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People who smoke cigarettes often report that it helps them relax and alleviate their feelings of stress. Andy Parrott, a psychologist at the University of East London, has recently argued that, although smokers probably do not realize it, cigarette smoking actually causes stress.

A review of the research on cigarette smoking and stress is consistent with this assertion. Smokers on average have higher levels of stress than do nonsmokers. As adolescent smokers develop regular patterns of smoking, they experience more and more stress. When people quit smoking, the experience reduced levels of stress.

Parrott recently proposed a model that is based on the idea of nicotine dependency as a cause of stress. According to the model, most smokers are psychologically and physiologically dependent on nicotine, a chemical found in tobacco, and become tense and irritable when they do not have enough nicotine in their system. Consequently, cigarettes may seem like stress relievers because they provide the nicotine that smokers need to feel normal.

Source: Parrott, A. C. (1999). Does cigarette smoking cause stress? American Psychologist, 54, 817-820.


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