Nearly one in five Canadians are smokers – which is equal to close to approximately 6 million people – while there are an estimated 1.1 billion people who smoke on a global scale. It is one of the most prevalent (as well as one of the most preventable) causes of disease and premature death worldwide, which is why it’s so crucial to educate people on the dangers that are associated with this dangerous habit. For example, cigarettes contain tobacco and nicotine, as well as a wide range of other harmful ingredients that can do significant damage to your body and overall health in both the short and long-term.
One of the most common immediate problems that people experience as a result of smoking is shortness of breath. This can later lead to more significant respiratory problems such as asthma, COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease), emphysema, an increase in susceptibility to lung infections (such as pneumonia), and even cancer – ultimately decreasing your quality of life. Along with affecting the lungs, tobacco use can have other significantly negative effects on the body, including constricting the blood vessels (putting you at increased risk of having high blood pressure as well as suffering a heart attack or stroke), affecting the mood (while smoking may put you in a good mood temporarily, you may find yourself more irritable or anxious if you miss a cigarette), vision problems (increasing your risk of things like cataracts, glaucoma and macular degeneration), dull sense of smell and taste (making food less enjoyable and causing a decrease in your appetite), unhealthy teeth and gums (including a higher risk to develop gum disease), unhealthy skin (such as dry skin and premature aging), an increased risk of developing blood clots, compromised immune system (such as lowering your body’s ability to fight off infections), infertility issues (in both men and women), erectile dysfunction, and other types of cancer (such as cervical cancer and blood cancer.) Smoking cigarettes can also cause a change in your appearance, such as discolouring your hair and fingernails.
In other words, there is nothing safe about smoking – and if you are someone who happens to smoke cigarettes, then it would be wise to quit – not just for your own benefit, but for the benefit of those around you, too, as others can also be impacted by the effects of second-hand smoke and can potentially be at risk of developing many of the aforementioned problems just by being around it. That being said, if you’re having trouble quitting smoking, you’re not alone. Nicotine, as mentioned, is highly addictive. When it reaches your brain, it causes you to feel more energized, but that feeling quickly wears off which then results in you feeling tired and craving more of it, thus beginning a bad and deadly habit. While some people can quit smoking cold turkey, it can be much more complicated for others. For example, certain things might trigger someone to smoke. If this is the case, you need to be able to identify what those triggers are and avoid them or find a healthier way of coping with them. You may also benefit from attending a group or program in your area.
Regardless of how you go about quitting smoking, it’s also important to note that it won’t be easy. Once you stop smoking, you’ll begin to experience different physical symptoms (also known as withdrawal) which can occur as quickly as an hour after your last cigarette and as long as two or three days following that – sometimes even for several weeks. The most common withdrawal symptoms that are associated with smoking cessation include having cravings for cigarettes, nervousness and/or irritability, frustration and anger, depression, poor concentration, feeling restless, increased appetite, insomnia, headaches, increased heart rate, tremors, upset stomach, and constipation – and while these can be uncomfortable symptoms to deal with, it’s important to remember that they are only temporary.
To prevent cravings associated with withdrawal, I recommend trying to find other ways to keep yourself busy. For example, reading a book or listening to music can help keep your mind busy, as can keeping yourself active by going for a walk, or even by doing something relaxing such as meditating. For more helpful tips on smoking cessation, visit quitnow.ca.