If you really want to give up smoking, you will. The key to success is strong motivation; and the key to strong motivation is to be fully informed.
Recent medical research has proved, beyond doubt, that smoking is a dangerous habit. The British Medical Research Council working party investigating the treatment of mild hypertension has recently published the results of its study in which some 18,000 men and women took part. The patients were divided into two groups, with smokers and nonsmokers in each group. One group was treated with drugs, while the other group was given placebo, or dummy tablets. The results showed that, after five years, there was very little difference between the two group in terms of heart attacks and strokes, thought a considerable number of those taking drugs suffered unpleasant side-effect. There was, however, a significant difference between smokers and non-smokers, and those who did not smoke fared much better. In other words, the advantages of not smoking far outweighed the questionable benefits of swallowing pills for several years to try to control mild high blood pressure.
SMOKING AND THE LINK WITH CORONARY HEART DISEASE
Smoking causes more deaths from coronary heart disease the single biggest killer of the Western world than from any other smoking-related disease. The risk of having a heart attack rises with the number of cigarettes smoked but, in general, people who smoke are twice as likely to die from a heart attack as those who do not smoke. The younger you are when you start smoking, the greater the relative risk.
SMOKING AND OTHER DISEASES
There are, of course, a large number of other disease which are either directly caused by, or aggravated by, smoking, including strokes, chronic bronchitis, emphysema, respiratory failure and lung cancer. Smoking is also closely associated with peripheral vessel disease which can, in the most severe cases, result in gangrene and amputation of the affected leg. Over 95 per cent of those suffering from this disease are cigarette smokers.
IF YOU ALREADY HAVE HEART DISEASE
Smoking is particularly dangerous if you have already suffered a heart attack or if you are subject to bouts of angina. Indeed if you continue to smoke, inspite of such clear-cut warnings. If you stop smoking after a heart attack, you stand about half the chance of another attack. This treatment has a better record than either drugs or surgery and, best of all, it is something you can do for yourself.
HOW SMOKING AFFECTS THE HEART
Tobacco smoke is a complex mixture of some 4,000 chemicals, the most significant of which are nicotine and carbon monoxide. Nicotine stimulates the production of stress hormones such as noradrenaline and adrenaline. These hormones make the heart beat harder and faster, causing a temporary rise in blood pressure as well as increasing the heart oxygen demand. Healthy coronary arteries can dilate to increase the supply of blood to the heart, but if the arteries are affected by atherosclerosis, they are not able to meet the increased demand.
Carbon monoxide is an odourless, but poisonous gas which combines with haemoglobin in the blood, in competition with oxygen, and thus causes a relative oxygen deficiency. Both nicotine and carbon monoxide can cause the blood platelets to become sticky and clot more readily, thus increasing the risk of thrombosis. These clots in the bloodstream can damage the delicate lining of the arteries and hasten the development of artherosclerosis.
Inhalation allows large amount of nicotine and carbon monoxide to enter the bloodstream. Cigarettes are therefore much more closely associated with the risk of heart disease than pipes or cigars, because pipe and cigar smokers do not usually inhale. However, cigarette smokers who switch to a pipe or cigars often continue to inhale and, as a result, may not reduce their risk by making the switch. Similarly, smokers who change to low-tar brands tend to inhale more deeply in order to maintain their nicotine intake.
YOUR QUESTIONS ANSWERED
One of the reasons that so many people continue to smoke is their ability to develop a particular kind of logic which they use to justify their habit. The following are some of the arguments they resort to. See if you can identify yourself. If you can, we hope that the counter argument will convince you to stop.
- Uncle John smoked a packet a day and lived to be a hundred.
Some people live to a great age despite their efforts to the contrary. They are the exceptions that prove the rule. It does not mean that they live healthy lives.
- It is too hard to stop. I just do not have the willpower
No one would claim that giving up smoking is easy : it is not, but it is not impossible. Millions of ex-smokers in the world are living happily.
- If I stop smoking, I will put on weight. Is not that just as dangerous ?
It is true that non-smokers have a better appetite and digestion than smokers, and also that people who have recently stopped smoking tend to nibble more between meals. However, if you are careful and watch your calories, you will not put on weight. But even if you do, smoking is incomparably more dangerous than putting on weight.
- Smoking helps me to concentrate.
Yes, after a cigarette, smokers tend to feel sharper for a while because nicotine mobilizes the release of adrenaline and noradrenaline into the bloodstream. But this is only a temporary phenomenon : once the effect wears off, you feel worse and you need another cigarette, them another hence the vicious trap of addiction.
- Smoking help me to relax.
A lot of people say that, even though physiologically it is not true. Cigarettes are actually a stimulant. They speed up the action of your heart. The real reason people find smoking relaxing is that it is a good excuse to take a break from whatever they are doing.
