When your parents were young, people could buy cigarettes and smoke pretty much anywhere — even in hospitals! Ads for cigarettes could be see everywhere. Today, we are more aware about the dangers of smoking and how bad it is for our health. Smoking is now restricted or banned in almost all public places and cigarette companies are no longer allowed to advertise on TV, radio and in many magazines.
Almost everyone knows:
- Smoking causes cancer, emphysema, and heart disease.
- Smoking can shorten your life by 10 years or more.
- The habit can cost a smoker thousands of dollars a year.
So, how come people are still lighting up? The answer, in a word, is addiction.
Smoking in the U.S. goes back almost 400 years, with the first cash crop of tobacco leaf grown in Jamestown in 1612. It is only in the last 50 years that smoking has been recognized as more than just a “nasty habit” and seen to be a true addiction.
In the middle of the 20th century, the anti-smoking movement started gaining ground in the U.S. when the link between smoking and lung cancer was exposed.
How Addictive Is Smoking?
In 2007, a study in the British Medical Journal, Lancet ranked tobacco along with nineteen other abused substances on a scale of dependence and physical harm. Tobacco was more addictive than amphetamines, barbiturates and alcohol. It placed about even with cocaine. The only abused drug that clearly beat it was heroin.
Once You Start, It Is Hard To Stop
Smoking is a hard habit to break because tobacco contains nicotine, which is highly addictive. Like heroin or other addictive drugs, the body and mind quickly become so used to the nicotine in cigarettes that a person needs to have it just to feel normal.
People start smoking for a variety of different reasons. Some think it looks cool. Others start because their family members or friends smoke. Statistics show that about 9 out of 10 tobacco users start before they are 18 years old. Most adults who started smoking in their teens never expected to become addicted. That is why people say it is just so much easier to not start smoking – at all.
How Smoking Affects Your Health
There are no physical reasons to start smoking. The body does not need tobacco the way it needs food, water, sleep and exercise. Many of the chemicals in cigarettes, like nicotine and cyanide, are actually poisons that can kill in high enough doses.
The body is smart and when it is being poisoned by nicotine, it goes on the defense. First-time smokers often feel pain or burning in the throat and lungs and some people feel sick or even throw up the first few times they try tobacco.
The consequences of this poisoning happen gradually. These diseases limit a person’s ability to be normally active and they can even be fatal. In the United States alone, smoking is responsible for about 1 out of 5 deaths.
You probably already know that smoking is bad for your health and that quitting smoking will reduce your risk of getting a disease related to smoking, such as heart or lung disease. Here are the facts about smoking and your health.
- Over the long term, smoking leads people to develop health problems like heart disease, stroke, emphysema (breakdown of lung tissue) and many types of cancer — including lung, throat, stomach and bladder cancer.
- Smokers are at increased risk for developing other cancers of the voice box (larynx), mouth, throat, esophagus, intestines, bladder, kidney and pancreas.
- People who smoke also have an increased risk of infections like bronchitis and pneumonia.
- Smokers develop wrinkles and yellow teeth.
- People who smoke are twice as likely to lose teeth, develop gum disease or other dental problems, as people who do not smoke.
- Smokers lose bone density, which increases their risk of osteoporosis, a condition that causes older people to become bent over and their bones to break more easily.
- Smokers also tend to be less active than nonsmokers because smoking affects lung power.
- Smokers suffer from shortness of breath, energy and asthma symptoms.
- Smoking can also cause fertility problems and can impact sexual health in both men and women.
- Girls who are on the pill or other hormone-based methods of birth control (like the patch or the ring) increase their risk of serious health problems, such as heart attacks, if they smoke.
- Underweight babies and problem pregnancies are likely in women who smoke.
- 1 out of 2 people who continue to smoke will die premature deaths because of their smoking.
