What is Smoking Cessation?
Smoking is the practice of inhaling and exhaling tobacco smoke typically with cigarettes. Smoking cessation is the process of quitting this unhealthy habit.
Significance of Smoking Cessation
Smoking typically leads to “nicotine” dependence, making it difficult to quit. Nicotine is a toxic substance and the main constituent of tobacco. The nicotine can increase the risks of:
- Serious health problems
- Many diseases
It is reported that about 50 percent of people who do not quit smoking may die of smoking-related problems. People who stop smoking significantly reduce their risk of diseases or early death and can lead a long and healthy life.
How does Smoking Affect Your Health?
Smoking harms almost every organ of your body. However, the first thing that occurs when you smoke is thousands of toxic chemicals are released into your body. These chemicals then enter your blood and will:
- Make the blood thicker and increase the chances of blood clotting
- Damage cells that line arteries and other blood vessels
- Narrow the arteries or other blood vessels
- Reduce the amount of oxygen-rich blood reaching your heart and other organs
These changes directly influence the functioning of your heart as they:
- Put additional pressure or strain on your heart
- Make your heart work faster and harder than normal
- Increase blood pressure and heart rate
Thus, smoking directly damages your blood circulation system and finally your heart leading to serious medical conditions such as coronary heart diseases, heart attack, and stroke. In fact, smoking can double your risk of having a heart attack or dying from coronary heart diseases.
Smoking further affects your health by causing severe damage to other parts of your body. They include but are not limited to the following:
- Smoking is known to narrow airways of the lungs and damage tissues.
- Colds, coughs, wheezing, bronchitis and asthma are just the start and may eventually result in diseases such as pneumonia, emphysema (breathlessness) and lung cancer.
Mouth and Throat
- Smoking can increase the risk of oral cancer in your lips, tongue, throat, voice box and gullet (esophagus).
- It can also cause gum disease, ulcers, bad breath, and stained teeth.
- Smoking is a major risk factor for developing kidney cancer. The more you smoke the greater the risk.
- Smoking may cause brain damage and even increase the risk of dying from stroke.
- Smoking can weaken your bones and make them brittle, especially if you are a woman.
- Smokers are likely to be more prone to stomach cancer or ulcers and are known to experience:
- Increased risk of developing diabetes
- Premature skin aging and facial wrinkling
- Hollow cheeks, which can make you look gaunt
- Decreased sperm count, sperm damage, testicular cancer, and male impotence
- Reduced fertility, delayed conceiving and cervical cancer (if you are woman)
Smoking, while you are pregnant, is even more dangerous as it can lead to miscarriage, premature birth, stillbirth and even risk of crib death.
Main Diseases Smokers are Prone
Some of the major diseases smoking may cause are discussed above. However, smokers are further prone to other diseases such as:
- COPD - obstruction of lung airflow that makes it hard to breathe
- Almost all cancers - liver, bladder, colorectal and others
- Rheumatoid arthritis - chronic inflammation in the joints
- Tuberculosis - highly contagious bacterial infection affecting lungs
- Cataracts (blurred vision) or vision loss
- Dementia - memory disorders or impaired reasoning
- Alzheimer’s - mental deterioration due to degeneration of the brain
Your doctor will ready you mentally and emotionally by asking you to try the following:
- Avoiding smoking in certain situations such as during work breaks or after eating
- Exercise such as taking a brisk walk or other activities that you like to do
- Keeping your hands busy; doodle, play with a pencil or work on a computer
- Changing activities that were connected to smoking or hanging out with nonsmokers
- Visiting places that do not allow smoking such as museums, shops, or libraries
- Chewing a piece of gum or playing a game on your phone whenever you feel like smoking
Smoking cessation methods your doctor may recommend include but are not limited to:
- Counseling (individual, group or telephonic): It mainly focuses on the hazards of smoking and the benefits of cessation and provides encouragement and support.
- Medication: Certain non-nicotine drugs when prescribed are effective for smoking cessation by helping with your cravings and withdrawal symptoms.
Counseling and medication, when used together, can be more effective than using solo.
- Behavioral therapy: This involves counseling in problem-solving through a plan that helps get you through the cravings.
- Support groups: You will be asked to find a smoking cessation support group near you and attend programs on quitting smoking.
- Nicotine replacement therapy: Over-the-counter nicotine replacement aids such as nicotine gum, patches, inhalers, sprays or lozenges are used. However, it works best when combined with behavioral therapy and a support group including family and friends.
Smoking cessation may involve a solo method or a combo treatment. No matter which method you choose, the key to successful cessation is spotting the triggers that make you crave smoking and trying to avoid them.
Believe in yourself and speak to your doctor who will help you choose the best method that works for you that you can stick with.
Benefits of Smoking Cessation
Smoking cessation helps your entire body as it ensures:
- Reduced or no risk of smoking-related diseases
- Decreased chances of early death (prolong your life)
- Improved overall health, vigor and wellbeing
- Less risk of infertility in women of childbearing age
- Better look, feel and quality of life