If you are a smoker, either thinking about quitting or not, the following is for you. Below you'll find information on the health effects of smoking, the manner in which a person becomes hooked on cigarettes, the possibility of weight gain during smoking cessation and much more. We hope this information will be helpful to you. If you have any questions after reading this information, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Health Risks Associated With Smoking

Smoking is the largest cause of preventable illness and premature death. It has been estimated that for every cigarette smoked, the smoker loses eight minutes of life. Smoking is a major risk factor in all kinds of illnesses including cancers, lung disease and heart disease. There are over 50 chemicals in tobacco smoke that can cause cancer. Besides being a significant risk to your health, smoking influences the health of those around you. Smoking during pregnancy increases the likelihood of a baby with a low birth weight. Children exposed to smoke have a greater risk of developing respiratory problems and ear infections. 

Benefits of Quitting Smoking 

Some long time smokers feel that there would be no benefits to them if they were to quit now. That is not true. The benefits of quitting smoking begin almost immediately. Within one-half hour, is a decrease in blood pressure and pulse rate. In eight hours, the carbon monoxide level in the blood drops while the level of oxygen increases. Even after just one day of smoke free living, the chance of a heart attack can be reduced. 

After two or three days, there is an increased sense of smell and taste, and an improvement in lung function. Part of this improvement in lung function may initially result in an increase in coughing. This is because as the lungs recover they begin to clean themselves out. This increase in coughing does not last. 

Circulation will improve and walking can become easier after 2-12 weeks. Your increased risk of coronary heart disease due to smoking will decrease by 50% after one year. In three years, your risk of a heart attack is the same as those who have never smoked. Five years after quitting smoking, your risk of lung and bladder cancer has decreased by 50%. Your risk of stroke five years after quitting is the same as those who have never smoked. Fifteen years after you have quit smoking, your risk of coronary heart disease is similar to that of people who have never smoked. In fact, fifteen years after quitting smoking, your risk of dying is similar to those who have never smoked. 

So although you may have smoked for a long time, by quitting smoking now you will begin to see almost immediate health benefits. And the longer you stay smoke free, the greater those benefits will be. 

The Three Hooks of Smoking

As you quit smoking it is helpful to consider in what ways you are hooked on smoking. There are three main ways that most smokers are hooked. First of all, there is the habitual hand-to-mouth activity. If you smoke one pack of cigarettes a day and inhale ten times from each cigarette, you bring your hand to your mouth about 250 times a day. Even if you've smoked for only one year, you will have brought your hand to your mouth over 90,000 times. If you repeat any activity 250 times a day, it doesn't take very long to develop a habit. Overcoming this hand-to-mouth habit is an important part of quitting smoking. Urges to smoke usually last no longer than 30 seconds. If you can keep yourself busy for 30 seconds during one of these urges, you are another step closer to quitting for good. 

The second hook of smoking has to do with social activities you have come to associate with smoking. Some people always smoke when they are drinking coffee, eating a meal, talking on the phone or driving a car. When these people then try to quit, they find they are especially tempted to smoke when they do those activities. Early in the process of quitting smoking, you may need to be especially careful when doing these activities. It may be helpful to change some of your other activities during your early smoke-free period. 

The third hook of smoking is the physiological addiction to nicotine. This simply means that the body needs nicotine to function normally, and when it is not there, withdrawal symptoms occur. Withdrawal effects of nicotine can include urges to smoke, irritability, anxiety, restlessness, difficulty concentrating, difficulty sleeping or drowsiness, increased hunger and eating, headaches, sweating or slight hand tremors. Different people have different levels of addiction to nicotine, and not all will be bothered by nicotine withdrawal. People who usually have their first cigarette within 30 minutes of getting up and smoke more than 20-25 cigarettes per day are most likely to experience a fair amount of nicotine withdrawal and may benefit the most from the use of nicotine replacement therapy (such as the nicotine chewing pieces or the patches). If you are interested in learning more about the nicotine replacement therapies, you can ask your pharmacist for more information. 

The Best Reason to Stop Smoking is... 

Despite all the health reasons to want to quit, the most powerful reasons for you to quit smoking are the reasons that you come up with yourself. Your reasons may include health benefits or it may include other reasons, such as wanting to save money. Write down a list of reasons of why you want to continue smoking and why you want to quit smoking. Having a list of reasons of why you want to keep smoking will help you understand what you will face as you quit. Having a list of reasons on why you want to quit will help encourage you to keep on being smoke-free. 

One beneficial test that people who are quitting may want to take is called the 'Why Test'. Through a series of questions, the test helps you identify your strongest reasons to smoke and also provides ideas on how to overcome them. If you are interested in taking this test, you can ask us about it. We can give you a copy of the test and be available to discuss the results. 

Smoking Cessation Programs 

As you are probably know, there are many different ways and ideas on how to quit smoking. There are programs intended for individuals or groups, targeted at young people, pregnant women, young parents or many other specific groups. Different therapies that have been developed to quit smoking include nicotine replacement therapy, aversion therapy, acupuncture, hypnosis and even laser therapy. 

The most important thing to remember is that there is no wrong way to quit smoking. As long as you have quit smoking you have reached your goal. 

What about weight gain?

Probably one of the big concerns of many people with quitting smoking is the possibility of weight gain. It is true that a large percentage of people who quit smoking gain weight. Most people gain less than 10 pounds, but it ranges anywhere from no weight gain to 30 pounds. People who smoke more tend to gain more weight (but there are exceptions). Although obesity is also a health risk, it is much less of a health concern than continued smoking. Using nicotine replacement therapy may delay weight gain, but when it is stopped the weight gain catches up. 

There are a couple of reasons why weight gain occurs after quitting smoking. First of all, many people tend to eat more as they quit due to increased appetite, a better sense of taste and using food as a reward for being able to quit smoking. Secondly, the body slows down its energy consumption when nicotine is not present. This means that even if a person who quits smoking doesn't increase the amount of food they eat, they can still gain weight. How can you deal with the possibility of weight gain as you quit? First of all, recognize that it is likely to occur, but is usually less than 10 pounds. Secondly, although weight gain can be disturbing, focus on quitting smoking first and foremost. You will be most successful if you only focus on one task at a time. Once you have successfully quit smoking, you can then begin to think about losing weight. 

What if I Start to Smoke Again? 

Although some people are successful at quitting smoking on their first try, for many people it takes several tries. It has been estimated that a majority of ex-smokers needed five or six tries to successfully quit smoking for good. If you have tried to quit before, but not been able to be successful, that's OK. Think about what you can learn from your other attempts to quit. Why did you begin smoking again? What can you do differently this time? Knowing the answers to these questions can help you in your current attempt to quit. If this is your first attempt to quit, we hope you are successful. But if you aren't successful, give it a little time then try again. 

And finally, we are here to help. There are a large number of programs and organizations dedicated to helping you quit smoking. We can provide you with the names and addresses if you like. If you have any questions at all on quitting smoking, do not hesitate to contact us. 

Prepared for Spears & MacLeod Pharmacy Limited 
Shaun S. Stanwood, 
January, 1997
Our thanks to David Cogan, Jay De Coutere and Jim MacLeod 
for their help in preparing this page.
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