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Welcome to our Leadership Club. If you are not a member, I invite you to join now. Simply click on the link to the right and enter your email address. We will send a new leadership lesson every two months in English and Chinese. You can also listen to lessons and download MP3 files.

Our goal is to help you become a skilled and effective leader in your health care career. We also hope that you will join us in making a change in the culture of smoking by gently influencing people around you to take good care of their health.


If you are going to be successful in leading people to quit smoking, it is important to know what motivates them to smoke. Researchers have found that teenagers begin smoking for the following reasons:

  • To feel accepted.
  • To make others think they are grown up.
  • To separate from parents’ control.
  • To show they are independent.
  • To be like people they admire.
  • To try to control up or down feelings.

Studies have determined that adults who have smoked for many years continue to smoke for these reasons:

  • To take a break from work.
  • To obtain a moment of pleasure.
  • To reward themselves for completing a task.
  • To calm down or reduce stress.
  • To gain energy.
  • To assist while thinking about a problem.
  • To give themselves a reward in advance for a task they are going to do.

Good and Bad Feelings

Even though toxic poison in tobacco smoke slowly kills people, the dangerous chemicals can give good feelings. Without a constant flow of cigarettes, addicted smokers suffer bad moods, intense cravings, headaches, and other withdrawal symptoms. No one likes to feel punished or deprived, so it is understandable that smokers are reluctant to give up cigarettes. If they do, they know they will feel bad.

Understanding Addiction

Nicotine is the addictive chemical in cigarette smoke that gives good feelings. Over time, nicotine receptors develop in smokers’ brains that cry out for more. If the brain does not get enough nicotine to keep these receptors happy, withdrawal produces dramatic mental dysfunction and bad feelings. When smokers stop using tobacco for a few days, nicotine receptors begin to die and physical craving soon stops.

Although nicotine in cigarette smoke is addictive and makes people want more, the smoking addiction is only 10% physical. Much worse is the psychological dependence. In fact, this is 90% of the addiction. Many people use smoking to deal with bad feelings such as anger, stress, irritability, anxiety and depression. As smokers try to kick their habit, these feelings produce strong desires to smoke.

Psychological needs and the cravings to satisfy them with cigarettes are a huge challenge for smokers wanting to quit. Strong desires to smoke can last weeks and months after cigarettes are put away.

How to Help

Big questions for doctors and health care workers are:

  • How can we help smokers understand their psychological needs?
  • How can we assist them in learning better ways to get the psychological satisfaction they need as they stop smoking?

Some people mistakenly believe that educating smokers about the harm they are doing to themselves will make them want to stop. But we all know smokers who are very knowledgeable about the hazards of tobacco. Well-trained doctors continue to smoke regardless of what they know.

Filling smokers’ heads with the dangers of tobacco will probably not motivate them to stop. Instead, learn to recognize and understand the psychological needs they satisfy with smoking. Then help them find better ways to meet those needs.

Things You Can Do

There are several things you can do to help smokers overcome their psychological addiction:

  • Imagine the psychological needs they are fighting and show that you are doing your best to understand their feelings.
  • Listen sincerely without being critical.
  • Be patient and allow smokers to make their own decisions and come to their own conclusions.
  • Use your leadership skills to gently open the way for smokers to learn other ways of managing stress, anxiety and depression.
  • Support them as they go through the difficult process of quitting. Do not push or pull. Instead, celebrate when they make progress provide encouragement when they fall.


Tobacco is the only product that, when used as intended by the manufacturer, kills half of all regular consumers. Every day 10,000 people die prematurely across the world because of smoking. Unless the trend is stopped, tobacco will be the leading cause of death by 2020 killing more than 10 million people each year. This is more death worldwide than by HIV, tuberculosis, maternal mortality, car accidents, suicide and homicide combined. Thank you for your willingness to help in the fight against smoking.

Share with Friends

I hope these ideas will help you become more effective in your health care career. I invite you to share our Leadership Club with your friends. Only as you tell others will our influence grow. Together we can make big changes in the culture of smoking.

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