Smoking addiction. Credit: Miguelpinheiro (Dreamstime)

An Australian study reveals many long-term smokers struggled seven times to break the habit and quitting smoking has been compared with breaking a heroin addiction.

A study of 2,000 smokers found 75 per cent reported at least 2 unsuccessful quitting attempts, while among those who had tried multiple times, the average was about 7.4 attempts over the years

Dr Raymond Seidler, addiction expert and a GP from Sydney's Kings Cross said the figure was not hard to believe as smokers underestimated the power of addiction.

What smokers don't realize is that nicotine addiction is as powerful or even more powerful, than heroin addiction.

The (brain's) receptors for smoking are as strongly attached to nicotine as the heroine receptor is to opiates.

That can come as a shock to a lot of people, (and) quitting is, therefore, a serious challenge for most, said Dr Seidler.

According to Dr Seidler, the problem with multiple quitting attempts, or periods of cold turkey followed by a relapse, for many smokers were demoralizing and it was easier to give up on quitting.

Smokers who want to break the habit should consult with their GP, said Dr Seidler. The survey, however revealed many smokers would actively avoid seeking the help of a doctor.

Nearly three quarter (73 per cent) said they felt there were barriers to seeking a healthcare professional about their smoking habit.

One in four (28 per cent) were uncertain what a GP could do to help, while about the same number said they could either give up without professional aid, or they didn't want to spend money on a doctor.

About 17 per cent of smokers stayed away from discussing the issue with their GP out of fear of being judged.

Those views, said Dr Seidler , were unwarranted.

Very few doctors now smoke, but many used to and a lot have sympathy for people who do smoke, he said.

A GP can guide you along the path and counsel you, and involve you in a holistic program that will work more effectively (at quitting).

We know the downside of continuing to smoke - high blood pressure or diabetes, and you're in the frame for lung cancer.

He said nicotine replacement therapies were available at pharmacies and doctors could prescribe more potent quit-smoking medications to aid hard core smokers to break the habit.