Tobacco use remains the leading preventable cause of death, causing an estimated 5.4 million deaths, globally, each year and resulting in an annual cost of more than billion in direct medical costs. Each year, smoking kills more people than AIDS, alcohol, drug abuse, car crashes, murders, suicides, and fires - combined! Cigarette smoke contains more than 4,000 chemical compounds, including cyanide, formaldehyde, and ammonia. Constantly exposing the human body to these toxins, plus the drug nicotine, has serious health consequences.
Cancer is probably the best-known health risk associated with smoking. Not only does smoking account for the vast majority of lung cancer cases, it's also responsible for most of the cancers of the mouth and throat.
Smoking doubles the risk for heart disease. Nicotine causes the release of hormones that increase blood pressure and heart rate, forcing the heart to work harder. The carbon monoxide in cigarette smoke displaces up to 12 percent of the oxygen in the blood, leaving less oxygen available to the heart and other organs. Smoking also increases the potential for blood clots and plaque buildup on artery walls, and it lowers levels of beneficial HDL cholesterol in the bloodstream. Together, these effects contribute to hardening of the arteries.
One of smoking's short-term effects is increasing blood pressure, and many experts believe that it contributes to long-term hypertension.
People who smoke are 50 percent more likely to develop osteoporosis than nonsmokers. Researchers believe chemicals in tobacco are toxic to bone cells. As bones become progressively weaker, they are more likely to break. And studies have shown that the broken bones of smokers take nearly twice as long to heal as those of nonsmokers.
Women and Smoking
Smoking poses special health problems for women:
Much of the
damage caused by smoking is reversible, so it's never too late to quit.
Although giving up cigarettes can be difficult, a number of effective
techniques and programs are now available to boost the odds of success.
Although no plan is right for everyone, many smokers find the following
Motivate yourself by making a list of all the reasons why you want to stop smoking and improve your health.
There's no sure-fire technique for kicking the habit. For some people self-propelled strategies work, while for others group programs are the answer. Often it's a combination of the two that brings success.
Quitting and Weight Gain
One of the reasons some people are reluctant to quit smoking is the risk of gaining weight. Bottom line is, it's better to be a bit fatter than to be a smoker. However, you don't have to gain weight of you stop smoking. Here's how:
When You Quit
Put out that final cigarette and your health will improve in just 20 minutes. According to the American Cancer Society, that's all the time it takes to see a drop in blood pressure and pulse rate. And that's just for openers. Your risk of suffering a heart attack decreases in 24 hours. Your ability to taste and smell is enhanced in 48 hours. Two weeks after quitting, your lung function will improve. After a month, you'll notice you cough less, your sinuses are clearer, and you have more energy.
The benefits further down the road are even greater. Studies show that one year after quitting, an ex-smoker's risk of developing coronary heart disease is half that of a smoker's. Within five years, the risks of dying from lung cancer or developing cancer of the mouth, throat, or esophagus are half that of a smoker's. And 15 years after stopping, an ex-smoker's risks for developing lung cancer or coronary heart disease drop to that of a lifelong nonsmoker. When it comes to enjoying better health, the sooner you quit, the sooner you start.
Quitting Smoking Q & A
Q. I am a social smoker, how can I stop?
A. Is there a non-smoker in your social group? If not, do you feel strong enough to be the leader? You might be surprised at who else will try and quit with you. You may need to avoid some of the more difficult situations in the first few weeks until you have built up your confidence. If all else fails, remember you are quitting for yourself.
Q. Will I get withdrawal symptoms?
A. The majority of people do get withdrawal symptoms, e.g. mood changes, feeling irritable or depressed, poor concentration, problems with sleeping, feeling restless. Think positively: if you get a wet, chesty cough it means your body is getting rid of the rubbish in your lungs. All withdrawal symptoms are a sign that your body is recovering from the effects of tobacco.
Q. I am craving just one cigarette, will it do any harm?
A. You are administering a drug that will reach your brain within seven seconds and is as addictive as heroin. Just one always leads to another and another.
Q. Does Nicotine Replacements work?
A. It can help but it's not the only answer for every person. Clinical trials demonstrate that it can double your chances of success but it is not a magic wand and you do need to be properly motivated.
Q. Will it matter if I keep a packet of cigarettes 'just in case'?
A. If you have cigarettes at hand, you are only ever two seconds away from relapsing. If you have to go out to buy them it will give you a chance to let the craving pass and think about what you are doing.
Q. I want to give up but I can't do it, why?
A. Have you tried? Lots of people need more than one attempt and they learn something each time to make their resolve stronger. Anyone can quit if they really want to.
Q. I am addicted, how can I stop?
A. Most smokers feel addicted to nicotine, including those who have given up. Try quitting for an entire day and see what happens.