Smoking and other forms of nicotine exposure elicit a strong physical addiction and psychological habit.
Various types of nicotine products include cigarettes, cigars, pipe tobacco, chewing tobacco, snuff dipping tobacco, dissolvable tobacco, electronic cigarettes and others.
Among the thousands of chemicals in cigarette smoke, there are 3 very dangerous substances: tar, nicotine and carbon monoxide. Tar condenses into a sticky substance in the lungs. Nicotine is the addictive component of all tobacco products. Carbon monoxide decreases the oxygen carried by the red blood cells throughout the body.
Smoking is the number one cause of preventable death in the United States, causing over 393,000 deaths per year. In addition, cigarette smoking accounts for about one-third of all cancers, including 90% of lung cancers. On average, adults who smoke die 10 years earlier than nonsmokers. Two-thirds of smokers start before the age of 18. Unfortunately, the harmful effects of smoking extend beyond the smoker. Each year, an estimated 88 million nonsmoking Americans are regularly exposed to second hand smoke. Almost 41,000 American nonsmokers die from diseases caused by second hand smoke each year.
Smoking increases the risk of cancers of the lung, esophagus, bladder, mouth, larynx, cervix, kidney, uterus, stomach, and other organs. There is also an increased risk of cardiovascular disease including heart attack, coronary artery disease, hypertension, and stroke. Additional risks may include chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, pregnancy complications, newborn risks, infertility, premature menopause, osteoporosis, skin wrinkling, heartburn, ulcers, bad breath, yellowing of teeth, gum disease, and erectile dysfunction. Smoking risks in pregnancy include low birth weight babies, preterm delivery, placental problems, and premature rupture of membranes. Smoking during pregnancy triples the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Currently in the United States, 10% of pregnant women smoke during pregnancy.
Attempting to quit smoking or discontinuing other nicotine products is very difficult. Withdrawal symptoms can include irritability, headache, intense cravings to smoke, insomnia, difficulty concentrating, restlessness, tremors, fatigue, constipation, upset stomach, depression, and increased appetite.
Help to quit
Remember, it often takes multiple attempts to quit for good.
The American Lung Association – www.lungusa.org
The American Heart Association – www.americanheart.org
National Cancer Institute – csi.nci.nih.gov, www.smokefree.gov
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Hotline – call 1-800 QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669)
Smoking cessation aides
Over the counter nicotine-based products allow you to lower the dose of nicotine gradually until you feel you are able to resist the cravings. You will still have the cravings, but they will be diminished. Products include Nicorette gum, NicoDerm patch, and Commit lozenge.
Medications include nicotine nasal spray and nicotine inhalant.
Non nicotine prescriptions
Buproprian (name brand Zyban) is an antidepressant that can be helpful. Varenidine (name brand Chantix) helps reduce the reinforcing effects of nicotine and minimizes withdrawal symptoms.
Other helpful hints to quit smoking
It is important to have some form of social support when you decide to quit nicotine products. Support can come from your doctor, counselor, a support group, close friend, or family member. Find alternative ways to manage your stress such as relaxation techniques, meditation and exercise.
Avoid smoking triggers such as alcohol and other smokers. Try to replace after meal trigger with something healthy such as a sugar-free piece of candy or a stick of gum. To avoid weight gain after quitting smoking, try to eat healthy meals, increase water intake, increase exercise and snack on low-calorie or calorie-free foods.
Alternative therapies to help you be successful can also include acupuncture, behavioral therapy, and motivational therapy.
Remember it is never too late to quit smoking to improve your health.