The consequences of smoking may seem very far off, but long-term health problems are not the only hazard of smoking. Nicotine and the other toxins in cigarettes, cigars, and pipes can affect a person’s body quickly, which means that smokers experience many of these problems:
Bad skin. Because smoking restricts blood vessels, it can prevent oxygen and nutrients from getting to the skin — which is why smokers often appear pale and unhealthy. Studies have also linked smoking to an increased risk of getting a type of skin rash called psoriasis.
- Bad breath. Cigarettes leave smokers with a condition called halitosis, or persistent bad breath.
- Bad-smelling clothes and hair. The smell of stale smoke tends to linger — not just on people’s clothing but on their hair, furniture and cars. Furthermore, it is often hard to get the smell of smoke out.
- Reduced athletic performance. People who smoke usually can not compete with nonsmoking peers because the physical effects of smoking (like rapid heartbeat, decreased circulation and shortness of breath) impair sports performance.
- Greater risk of injury and slower healing time. Smoking affects the body’s ability to produce collagen, so common sports injuries such as damage to tendons and ligaments, will heal more slowly in smokers than nonsmokers.
- Increased risk of illness. Studies show that smokers get more colds, flu, bronchitis and pneumonia than nonsmokers. People with certain health conditions, like asthma, become more sick if they smoke (and often if they are just around people who smoke). Because smokers use it as a way to manage weight, they often light up instead of eating, so their bodies also lack the nutrients they need to grow, develop and fight off illness properly.
The only thing that really helps a person avoid the problems associated with smoking is staying smoke free. Different approaches to quitting work for different people. For some, quitting cold turkey is best. Others find that a slower approach is the way to go. Some people find that it helps to go to a support group. These are sometimes sponsored by local hospitals or organizations like the American Cancer Society. Home Cures That Work is offering you a number of good resources to help people quit smoking.
When quitting smoking, it can be helpful to realize that the first few days are the hardest. So, do not give up. Some people find they have a few relapses before they manage to quit for good.
Staying smoke free will give you a whole lot more of everything — more energy, better performance, better looks, more money in your pocket, and in the long run, more life to live!
Smoking Cessation: Creating A Quit Smoking Plan
If you are like many smokers and other tobacco users, then you know you should quit but you just are not sure how to do it. Creating a quit-smoking plan may improve your chances of stopping for good. Having a quit-smoking plan helps you cope with the physical and emotional issues that often arise when you stop smoking, such as nicotine withdrawal and strong urges to smoke.
Deciding To Quit Smoking
Sure, you may be able to list plenty of reasons to stop smoking. You may be worried about the health problems related to smoking, the social stigma, the expense or the pressure from loved ones. But, only you can decide when you are ready to stop smoking.
You may spend a lot of time thinking about quitting smoking before you are ready to actually do it. If you are thinking about quitting, go ahead and pick a specific day to quit — your quit day — and then plan for it.
Picking A Quit Day
Pick a specific day within the next month to quit smoking. Do not set your quit day too far in the future or you may find it hard to follow through. But do not do it before you have a quit-smoking plan in place, either.
Having a day in mind can help you prepare for what to expect and to line up helpful support. Pick a random day as your quit day or pick a day that holds special meaning for you, such as a birthday, a holiday or a day of the week that is generally less stressful for you.
What if you decide to quit smoking on the spur of the moment? Follow the quit day advice and go for it.
Preparing For Quit Day
There is no easy way to quit smoking. But, planning for it can help you overcome the hurdles you are likely to face. Here are steps you can take as you prepare for your quit day:
- Mark the day. Make a big notation of your quit day on your calendar. It is an important day in your life, so treat it like one.
- Tell people. Let family, friends and co-workers know about your quit day. Make them your allies. They can provide a lot of moral support. Tell them how they can be most supportive of your effort to quit smoking.
- Clean house. Rid your home, car, office and other places of your smoking and tobacco supplies. Do not keep any cigarettes on hand “just in case” — you might not be able to resist the temptation. Also, consider getting your teeth professionally cleaned as motivation to stay quit.
