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
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
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
Shaun S. Stanwood,
Our thanks to David Cogan, Jay De Coutere
and Jim MacLeod
for their help in preparing this page.