Smoking: The top 10 things you need to know
There are a lot of things you should know about smoking, but these 10 are the most important.
- About one-half of people who smoke die from smoking related disease.
It’s scary, but it’s true! Nearly 50% of people who smoke will die from smoking-related health problems. And on average, smokers will die 8 years earlier than non-smokers. Smoking causes several types of cancer – among them lung, bladder, and throat cancers – and breathing problems like emphysema and chronic bronchitis. Smoking can also contribute to heart and blood vessel problems, including heart disease, heart attack, and stroke.
The good news is that after you’ve stopped smoking, the health benefits kick in right away. Your risk of heart disease will start to decrease, and after 15 years of not smoking, your risk will fall to the same level as that of a non-smoker.
- Smoking can affect men and women differently.
While all people who smoke are at higher risk of the above-mentioned health issues, men and women may face risks unique to their sex. For example, women who smoke increase their risk of cancer of the cervix. And if a woman smokes and takes birth control pills, her stroke risk is heightened as well. In male smokers, fertility problems and low sperm count become more common, and blood vessel damage caused by smoking can lead to erectile dysfunction.
- Cigarettes contain more than 4,000 chemicals, many of which are cancer-causing.
Although nicotine itself doesn’t cause cancer, there are many chemicals produced in cigarette smoke that harm the body and can cause cancer. Chemicals released by cigarettes include carbon monoxide, tar, cyanide, benzene, and formaldehyde. And yes, you are inhaling these chemicals into your lungs and releasing the chemicals into the air around you!
- You may have to try quitting several times before you are successful.
When it comes to quitting smoking, get ready to try, try again. And know that if it takes you a few tries to successfully quit, you are definitely not alone! This is the case for most people. Setbacks and relapses are natural parts of the process of quitting for good. Consider each setback a lesson learned, each slip-up a source of new wisdom. A relapse is only a bad thing if you don’t learn from it!
- Successfully quitting smoking is not all about will power.
Nicotine addiction can be very powerful, and even the strongest-willed quitters can relapse. That’s because when you quit smoking, you are likely to face two strong obstacles: craving and compulsion.
Craving is a conscious drive that can be triggered by things in your environment – like your daily habits and routines (smoke breaks, after-meal cigarettes). You can control cravings.
Compulsion, on the other hand, can be a forceful, unconscious drive to smoke – despite the fact that you know you shouldn’t, despite knowing how bad it is for you.
So, to really quit smoking, you may need more than sheer will power: You need to prepare yourself with tactics to help you avoid your “craving triggers,” and you need to be aware of the ways that the drug nicotine can affect you both consciously and unconsciously.
- There is no best way to quit smoking.
Many roads can lead to a smoke-free life. A friend may have told you that the patch worked wonders for them, while your cousin swears by nicotine gum, and your boss quit cold turkey. Everyone is unique, and different methods of quitting will appeal to different people. You have multiple methods to choose from and try out. Discuss your quit-smoking options with your doctor, and try a few until you find what works best for you.
- You don’t have to quit smoking on your own.
Quitting smoking is difficult. But it can be less difficult if you enlist the support of family, friends, your doctor, or a counsellor. When you have a support system, you have someone to turn to when you feel like giving in and lighting up. Your supporters can be there to talk to you, join you for a walk, or help get your mind off smoking. Although many people can quit on their own, most people are more successful if they receive counselling from a health care provider.
- You can significantly increase your chances of successfully quitting if you take the time to make a plan.
Not having a quit-smoking plan can doom your efforts before you even start! Get off on the right foot by thinking ahead about potential obstacles and challenges you’ll face when you’re trying to quit – especially in those tricky early weeks. Your plan should include your pros and cons of quitting, a list of folks in your support system (family, friends, doctor, counsellor, etc.), the rewards you’ll give yourself when you do well.
- A positive attitude can work wonders when it comes to quitting smoking.
Avoid criticizing or punishing yourself if you have weak moments. Research shows that beating yourself up doesn’t usually help – it only makes you feel bad, which in turn, may make you want to reach for a cigarette even more. Emotions are a natural cause for cravings – so don’t spark them yourself!
- If you quit smoking, your children will be less likely to smoke.
You probably already know that second-hand smoke from your smoking puts your child’s health at risk. But did you know that if you quit, you’re also protecting your children from future harm to their health? When kids see parents or family members smoking, they can come to think of smoking has just a normal thing to do, and they are more likely to take up smoking themselves. If you do smoke, quitting or at least cutting back is the best example you can set for your kids.
Ways to quit smoking
There are many ways to quit smoking, and it is important to find the method that works best for you. Some people prefer to quit smoking all of a sudden (also known as quitting “cold turkey”); others find they are more comfortable gradually reducing how much they smoke. Some may say they were able to quit all on their own, without any help, but others give a lot of credit to support groups. Everyone is unique, and everyone has a different method for quitting smoking. Know what your options are when you quit and use the resources available to improve your chances of success.
Self-help and individual counselling: People who prefer to quit on their own may benefit from self-help books and pamphlets, videos, stop-smoking websites, online forums, mobile apps, or other resources. While self-help methods can lead to successful quitting, brief counselling with facilitators or health care providers appears to be more helpful. Doctors, pharmacists, dentists, and nurses are all options for people who would like individual counselling before or during their quitting process. You can also try calling a help-line for some advice on quitting smoking.
Specialized counselling: In some communities there are smoking cessation or addiction clinics that offer specialized counselling for people who are interested in quitting smoking. Often these clinics will have highly trained specialists who can offer advice and counselling to smokers. People who have made several unsuccessful attempts to quit smoking and people with a high level of dependence on smoking may be most likely to benefit from these clinics. These clinics may also be helpful for people who are trying to deal with other medical or addiction problems as well as smoking.
Group programs: Research shows that group programs are some of the most successful methods for quitting smoking. These programs usually have class sizes of about 4 to 12 people, each facing similar challenges. These programs may be led by a facilitator or counsellor who specializes in smoking cessation. There are also mutual aid groups, which allow smokers to support each other in a group setting without a formal counsellor.
Medications: There are many medications available that may be helpful when quitting smoking.
It appears that using smoking cessation medications as directed together with behavioural programs, such as counselling or self-help methods, significantly increases a person’s chances of quitting smoking. Nicotine gum, lozenges, inhalers, and patches are all available over-the-counter at most drugstores in Canada.
Bupropion and varenicline require a prescription and must be taken 1 or 2 weeks before your quit date. In some provinces, pharmacists can prescribe bupropion and varenicline after assessing their appropriateness for you. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist to see if these medications are right for you.
Alternative therapies: Although it is possible that some people may benefit from alternative therapies, there is not enough research showing that these treatments are effective. Therefore, the following forms of treatment are not currently recommended: hypnosis, acupuncture, laser therapy, acupressure, and electrostimulation.
It is important to be patient with yourself during your quitting process and not to give up if one of these methods doesn’t work. Be open to different types of quitting methods and remember that just because one method didn’t work in the past, it doesn’t mean it won’t work in the future.