Smoking – it can be very easy to start and very tricky to stop, so is it actually worth making the effort?
The answer is absolutely yes and here’s why.
Toxic Chemical Cocktail
A cigarette is not just tobacco wrapped in paper. Multiple toxic chemicals are added when a cigarette is made and when it is used. Once it has been lit, over 5,000 different chemicals are released and inhaled, including poisons, cancer causing chemicals, toxic metals and radioactive toxic metals.
Cigarettes are highly addictive due to their nicotine content. Smoking often produces a brief feeling of calm due to the temporary alleviation of nicotine withdrawal symptoms. The effect is however short-lived as the nicotine withdrawal symptoms quickly return after finishing the cigarette. People may soon find that they require increasingly more cigarettes to alleviate the withdrawal symptoms, creating a negative cycle of increasing dependency and addiction.
Devastating Health Consequences
Inhalation of the chemicals mentioned above can have devastating health consequences. On average, each cigarette smoked shortens life by 11 minutes and in general smokers’ lives are shortened by 14 years. The World Health Organisations (WHO) has named tobacco as the single greatest cause of preventable death globally. Smoking is a major risk factor for:
- High blood pressure, heart attacks and strokes
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and emphysema – serious breathing difficulties which can be fatal
- Cancer, especially cancers of the lung, larynx, mouth and pancreas
Inhalation of second hand smoke can cause these diseases in non-smokers. In children it can lead to sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), asthma and ear and lung infections. No level of exposure to second-hand smoke is safe.
Lesser known health consequences
Every cigarette you smoke impacts your entire body in a variety of harmful ways. These include increased risks of the following:
- Skin – wrinkles, cellulite, grey, dull, aged skin
- Mouth – yellowed teeth, bad breath, tooth loss and more
- Fertility – reduced fertility in men and women, prostate and cervical cancer
- Pregnancy –miscarriage, premature birth, stillbirth, low birth weight, infant illnesses, cot death
- Bones – brittle bones (osteoporosis) leading to broken bones
Do I need to stop if I only smoke lightly?
Yes, you need to completely stop smoking. In comparison to non-smokers, a person smoking even just one cigarette per day has around a 50% higher risk of heart disease. When smoking 20 per day, the risk is doubled or tripled. For stroke, the risk when smoking one cigarette per day is at least 25% higher than non-smokers, and 30-60% higher for those who smoke 20 per day.
In contrast, when you stop smoking, the body has a chance to begin to heal the damage inflicted by smoking. Some of these effects are notable within the first day. Other damage takes longer to repair. Each year of not smoking decreases risks and improved overall health. After having not smoked for 20 years, the levels of risk for many diseases are the same as those for people who have never smoked.
What about switching to e-cigarettes?
E-cigs have caused some controversy, with confusing messages about their safety. It is not the nicotine in cigarettes which causes most tobacco smoking-related cancer. Whilst nicotine is the reason people become addicted to cigarettes, it is the other chemicals in cigarette smoke that cause most of the harm. E-cig vapour contains nicotine, and potentially some low levels of toxic chemicals, however it does not contain many of the most harmful elements and high levels of toxins in tobacco smoke.
Public Health England advises that whist they are not risk free, E-cigs are significantly less harmful than cigarettes. It has not yet been possible to carry out studies of the long-term health impacts of using e-cigs. It was recently found that e-cigs, when combined with face-to-face support may be almost twice as effective at helping smokers to quit as other nicotine replacement options. Ideally, it would then be best to also stop using the e-cigs if possible.
How can The Walcote Practice help me to quit smoking?
If you would like help to stop smoking, the experienced doctors at The Walcote Practice will be pleased to provide support. They will discuss your smoking history and are able to screen you for other risk factors for heart disease, stroke and cancers. They will be able to address any other concerning symptoms you may have. Our GPs will discuss options for nicotine replacement therapy and are able to refer you for hypnosis and/or counselling to increase your likelihood of successfully stopping smoking.