Metaphors of smokeless tobacco addiction and cessation

Laura Akers, Judith S. Gordon, Sharilyn Reyna, Herbert H. Severson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


The metaphors that tobacco users employ when trying to quit offer insights into the subjective experience of the cessation process. A review of more than 2100 posts in an online forum for participants in a smokeless tobacco (ST) cessation study revealed metaphors covering themes such as the tobacco product itself, nicotine, addiction, the cessation process, coping with withdrawal symptoms and cravings, fellow study participants, other social relationships, slips and recoveries, and post-cessation self-image. Five metaphor families predominated, with quitting ST represented as a journey, a project, a battle, an escape from captivity, and ending a dysfunctional friendship. Tobacco and nicotine were conceptualized as an enemy, a crafty opponent, a demon, and a betraying friend. Most metaphor use was casual, but some instances were more elaborated, with multiple, apparently deliberate references to the same metaphor family in close proximity. Future research should address whether use of therapeutic metaphors can help facilitate cessation; if so, the finding would have implications both for clinical tobacco cessation services and public health interventions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)49-56
Number of pages8
JournalAddiction Research and Theory
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2014


  • Addiction
  • Metaphors
  • Patient perspective
  • Smokeless tobacco
  • Tobacco cessation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)


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