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Smoking - Why Quit?

Smoking Why Quit Posted on: 21 May 08
Smoking - Why Quit?


It is estimated that one in two smokers will die from a smoking related disease, causing, on average, six to eight years of life lost per smoker. Smokers can also impact the health of those around them, for example their children, through passive smoking.

It is estimated that one in two smokers will die from a smoking related disease, causing, on average, six to eight years of life lost per smoker. Smokers can also impact the health of those around them, for example their children, through passive smoking.

Facts : What does a cigarette contain?

Tobacco smoke contains around 4,000 chemicals - here's just a few of them and their impact on the body:

Nicotine : A drug that stimulates the brain and keeps people hooked on smoking.  If you are a regular smoker, when the blood level of nicotine falls, you usually develop withdrawal symptoms such as craving, anxiety, restlessness, headaches, irritability, hunger, difficulty with concentration, or just feeling awful. These symptoms are relieved by the next cigarette. So, most smokers need to smoke regularly to feel 'normal', and to prevent withdrawal symptoms.

Tar: This can settle in and damage the surfaces of the lungs, eventually causing lung diseases. Other chemicals in the 'tar' of the smoke can get into the blood vessels and be carried to other parts of the body.

Carbon Monoxide: Combines with haemoglobin in the blood more readily than oxygen, making breathing less effective and putting strain on the heart.

Effects on your health: Which diseases are caused or made worse by smoking?

Lung cancer. About 30,000 people in the UK die from lung cancer each year. More than 8 in 10 cases are directly related to smoking.

Other cancers - of the mouth, nose, throat, larynx, gullet (oesophagus), pancreas, bladder, cervix, blood (leukaemia), and kidney are all more common in smokers.

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or COPD. About 25,000 people in the UK die each year from this serious lung disease. More than 8 in 10 of these deaths are directly linked to smoking. People who die of COPD are usually quite unwell for several years before they die.

Heart disease is the biggest killer illness in the UK. About 120,000 people in the UK die each year from heart disease. About 1 in 7 of these deaths are due to smoking.

Poor Circulation. The chemicals in tobacco can damage the lining of the blood vessels and affect the level of lipids (fats) in the bloodstream. This increases the risk of atheroma forming (sometimes called 'hardening' of the arteries). Atheroma is the main cause of heart disease. It is also the main cause of strokes, peripheral vascular disease (poor circulation of the legs), and aneurysms (swollen arteries which can burst causing internal bleeding). All of these atheroma-related diseases are more common in smokers.

Premature Skin Ageing. Smokers tend to develop more 'lines' on their face at an earlier age than non-smokers. This often makes smokers look older than they really are.

Fertility is reduced in smokers (both male and female).

Early onset of the Menopause. On average, women who smoke have a menopause nearly two years earlier than non-smokers.

Other conditions.  Smoking often causes worse or more prolonged symptoms include: asthma, the common cold, flu, chest infections, tuberculosis, chronic rhinitis, diabetic retinopathy, hyperthyroidism, multiple sclerosis, optic neuritis, and Crohn’s disease.

Smoking increases the risk of developing various other conditions including: optic neuropathy, cataract, macular degeneration, cryptogenic fibrosing alveolitis, psoriasis, gum disease, tooth loss, osteoporosis and Raynaud's phenomenon.

What are the benefits of stopping smoking?

The benefits begin straight away. You reduce your risk of getting serious disease no matter what age you give up. However, the sooner you stop, the greater the reduction in your risk.

After 20 minutes : Your blood pressure and pulse rate fall. This is important because high blood pressure increases your chance of having a heart attack or stroke.

After 8 hours: The level of carbon monoxide in your blood drops. Carbon monoxide is a poisonous gas that gets into your bloodstream when you smoke and makes it more difficult for your body to get all the oxygen it needs.

After 48 hours: There is no more nicotine left in your body. Your taste and smell starts to improve and blood flows round your body more easily, reducing the risk of a coronary thrombosis (a blockage of the arteries or vessels leading to the heart).

After 72 hours:  Your breathing becomes easier and energy levels increase.

After two weeks: Your circulation improves and you begin to feel fitter.

How Can I Stop Smoking?

About 2 in 3 smokers want to stop smoking. Some people can give up easily. Willpower and determination are the most important aspects when giving up smoking. However, nicotine is a drug of addiction and many people find giving up a struggle. Help is available.

GPs, practice nurses, or pharmacists can provide help, information, encouragement, and tips on stopping smoking. Also, many parts of the country now have specialist NHS 'Stop Smoking Clinics' which have a good success in helping people to stop smoking. Your doctor may refer you to one if you are keen to stop smoking but are finding it difficult to do so.

Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT) can help if withdrawal symptoms are troublesome. Nicotine gum, sprays, patches, tablets, lozenges, and inhalers are available. Using one of these roughly doubles your chance of stopping smoking if you really want to stop. A pharmacist, GP, practice nurse, or Stop Smoking Clinic can advise about NRT.

A medicine called bupropion (trade name 'Zyban') is another option. It also roughly doubles your chance of stopping smoking if you really want to stop. It helps to reduce the symptoms of nicotine withdrawal. It may be advised by a GP or Stop Smoking Clinic if you are determined to stop smoking, but are finding it difficult.

Useful websites to help you stop smoking.

PharmiWeb editor

Last updated on: 27/08/2010 11:40:18

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