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Nice Flavour Instead of Tobacco Smoke: How to Deal with Nicotine Addiction with the Help of a Scent

26.09.2019 Author: Psychologist Pavel Khoroshutin
Nice smells against nicotine addiction

Sniffing pleasant odours has shown to dull the urge to smoke.

When you feel the urge to smoke, just inhale an odour you like, and your cravings will decrease. This method will help you save on nicotine pills and chewing gum if it is your intention to give up smoking.

Results from a University of Pittsburgh experiment published in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology have shown the effectiveness of olfactory stimuli in reducing tobacco dependence.

The experiment involved 232 people (107 men, 125 women) who smoked 10 to 30 cigarettes a day and had decided to quit smoking. Participants had to abstain from tobacco for 9 or more hours before the experiment, which was confirmed by the analysis of exhaled CO. Each participant brought with them their favourite brand of cigarettes and a lighter.

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At the first stage, the subjects were asked to rate 12 odours. Most were pleasant (chocolate, peppermint, apple, vanilla, lemon etc), a couple of flavours were tobacco, one was unpleasant (amyl vinyl carbinol, a “mushroom” smell). Based on these aromas, individual olfactory stimuli were created: pleasant (selected aroma), provocative (tobacco aroma) and neutral (odourless). These were placed in containers.

The second stage of the experiment took place on the same day. The researchers’ first challenge was to induce strong cravings for smoking. For this, containers were placed in front of the participants, and they opened these containers on a signal. Inside they found their favourite cigarettes, a lighter and an ashtray. According to the conditions of the experiment, it was necessary to light a cigarette and just hold it in your hand, without taking it in the mouth or inhaling the smoke. After putting out the cigarette, everyone rated their desire to smoke on a 100-point scale, where 0 meant “I don’t want to smoke at all”, and 100 – “I want to smoke”. Immediately after stimulating cravings, the participants were presented with olfactory stimuli. In a random order, they opened the containers and inhaled the most pleasant, provoking, and neutral aromas.

As a result, it was discovered that pleasant odours reduced the cravings for a cigarette significantly more than the others – by about 20 points on the scale. The effect of the presentation of the olfactory stimulus lasted about 5 minutes, after which 90% of the participants noted that this method could help them suppress the urge to smoke outside the experiment, that is, in a normal environment.

This method of reducing cravings through exposure to olfactory receptors can be used in conjunction with the presentation of other stimuli to quit smoking to alleviate withdrawal symptoms. According to the American Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, most smokers dream of giving up the habit, and about half of the total are trying to do so. About half of those who do quit break down after 2 weeks and return to smoking. The leading role in breakdowns is played by an irresistible urge to smoke – a strong craving caused by physiological and psychological dependence. It is difficult to control yourself during these moments. There may be a feeling that time drags on very slowly, and only a few can tolerate this painful condition.

Other behavioural techniques for overcoming cigarette cravings include sports, meditation, coping strategies, acupuncture, sensory substitution, and other types of stimulation.