‘Cigarette smoking is injurious to your health’. All smokers are familiar with this statutory warning printed on every pack of cigarettes that they buy. Most smokers are also aware of the truth in this statement and are inundated with more than enough reasons to quit everyday – whether by the media, or friends and family. The evidence against smoking is damning. It is linked to life-threatening diseases like lung cancer, stroke and coronary heart disease along with harming immunity and health levels. According to the WHO (2002), every 8 seconds someone dies of tobacco related causes. In fact, smoking related-diseases kill one in ten adults globally, or cause four million deaths. By 2030, if current trends continue, smoking will kill one in six people. To add to this is the guilt of passive or second hand smoke. Non-smokers who are exposed to people who smoke are at risk of exposure to at least 40 chemicals that are carcinogens and can cause cancer in humans.
Unsurprisingly, most smokers are aware of this information but choose to forget or ignore it. It can be difficult to understand why people don’t simply quit smoking. The answer to this question lies in another question, why do people smoke? Some people believe that smoking is relaxing and improves the mood. Like caffeine, nicotine which is the addictive substance that is present in cigarettes is a stimulant. This means that it discharges adrenalin that stimulates the body and causing a ‘pleasant ’feeling or a buzz. However, this effect is not only very short lived, but eventually the person requires more and more of the substance to get the ‘buzz’ as the body develops tolerance. Others believe that smoking is cool and sexy. In fact smoking causes stained teeth, bad breath and facial wrinkles. Smoking is also being implicated in impotence in men. None of this sounds the least bit cool or sexy.
Most smokers also believe that quitting is so difficult that will not be able to do it, while others give up after trying to quit on their own a few times. It is true that the nicotine present in cigarettes is an addictive substance – as much as heroin or cocaine. There are physiological withdrawal symptoms associated with nicotine. Some people find the psychological associations related with smoking difficult to handle – the time one smokes, the sight and smell of a cigarette, the stress release while smoking or whatever the trigger is for the person. However, quitting is a very real possibility. With the help of a well-thought out intervention plan along with medications that are easily available with your doctor, you can successfully quit smoking.
– Set a quit date
Give yourself time to prepare emotionally and mentally for this change. Make sure that this time is not in the middle of an impossibly stressful week at work or home. You can either go cold turkey or try and taper down the cigarettes you smoke before the quit date. Try out what works best for you.
– Know your triggers
You need to understand the nature of your smoking habits. When do you like to smoke? Are you a social smoker or a solitary smoker? Do you tend to smoke more when you are at work and with certain people? Once you know what your triggers are, you will be able to think of ways to deal with them after your quit date.
– Adopt a healthy lifestyle
Smokers are used to oral gratification. This is why many people complain of weight gain when trying to quit smoking. Just because you aren’t smoking doesn’t mean that you reach out for those friend potato crisps and quit exercising. Maintain an exercise routine (exercise relases dopamine too, which will help you feel good) and practise reaching out for healthy snacks instead of keeping fried food at home.
– Throw them out
After your quit date, make sure that you don’t keep any cigarettes with you. Some smokers tend to keep one ‘for a rainy day’. If something like this is happening, you aren’t serious about quitting. Make a list of the reasons for wanting to quit and keep it with you, look at the list each time you feel tempted to smoke.
– Take the help of medications
With the guidance of your doctor you can double your chances of successful quitting. There are many aids available in the market like nicotine patches and chewing gum among others. With the help of your healthcare provider you can find the combination that works best for you.
So this anti-tobacco day, say yes to a long and healthy life and no to tobacco. This year make sure to be a quitter!
Dr Samir Parikh The author of this blog is Director – Mental Health & Behavioural Sciences, Fortis Healthcare.