To mark World No Tobacco Day tomorrow, a new survey reveals smokers themselves perceive nicotine to be more addictive than cocaine and only marginally less addictive than heroin1.

Smoking is in fact a chronic, relapsing medical condition2 but 60% of smokers who have tried to quit at least three times have never sought medical help or treatment1 and despite recognising the severity of their dependence, smokers typically battle their addiction to smoking with just willpower alone3.

With many smokers likely to consider a quit attempt on or around the World Health Organisation (WHO) World No Tobacco Day, the new survey1 of 1,000 Irish smokers, carried out by Ipsos MORI on behalf of Pfizer, spotlights a serious need for smokers to reconsider how they approach quitting for their best chance of success.

Prof. Luke Clancy of the Tobacco Free Research Institute says; "By seeing smoking as only a habit or lifestyle choice rather than an addiction or medical condition, many smokers are ruling out seeking medical help, thinking that they must give up by themselves1. But the addictive effects of nicotine and the psychological rituals and associations linked with smoking2 make quitting a major challenge for most smokers. It is essential that they know that help is available."

The new survey also shows that smokers will typically adopt some extreme behaviours in a bid to satisfy their serious addiction to nicotine and smoking. These behaviours range from the slight to the serious, such as enduring severe weather to smoke, covering up the habit to friends and family and even letting relationships ruin:

- 41% of smokers surveyed lie about the amount they smoke1
- Even if smoking was the primary reason for the breakdown of a relationship, only one in three (33%) of smokers surveyed might then consider quitting smoking1
- 78% of smokers surveyed have stood outside in the rain, sleet or snow to smoke1
- 40% of smokers have smoked someone else's half smoked cigarette or cigar1
- Over half (62%) of smokers surveyed have lit up when they were suffering a throat infection1

However, the danger for many smokers comes from their gradual self-acceptance that these extreme behaviours are normal everyday life and simply part of their lifestyle as a smoker.

It is estimated that as many as seven out of ten smokers want to quit4, yet in reality 97% of smokers who try to quit by themselves will be smoking again within one year5. The majority will relapse in as little as eight days6. Smokers are most likely to quit successfully with a healthcare professional's help, as studies show that even a brief conversation with a healthcare professional can double a smoker's chances of quitting successfully7.

David Gallagher, Managing Director of Pfizer Ireland said; "This World No Tobacco Day we would urge smokers if they want to quit but have failed repeatedly in the past, to go and see your GP or other healthcare professional for your best chance of quit success this time. Smokers are more likely to quit successfully with a healthcare professional's help."


1. From Ipsos MORI's online Access panel adults aged 18+ were asked a filter question to identify smokers that currently smoke cigarettes, cigars or a pipe. Across this overall sample, quota controls were by age, gender and region to ensure a representative profile of the audience. From this 1,000 satisfied the recruitment criteria and took part in an online survey. Fieldwork was undertaken between December 23rd 2010 and January 6th 2011.

2. Peters M.J. and Morgan L.C. The pharmacotherapy of smoking cessation. MJA. Vol 176: 486-490. 2002.

3. Data from Ipsos MORI. The most common method smokers surveyed have tried to quit with is willpower (50%).

4. Thyrian et al. The relationship between smokers' motivation to quit and intensity of tobacco control at the population level: a comparison of five European countries. BMC Public Health 2008: 8:2

5. Smoking cessation guidelines and their cost effectiveness. Thorax 1998: Vol 53 Supplement 5, part 2, S13

6. Hughes JR, Keely J, Naud S. Shape of the relapse curve and long-term abstinence among untreated smokers. Addiction 2004; 99: 29-38

7. Hughes JR. New Treatments for Smoking Cessation. CA Cancer J Clin. 2000; 50: 143 - 151