Chewing gum, instead of smoking a cigarette, may effectively reduce stress and nicotine withdrawal symptoms.
Many smokers report they usually light up when they feel stressed because smoking makes them feel calmer. Researchers now believe many smokers are dependent on cigarettes as a way to cope with their stress. When smokers are not able to smoke during times of stress they tend to suffer withdrawal symptoms such as irritability and nervousness. With widespread smoking restrictions in the
many smokers are not able to use smoking as a means of dealing with their
stress. One popular alternative to
smoking is chewing gum, but is chewing gum an effective way to deal with
stress? Even if it is, will a smoker
experience withdrawal symptoms if he or she chews gum instead of smokes? To explore these questions, researchers from
conducted a study. Oklahoma
What was the research about?
Forty-five participants, who smoked at least 16 cigarettes per day, were recruited for the study. All participants began the study by smoking one cigarette of their preferred brand. After their cigarette all participants completed a series of questionnaires that measured their urge to smoke, their withdrawal symptoms and how much stress they were experiencing (the Time 1 measure). To create feelings of stress, the experimenters told participants they would soon have to give a 3-minute speech on their body and physical appearance, and the speech would be videotaped. Immediately after they learned about the speech, participants were either told to smoke one cigarette, chew one piece of gum or do nothing. While they smoked or chewed their gum they filled out another set of the questionnaires (the Time 2 measure). Participants then spent 2 minutes mentally preparing for their speech and then filled out another set of questionnaires (the Time 3 measure). At this point participants actually gave their speech for 3 minutes and then filled out the questionnaires again (the Time 4 measure). Finally, following a 10-minute rest period, participants filled out another set of questionnaires (the Time 5 measure).
The results showed that participants who smoked, and those who chewed gum, experienced fewer withdrawal symptoms than the control group during the last measure (Time 5). In other words, chewing gum was just as effective at curbing withdrawal symptoms as actually smoking a cigarette was. The results also showed there were no differences in feelings of stress at any of the measurement times. Therefore, neither smoking nor chewing gum reduced feelings of stress compared to the control group. The interesting thing was these results were obtained even though participants who chewed gum still had an urge to smoke. Despite feeling an urge to smoke, the gum-chewing participants still didn’t experience any more withdrawal symptoms or feelings of stress than the smoking participants did.
Why should it matter to me?
Smoking has been shown to be bad for a person’s health, which makes quitting a potentially life-altering decision. Quitting smoking, however, is a difficult thing to do for many people. The results of this study offer some hope that there are alternatives to smoking when a person feels stressed. Chewing gum may be a healthier substitute that also helps a person avoid withdrawal symptoms when they can’t smoke.
Source: Britt, Dana M.; Cohen, Lee M.; Collins Jr., Frank L.; Cohen, Michelle L. (2001). Cigarette Smoking & Chewing Gum: Response to a Laboratory-Induced Stressor. Health Psychology. 20, 361-368.