In the UK there have been big changes in the amount of people who choose to smoke tobacco. Back in 1948 82% of the male population smoked. It was only in the 1960's when the percentage of female smokers rose to 45%. Thankfully since then the number of smokers has declined slowly but in some cities there are still figures as high as 27% still smoking tobacco, cigarettes and pipes. Smoking can have a big impact on health but as nicotine is an addictive substance, many people find it difficult to quit cold turkey.
Smoke from tobacco not only enters the lungs but also into the bloodstream that can cause cells to mutate all over the body increasing your risk and those around you to a whole host of health problems. Being an addictive substance the chance of stopping cold turkey without help is extremely difficult.
Circulation is affected because the toxins are able to get into the bloodstream. When they do the risk of clots forming is greatly increased. The pressure at which the blood is pumped around is also increased, as is the heart rate. In addition to this the arteries are narrowed which makes it difficult for the body to pump around vital nutrients and oxygen. Combined these effects can cause a stroke or heart attack.
The stomach is also affected by smoking because it causes weakening of the muscles controlling the esophagus. This means that acid can come back up which is an added factor for heartburn.
The chance of getting kidney cancer is significantly increased. Just smoking a pack of 10 a day could make you 150% more likely to develop it, with that risk doubled by smoking 20 or more.
The skin relies on oxygen for reproduction of skin cells and vibrancy. Smoking causing premature aging and can even cause or increase cellulite.1 In addition to looking older regular smoking can make you look more gaunt and thin the skin around the eyes and mouth making you more prone to developing wrinkles at an early age. Your bones can become weaker, especially in women.
The lungs take a big brunt of tobacco smoke; you can find it harder to fight off colds, develop asthma or worsen the existing condition. Pneumonia and lung cancer are just two of the diseases that it can cause that are known killers. Out of all lung cancer sufferers 84% are smokers and 83% of all COPD fatalities are smokers too.
Those that smoke may not notice right away, but over time the taste of food can be altered and become bland. As it can lead to gum disease, tooth decay and tooth loss are common. Cancers within the mouth and throat are more likely to happen if you are a smoker. Statistics show that over 93% of people with throat cancer develop it through smoking.
If you are thinking of starting or increasing your family be aware that smoking can affect fertility in both men and women. If you are successful then the potential chances of problems with the pregnancy and to the child before and after birth are increased. In men smoking lowers the sperm count and can even cause impotency in men as young as 20! There has been a lot of media attention on HPV which can lead to cervical cancer. Smoking can make it harder for the body to get rid of HPV once contracted putting you at a higher risk of cervical cancer. Babies of mums that smoke are 25% more likely to die of cot death than those from non-smoking parents which is why there is so much emphasis on giving up smoking before trying to conceive.
Nicotine has an effect on how the brain works within as little as ten seconds.2Smokers will feel more alert and their mood, feelings of hunger and even relaxation may improve temporarily, however once it wears off they will need more to keep them feeling the same way. Without nicotine these feelings are reversed making people feel irritable and craving more, which leads to this dangerous habit.
Some people smoke to relieve their stress levels temporarily, but unfortunately this doesn't help them to deal with the root cause. They may feel that it is the answer, but once they become addicted there is a cycle of stress, smoking, relief, stress and then back to smoking again. It has been shown to be a form of self medication just like alcohol for many that feel it has solved their problems however all they are doing is leaving themselves with a new one to conquer…addiction making it harder to quit cold turkey.
Over the years cigarettes have been made to allow smokers to get more nicotine into their bodies. The ventilation allows for more frequent and deep inhalation, the menthol makes the smoke smoother and has a cooling effect whereas without it people would stop through irritation and not smoke as much. The chemicals in modern cigarettes allow the nicotine to hit faster than in the older kind and with flavored options children are more likely to find them appealing too! Giving up the nicotine addiction is the hardest part of quitting smoking.
Although e-cigarettes carry less danger than tobacco, they don't come without risk. For starters they run on battery and are not always as easy to obtain. When an e-cigarette breaks it is more likely that the user will return to normal tobacco to keep the hardest part of quitting smoking (nicotine craving) at bay.
The hand to mouth action is never broken and the nicotine addiction will still continue meaning that smokers swap one addiction for another.3 The level of dangerous chemicals are still less than tobacco, but they do still pose a danger and as they are relatively new no one knows what the long term health implications are. The chemicals and other content of e-cigarettes can vary, which means that there is no constant as to the inhalers dose. Nicotine replacement therapy alongside stop smoking help is a better option as the end goal is to not be reliant on nicotine at all.
There is lots of stop smoking help available without the need to stop cold turkey in the form of 24 hour helplines, group meetings, medication and nicotine replacement therapy. By using medication such as Champix the urge to smoke is reduced gradually and the cravings are minimal. Patches, mints and other aids containing nicotine can be reduced over time helping to reduce cravings and deter the smoker from the hand to mouth action which can be just as addictive like nail biting and thumb sucking. This will reduce the fact of the smoker swapping one habit for another and potentially returning to tobacco. You don't have to go through major nicotine withdrawals, which is the hardest part of quitting smoking cold turkey.
1. Look after your skin - NHS Choices
2. Smoking and mental health - MentalHealth.org.uk
3. E-Cigarettes 101 - WebMD