If you begin to panic, focus on what is in front of you. It takes practice to live in the present, but it is a valuable tool with lasting benefit to live “in the here and now.”
- Stock up. Have on hand items that can substitute for the cigarette you are used to having in your mouth, such as sugarless gum, hard candy, cinnamon sticks and crunchy vegetables.
- Join up. The more support you have, the more likely you are to stop smoking successfully. Find local quit-smoking support groups. Many hospitals and clinics offer classes or groups. You can join online quit-smoking groups or programs. You can even get cell phone apps, text messages or alerts to help you quit.
- Reflect. If you have tried to quit smoking before but took it up again, think about what challenges you faced and why you started again. What worked and what did not? Think about what you can do differently this time. For example, make a list of your triggers and how you will deal with them. Keeping a journal about your quit-smoking plan efforts may help you monitor feelings and situations that ignite your smoking urges.
Handling Quit Day
Getting through your quit day can be emotionally and physically challenging, especially if strong tobacco cravings strike. Try these tips to help manage your quit day:
Do not smoke, not even “just one.”
- Begin using nicotine replacement therapy if you have chosen that method.
- Remind yourself of your reasons to stop smoking.
- Drink plenty of water or juice.
- Keep physically active: go for a walk, exercise, joy, ride a bike, swim or even garden.
- Chew on a toothpick or piece of gum, or suck on a piece of hard candy.
- Avoid situations and people that trigger your urge to smoke.
- Attend a support group, counseling session or stop smoking class.
- Practice stress management and relaxation techniques: listen to music, try deep breathing exercises, yoga or doing a puzzle.
- Keep your hands busy by typing, writing, squeezing a ball or knitting.
With a quit-smoking plan to guide you, line up your resources now so that you can lean on them when you quit smoking. The more resources you have in place upfront — support groups, nicotine replacement, counseling — the more likely you are to quit and stay quit.
Make Your Diet Quit For You!
A diet loaded with veggies, fruits, whole grains will help you feel great as you eliminate nicotine and it will help prevent the feared weight gain typically associated with quitting smoking.
Eating a diet loaded with antioxidant-rich vegetables, fruits, and whole grains may help you lower their chances of suffering withdrawal symptoms when you first stop smoking— even if you have a long history of one to two packs per day.
Antioxidants are certain vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients that may lower withdrawal risk by sopping up damaging molecules in our blood called free radicals, which have been linked to heart disease, stroke and other diseases.
Supplement Your Diet For Additional Quit Support!
As you begin your journey to become a non-smoker, there are certain specific nutrients that will provide exceptional benefits during the process of withdrawal, regeneration, energy and rejuvenation.
Of course, the B vitamins, vitamin E, vitamin C and vitamin A are essential during this process. However, the best overall supplement strategy will include five things:
- A broad spectrum multiple vitamin
- A broad spectrum multiple mineral
- A probiotic
- A comprehensive digestive enzyme
- A comprehensive antioxidant
Benefits of Quitting
- They feel in charge
- They do not need to smoke
- They do not have to find places to smoke
- They do not have to worry about their smoke bothering others
- They smell good
- Their hair, clothes, and breath do not smell like smoke
- Their cars, homes, and kids do not smell like smoke
- They can better smell food and other good smells
- They feel more relaxed
- They do not have to make sure they always have cigarettes
- They have more money
- They are not as worried about their health
- They look and feel better
- They feel good about being able to quit
- Their skin looks healthier
- They have more energy when they walk, play with their kids, or do something active
The Reality Of Quitting
Tobacco use, especially smoking, is the number one preventable cause of death and disease in the United States. Take charge of your health because the benefits of quitting smoking are far better than the discomforts of recovery – staying alive! So, stay with it and find your freedom. Once you do, you will never let it go.
You will be happy to say “I do not smoke” and “I have no reason to start smoking again.” Believe it or not, you won’t miss smoking at all. How do you break the habit of “reaching for one?” Go for it!