Smoking and stress: Are they related?

Published at 14 April, 2023 09:13.

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Feeling burnt out? Research has shown that smoking causes damage both physically and mentally. Find out the correlation between smoking and stress within this article.

What heightens smoking and stress levels?

16% of smokers say that they started smoking or increased their smoking due to stress (Mental Health Foundation and YouGov). 

This stress may come from certain events, such as holidays, job changes, and life transitions increasing any pressures. 

Smoking personality and stress?

It is a common myth that smoking decreases anxiety and stress levels, this may be due to nicotine being a mood-altering drug which seems to smoulder feelings of frustration, anger, and anxiety with dopamine when it’s inhaled.

But this stress relief is often short-lived, with smokers being more likely than non-smokers to develop depression over time, this is due to the steep decline in dopamine after smoking.  

Another reason why this myth may have come about is the confusion between feeling reduced stress whilst going outside to smoke the cigarette - rather than the act of removing yourself from the situation in the first place.

Smoking physical symptoms and stress

As smoking increases stress levels, here are some of the symptoms to look out for:

  • An increase in blood pressure.
  • Heightened heart rate.
  • Tensed muscles.
  • Constricted blood vessels.
  • Decrease in oxygen available to the brain and body to facilitate healthy coping skills.

Stress smoking in different circumstances

Just as smoking in different situations can increase pre-existing stress, quitting smoking can work to decrease stress in these same circumstances. 

At Yorkshire Smokefree we decided to break down how smoking can increase your stress levels during an average day of education or work.

These two situations were chosen due to The majority of college students experiencing frequent stress, ranging from 80% to 89% according to different surveys (


In 2020, of British adults in employment – a staggering 79% commonly experienced work-related stress. This is 20% higher than 2018's findings (Perkbox)

Smoking and work

Some ways smoking can harm your work life range from decreased productivity, and work relationships to a low professional image. 

  1. Health problems: Smoking is the leading cause of many serious health issues, such as heart disease, stroke, and various types of cancer. These health problems can lead to increased absenteeism, reduced productivity, and difficulty concentrating on tasks.
  2. Decreased productivity: Smoke breaks take time away from work, which can lead to decreased productivity and the stress of having to rush to finish deadlines. Additionally, nicotine addiction can make it harder to focus on tasks, as you may be preoccupied with the desire to smoke.
  3. Secondhand smoke: Smoking around your coworkers exposes them to secondhand smoke, which can cause or exacerbate respiratory issues and other health problems. This can create tension and discomfort among your colleagues - group projects and collaboration may even become a thing of the past if this becomes a big issue for them.
  4. Odour and hygiene: The smell of cigarette smoke can cling to your clothes, hair, and breath, which may be off-putting to coworkers and negatively impact your professional image.
  5. Financial impact: The cost of cigarettes adds up over time, and spending money on a habit that negatively impacts your health and work life can create financial stress.
  6. Career advancement: A smoking habit may be viewed negatively by employers or colleagues and could potentially hinder your career advancement, as it might be seen as a sign of poor self-discipline or health consciousness.

Smoking and education

Smoking can hurt education in various ways, affecting students' cognitive abilities, academic performance, and social relationships - all things that contribute to present or future stress levels. 

  1. Cognitive function: Smoking has been linked to reduced cognitive function, including difficulties with memory, attention, and information processing. This can make it harder for students to learn, retain, and apply new information.
  2. Academic performance: The negative effects of smoking on cognitive function, combined with the time spent on smoking breaks, can lead to lower grades and overall academic performance.
  3. School attendance: Students who smoke may have increased absenteeism due to smoking-related illnesses or because they prioritise smoking over attending school. This can result in missed classes, assignments, and important educational experiences.
  4. Health problems: Smoking can lead to various health issues, such as respiratory infections, reduced lung function, and increased risk for chronic diseases. These health problems can affect students' energy levels, focus, and ability to participate in school activities.
  5. Social relationships: Students who smoke may experience social isolation or peer pressure, as they may be excluded from certain groups or pressured to smoke by their peers. This can affect their overall well-being and their ability to focus on their studies.
  6. Financial impact: Smoking can be a costly habit, and for students with limited financial resources, this can create additional stress and take away from funds that could be used for educational expenses, such as textbooks, supplies, or tuition fees.
  7. Future opportunities: A history of smoking and its associated health problems can impact students' future educational and career opportunities, as poor health or a history of poor academic performance can limit options and opportunities.

Alternative ways to deal with stress 

Deep breathing exercises: Practise deep, slow breaths for a few minutes. This can help calm your nervous system and reduce stress levels.

Mindfulness and meditation: Regular meditation or mindfulness exercises can help you develop better stress-management techniques and increase focus.

Physical activity: Engage in regular exercises, such as walking or stretching, during breaks to relieve stress and promote overall well-being.

Time management: Develop strategies to effectively manage your workload and prevent feelings of overwhelm or stress.

Support system: Talk to a trusted colleague, friend, or family member about your stress. They may be able to offer support or advice.

Breaks: Regularly take short breaks throughout the day to help recharge your mind and body.

Professional help: If stress is significantly affecting your life, consider seeking help from a mental health professional, such as a therapist or counsellor.

Need help with Smoking and stress?

Remember that quitting smoking can be challenging, but there are custom resources available to help you specifically. Consult with a healthcare professional or research smoking cessation programs to find an approach that works for you, ready for your success story?

Have any more questions about smoking and stress? Contact YSF today.