Why do people smoke? Everyone knows it is unhealthy. There is an infinite number of scientific reports about this and yet, people continue to smoke (and start a new).

  • 4
    Shouldnt this be on psychology.se?
    – Mennyg
    Commented Jun 21, 2017 at 13:41

1 Answer 1


Because when tobacco is smoked, nicotine causes physical and psychological dependency. You see, it acts on brain reward mechanisms, both indirectly (through endogenous opioid activity) and directly (through dopamine pathways). It actually extends the duration of positive effects of dopamine and increases the sensitivity of the brain's reward system to rewarding stimuli. It makes you to want more of it.

It is suggested that it is even more addictive than cocaine!

In addition, nicotine is unusual in comparison to most drugs, as its profile changes from stimulant to sedative with increasing dosages. That explains why people smoke even more when they are under stress.

I will not comment on why people start smoking in the first place. The reasons are numerous. Peer pressure is one of them.


  1. Easton, John (March 28, 2002). "Nicotine extends duration of pleasant effects of dopamine". The University of Chicago Chronicle. 21 (12).
  2. Kenny PJ, Markou A (Jun 2006). "Nicotine self-administration acutely activates brain reward systems and induces a long-lasting increase in reward sensitivity". Neuropsychopharmacology. 31 (6): 1203–11.
  3. Nesbitt P (1969). Smoking, physiological arousal, and emotional response. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, Columbia University.

  4. Parrott AC (January 1998). "Nesbitt's Paradox resolved? Stress and arousal modulation during cigarette smoking". Addiction. 93 (1): 27–39.

  5. http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/287555-overview#a3

  6. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nicotine

  • If you somehow find these sources online (arXiv, or usually the abstract is available and the rest of the article is behind a pay wall) it would be great if you could link them in your references!
    – Narusan
    Commented Jun 21, 2017 at 5:03
  • Tobacco also contains harmala alkaloids (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harmala_alkaloid) which are MAO Inhibitors. Nicotine patches for example are not as addictive as is smoking tobacco. Commented Oct 20, 2018 at 7:32

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.