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The Nicotine analysis

January 22nd, 2016 at 07:16 am


Looking at my brainstorm PIC/NIC analysis on the behavior of chewing tobacco vs. drinking water, you can see that the negatives of chewing tobacco far outweigh the one positive: relief from the nicotine craving. This means that the relief from the nicotine craving must be very powerful, instantly gratifying, and certain. That is why it seems so tough to beat an addiction. You have all of those negative consequences under chewing, but that one positive consequence trumps the negatives. Notice under “certain/uncertain”, the health consequences are “uncertain”. This is because you personally may not have a behavior history in which a health consequence has occurred. You may have a 99% chance of developing mouth cancer, but it is not “certain” because you do not have a behavior history to vouch for this.


On the other end, drinking water instead of chewing has lots of positive consequences, but you do have one powerful negative “feeling” consequence. The one negative is that waiting out a craving is very uncomfortable, may not happen instantly, and therefore is uncertain (meaning, you don’t have a strong history of obtaining nicotine relief from drinking water). You probably will overcome the craving, but that experience isn’t built up yet, so that relief isn’t considered “certain”, unlike chewing tobacco, which has always been “certain” to bring you nicotine relief.


If you just don’t chew, quit cold turkey, then you will get all of the benefits of quitting, eventually, but that also goes against a long history of reinforcement from chewing, which is why it is so tough.


In this situation one can look at the table and acknowledge that yes, the cravings are strong, but if you consistently choose an alternative behavior then the chewing behavior will become weaker as the new behavior becomes stronger. Focus on the new replacement behavior, and make that as rewarding as possible. Bob’s been successful with nicotine gum because the craving is relieved fairly quickly, unlike drinking water in my example. The longer he has success with nicotine gum, the weaker the chewing tobacco behavior will become. OR, you can focus on the antecedent, or what happens before the behavior. You can arrange the environment in ways that will make chewing tobacco less rewarding: avoid typical chewing places (for instance the garage?), a different setting with friends for a while… OR, you can focus on the consequences to make them stronger, more immediate, and certain. Someone suggested finding a use for the saved money, and that is a great way to increase the immediacy of the consequence. Start seeing that money right away, consistently, and that consequence will become more reinforcing.


Thanks for hearing me out, guys. I was really inspired by Bob’s quitting experience and found this material connected for me. It’s all about overcoming the immediate gratification, but so often the “right” thing to do feels like the “wrong” thing, which is why we often fall back to old behaviors of overeating, slacking off, or spending money. But we are smarter than that! 

3 Responses to “The Nicotine analysis”

  1. Carol Says:

    Thanks for the examples. I hope to make a chart for myself. Interesting.

  2. CB in the City Says:

    Very interesting!

  3. Bob B. Says:

    That's cool. Thanks.

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