I'm a few days shy of 100 days off cigarettes, and the most interesting or notable thing I've learned since quitting is that it's really very easy.
You hear all the time that quitting smoking is difficult. Not just difficult, the hardest thing in the world. Harder than quitting heroin. From that NYT article:
[The addiction's] hooks go deep, involving complex physiological and psychological mechanisms that drive and maintain smoking behavior.
There's definitely truth to this.
Physically, maybe not. Current consensus says that nicotine is almost entirely expelled from your body after just a few days.
Psychologically, yes. There are social triggers, environmental triggers, behavioral triggers.
The most powerful psychological mechanism keeping smokers from quitting, however, might just be the perception of its difficulty.
To this day, thinking about quitting as a struggle or a lifechanging event gives me anxiety. It makes me worried that I'll trip up. It's what drives the (now very occasional) dream of lighting up another cigarette. It's the same kind of fear that, before I quit, led me to put off quitting endlessly, to defer it to some calmer, more peaceful time in my life when I would be more ready.
When I'm most comfortable is when I recognize just how painless and easy it truly is to not smoke. From Allen Carr's Easyway:
The main reason that smokers find it difficult to quit is that they believe that they are giving up a genuine pleasure or crutch. It is absolutely essential to understand that there is nothing to ‘give up’.
Quitting smoking, after a few days or so, can be either easy or hard. You can choose to buck and thrash against the idea of not smoking, or you can accept it as normal. Pretending that cigarettes are like an albatross circling your boat, constantly preying on you, about to inflict mental terror on you every time you finish a meal or have a drink -- that's a good way to stack the deck against yourself.
A question I think is worth considering. Would RJ Reynolds and others, if forced to pick one "anti-smoking" message and amplify it, prefer to have people think that quitting is hard, or easy?