Despite everything we know about the dire effects of smoking, a staggering 50 million Americans still indulge in the habit. There will be many different responses to the question of why these people took their first cigarette, but the reason for every cigarette beyond that first one is the same: addiction to nicotine. Nicotine is highly addictive and quitting smoking is sometimes considered to be harder than coming off illegal drugs. Psychological reasons also complicate matters; the comfort people feel they derive from the habit, for example.
It is difficult, though, to fathom where exactly is the comfort in knowing you are drawing into your body over 4,000 poisonous chemicals, including arsenic. These chemicals not only form a tar-like substance that sticks to the inside of your mouth, throat, lungs, and stomach; they also damage your body as a whole by restricting the level of well-oxygenated blood that reaches your organs and everywhere else that your blood flows to. There are very few organs inside the body that are not directly compromised by your smoking, and all the most important ones certainly are: your heart, lungs, brain, stomach, bladder, kidneys, and the skin. Even your eyes suffer, with smokers being up to three times more likely to develop cataracts.
Why should you quit smoking?
All of the above, and keep in your mind that the world’s largest and longest-running study on the health risks of tobacco, published in The British Medical Journal in 2004, concluded that 50% of smokers who start smoking in their teens and do not give up will die prematurely as a direct result of their habit. We also now know that the effect of second-hand smoke on those around us – including family members and our friends – is highly toxic.
Quitting smoking will allow you to:
- Live longer and protect your family.
- Lower the chances of your baby suffering Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
- Exercise more easily and thus develop a healthier heart.
- Reduce your risk of developing dementia, including Alzheimer’s.
- Exhale breath that doesn’t smell like a year-old ashtray and cause people within ten feet to grimace and blaspheme quietly.
- Experience less heartburn.
- Manage a flight of stairs without nearly keeling over.
- Guys, avoid being labeled Mr Floppy in the bedroom department.
- Save more money to spend on things that won’t kill you.
How do you quit smoking?
- Decide for yourself that you are committed to quitting.
- Set a date to have quit by.
- Use positive affirmations in the present tense that refer to yourself as a non-smoker. Don’t say: “I will give up smoking”, i.e. sometime in the future. Instead, say: “I am a non-smoker.”
- Remove all cigarettes and associated paraphernalia from your home, car, personal work space, and wherever else you may feel the temptation.
- Don’t allow anyone else to smoke in your house.
- Ask that family, friends and co-workers support and encourage your efforts, even if they are smokers themselves. (You may want to reconsider the friendship of anyone who knows you are quitting and tries to lure you back in with a cigarette waved under your nose.)
- Consider joining an ex-smokers’ support group.
- Fight temptation with distracting tactics and activities.
- Drink lots of good fluids.
- Avoid drinking alcohol and, as far as reasonably possible, shun contact with smokers.
- Try one of the many quit-smoking products, such as gum or patches.
No one will tell you that quitting smoking is easy. With all the dire health warnings out there and emblazoned across the packets themselves, more people would quit if it were a simple matter of just stopping. Here are some tips to help you through:
- Expect to find yourself becoming irritable, nervous, and sleeping poorly – forewarned is forearmed.
- Keep something with you to occupy your hands, which will want to hold a cigarette again.
- Same applies to your mouth – gum or mints can help ease the loss of chewing on a cancer-stick.
- Know that things will quickly improve if you can get past the first few days.
- Remain focused on the immense health advantages of quitting.
- Don’t give up giving up. Many smokers experience false starts when quitting. Don’t assume you cannot give up just because you may succumb to temptation once or twice.
- Don’t wind up as a statistic in The British Medical Journal.
For Your Health,
Dr. Scott Van Dam