Seeing others smoke makes quitting harder

People hoping to give up cigarettes find it harder to quit when they see other individuals smoking. This is the suggestion of a new study published in the journal Biological Psychiatry, which found targeted brain stimulation serves to increase cravings for tobacco.

According to the investigation, cues including watching somebody else taking a drag may provoke relapses among those trying to kick the habit.

Scientists at the Center for Nicotine and Smoking Cessation Research at Duke University Medical Center - which was established in 1930 - found stimulation to a frontal brain region helps exaggerate a smoker's need for cigarettes.

Dr Jed Rose, one of the authors of the report, said: "By gaining a better understanding of how the brain influences craving responses, strategies for blocking these responses can be devised and ultimately more effective smoking cessation treatments may be developed."

The researchers suggested further research should seek to determine the potential value of repetitive stimulation as a smoking treatment.

Dr Hugh Koch, a Chartered Psychologist with experience of treating clients with addictive disorders, commented: "Social imitation, peer pressure and the social environment in which smoking takes place is, like with social drinking, key to understanding what maintains smoking behaviour and hence to ways to modify this habit. 

"This study on cravings and its social context is an interesting addition to the research."