is quiet time, you are in nature (which hasn’t changed since you were a kid).  Things change in big ways and small- Berlin wall falls, waist gets bigger, smartphones invented, hair gets thinner, political parties change, ear hair grows etc. etc., but the river/lake/ocean is (relatively) timeless.  Going fishing is a way of connecting with the past, and is one of those “pause” moments in life.  What can happen however is that nostalgia can sometimes make people remember other things – smoking etc.  If not careful, people remember the ‘enjoyment’ of smoking, and may forget bad things – how hard it was to quit, the morning cough, the bad taste etc. etc.


Why is this important?  Well, if you start smoking on your fishing trip, then odds are you’ll keep smoking (hiding it from you spouse/partner for a few weeks, having a big fight, moving out, smoking more…..)   — ok, maybe that’s an embellishment.

It’s important because if you know that when you are in trouble, stressed, or in happy areas/nostalgic areas that lead to smoking, you can prepare for it.  Let your fishing friends/family know not to give you a cigarette if you ask.