Cigarette smoking is a habit that has many people hooked. Some people use cigarette smoking to fight off stress. Unfortunately, this tends to be counter-productive many times. We will be doing a discourse on cigarette smoking and I advise non-smokers to come along with us. The knowledge may not be for you directly, but for a friend, relation, or even a spouse. The active ingredient in tobacco is nicotine. Nicotine is a drug! A drug? Yes, a drug! It is as addictive as heroin and cocaine. Like these drugs, the body becomes physically and psychologically dependent on nicotine. Quitting smoking, therefore, requires that the physical and psychological dependency must be broken. Nicotine produces a good feeling that increases the urge to smoke. As the nervous system adjusts to the effect of nicotine, a smoker will tend to increase the number of cigarettes he smokes, and this causes an increase in the blood nicotine level.
Now, when a smoker strives to reduce his smoking, it causes withdrawal symptoms. Withdrawal symptoms have been known to include depression, restlessness, irritability, headache, trouble sleeping, poor concentration, frustration and anger, tiredness and increase appetite. All these physical symptoms lead the smoker to resume smoking to boost blood levels of nicotine back to the level where the symptoms will be no more. These symptoms have been known to start from about a few years after the last cigarette smoked and have been known to last several weeks. What is the health risk associated with this habit?
- It has been known to increase the risk of cancer in the body. Besides the risk of lung cancer which is widely known and acknowledged, cigarette smoking has also been known to increase the risk of developing cancer of the kidney, pancreas, liver, cervix, stomach, colon, rectum, blood, mouth, and the throat. Other lung diseases associated with smoking include chronic bronchitis and emphysema.
- Smoking is a major risk factor for developing heart diseases and peripheral vascular diseases.
- Smoking may cause premature wrinkling of the skin, bad breath, bad smelling clothes and hair, and yellow fingernails.
- Women above the age of 35 years who smoke and are on oral contraceptives (pills) have been known to be high-risk groups for developing stroke, heart attacks and blood clots in the legs. Women who smoke have been known to have a miscarriage and have low birth weight babies. Irrespective of your age and the length of time you may have smoked, quitting smoking will still help you to live longer. The Surgeon General reported the following on the health benefits of quitting smoking:
- Quitting smoking decreases the risk of lung cancer, other cancers, heart attack, stroke and chronic lung diseases.
- Quitting smoking has major health benefits for men and women of all ages. Benefits apply to people with and without smoking-related diseases.
- Former smokers live longer than continuing smokers. For example, people who quit smoking before age 50 have one and a half the risk of dying in the next 15 years compared with continuing smokers.
- Women who stop smoking before pregnancy during the first 3 to 4 months of pregnancy reduce their risk of having a low birth weight baby to that of women who never smoked.
Other health benefits enumerated by the Surgeon General accruing from quitting smoking over time also listed as follows:
- 20 minutes after quitting, your blood pressure drops to a level close to that before the last cigarette. The temperature of your hands and feet increases to normal.
- Eight hours after quitting, the carbon monoxide level in your blood drops to normal.
- 24 hours after quitting, your chance of a heart attack decreases.
- Two weeks to 3 months after quitting, your circulation improves your long function increases up to 30%.
- One to 9 months after quitting, coughing, sinus congestion, fatigue, and shortness of breath decreases. The cilia (tiny hair-like structures that move mucus out of the lungs) regain normal function in the lungs, increasing their ability to handle mucus, clean the lungs and reduce infection.
- One year after quitting, the excess risk of culinary heart disease is half that of a smoker’s.
- The risk of stroke is reduced to that of a non-smoker 5 to 15 years after quitting.
- 10 years after quitting, the lung cancer death rate is about half of that of a continuing smoker. The risk of cancer of the mouth, throat, oesophagus, bladder, kidney, and pancreas, decreases.
- 15 years after quitting, the risk of coronary heart disease is like that of a non-smoker.