- I have smoked for so many years now, is not it too late to stop?
No, it is not. The risk of becoming ill, as well as of dying from some smoking-related disease, falls steadily in everyone who gives up smoking, regardless of their age. The risk decreased particularly quickly within the first year of giving up, and after five to ten years it approaches that of someone who has never smoked.
- But I do not smoke as much as I used to. I only smoke 15 cigarettes a day now compared with the 50 or 60 I used to smoke.
Well done If you can reduce your intake that much you are capable of stopping. So why do not you give up altogether ? You will lose your smoker cough, your breathing will improve, you will feel much fitter, your food will taste better and so will you.
- I do not really inhale so it can not be very bad for my health.
It is true that inhaling increase the dangers of smoking, but some nicotine is absorbed even if you do not inhale.
- I have tried to give up hundreds of times, but I just can not seem to stick at it.
This is true of lots of people. Most ex-smokers try several times before they succeed. You can only succeed by persevering. Maybe you have now learnt enough about your particular problem to succeed next time.
- I become so irritatable when I try to stop smoking that my spouse tells me to start smoking again.
Although it can be a difficult time, no one has ever died of temporary irritability, Which is more than can be said of smoking keep at it, and this difficult patch will last only a short while.
- At least I am not harming others, so why do not people stop preaching and leave us smokers alone?
You are wrong. There is now evidence to suggest that the non-smoker who passively and involuntarily inhales side stream smoke in fact takes in a much higher concentration of noxious substances than the smoker who actually inhales mainstream smoke. Passive smoking may be particularly harmful to those who suffer from heart disease or angina.
The spouse and children of a smoker also have a higher incidence of chest infections and cancers and, on average, die four years earlier than those who are not exposed to cigarette fumes.
WHY DO YOU SMOKE ?
Having read through all of the above question you should now be aware that giving up smoking is essential because it will improve the quality of your life as well as that of anyone around you- your partner, children or colleagues. However, before you can give up smoking, it is important that you understand what kind of smoker you are, and why and when you smoke. The questionnaire given on next page may help you find out.
ANALYZING YOUR REASONS
Scores can vary from 3 to 15. Any score of 11 and above is high; any score of 7 and below is low. A score of 11 or more indicates a particular source of satisfaction in that category. You will either have to learn to do without that specific area of satisfaction, or find some other more acceptable means of satisfying it. Here are some of my suggestions.
HOW TO SCORE
Enter the number you have circled for each of the questions in the spaces below, putting the number you have circles after Question A over the letter A, after Question B over the letter B, and so on. Now add up the three scores within each category. For example, the sum of your scores over A, G and M, gives you your score for Stimulation; B, H and N your score of Handling and so on. The score analysis is given below.
A+G+M = Stimulation
D+J+P= Crutch : tension relief
E+K+Q= Craving : psychological addiction
If your score is high in this area, it is likely that cigarettes help you to wake up, stay alert and keep going. So try a brisk walk, a swim, skipping, cycling or jogging to redirect your energies.
Handing things can be satisfying but you can keep your hands busy without lighting up a cigarette. Try toying with a pencil or some worry beads. My father used to keep a watch in his waistcoat pocket secured by a long, gold chain to one of the buttons; whenever he had a problem he used to roll this chain between his fingers. And if you must also put something in your mouth, try chewing gum or sucking a mint.
A number of people say that they smoke because they enjoy the sensation of relaxation it brings. In fact, they smoke to prevent themselves from feeling bad. If you have a high score in this area, try substituting other pleasurable activities like eating, drinking and social activities which, within limits, are harmless.
Better still, learn a relaxation routine to ease tension.
CRUTCH : TENSION RELIEF
Some smokers use cigarettes as tranquillizers in moments of stress or discomfort, learn one of the relaxation techniques, rather than relying on a cigarette.
CRAVING : PSYCHOLOGICAL ADDICTION
If you smoke because you are addicted to nicotine, you will begin to crave for the next cigarette the minute you put one out. When you give up, it will be easier to do so abruptly and completely or try aversion therapy. Alternatively, you could try nicotine gum.
If you smoke out of sheer habit, you can not be getting much satisfaction out of it. You can disrupt the habit pattern that has build up around the act of smoking. Change to another brand, keep cigarettes and lighter or matches in different places. Learn to ask yourself, Do I really want this cigarette ? every time you reach for one. You will be amazed at how often the answer is no.
Cigarette smoking depresses HDLs nearly six per cent on average, with an ever greater drop for heavy smokers, researchers say. Some studies suggest second hand smoke may also lower HDLs and the AHA says it is a cause of heart and blood vessel disease that can be fatal.