If you smoke, giving up is probably the greatest single
step you can take to improve your health. Seven out of ten smokers say that
they want to stop, but most believe they can't. However, half of all smokers
eventually manage to stop smoking.
Smoking is the
biggest cause of death and illness in the UK. More than 120,000 people die
each year from diseases caused by smoking.
Smoking is a major contributor to many serious diseases,
such as heart disease and lung cancer.
Tobacco in cigarettes, cigars and pipe tobacco, contains
poisons such as ammonia, acetone, carbon monoxide, cyanide and arsenic.
Altogether, cigarettes can often contain over 4000 chemicals.
Tobacco smoke contains over 4,000 different chemicals, many
of which are poisons. Some might be relatively harmless by themselves, but
together in smoke they make a toxic cocktail.
Poisons in tobacco smoke
- Carbon monoxide is a poisonous gas linked with heart
disease, stroke and other circulation problems.
- Tar is deposited in the lungs with every breath of
cigarette smoke taken. Tar causes cancer and damages your lungs.
- Benzene is a solvent and is a known cause of cancer
and is associated with leukaemia.
- Formaldehyde is a poison used to preserve dead
bodies. It is known to cause cancer, respiratory, skin and gastrointestinal
- Ammonia is used in cigarettes - it is also found in
- Cadmium is a poisonous metal, used in batteries. It
causes liver, kidney and brain damage.
Passive smoking - damage to others around you
Smoking puts at risk anyone nearby who breathes in the
smoke. As the smoker inhales only 15% of the smoke from a cigarette, 85% of it
is absorbed into the atmosphere or inhaled by other people. The act of
breathing in this secondary smoke is called passive smoking. Children are
particularly vulnerable to the effects of passive smoking and those who live
with smokers may become prone to chest, ear, and nose and throat infections,
and to more serious conditions such as bronchitis and pneumonia.
The UK Scientific Committee on Smoking and Health has estimated that about 300
non-smokers in this country die each year from lung cancer caused by passive
smoking. Recent research has also linked strokes and heart attacks to passive
The British Medical Association has conservatively estimated that passive
smoking causes at least 1,000 deaths a year in the UK. Apart from the direct
health risks, smoking causes over 3,000 house fires a year in England,
resulting in the deaths of nearly 100 people.
Smoking is bad for your health. Smokers are at greater risk
from illness and early death than non-smokers.
Also breathing the smoke from other people's cigarettes,
or passive smoking, can affect your health.
Smoking increases the risk of getting many serious and
often fatal diseases, such as:
- lung cancer
- other cancers, of the mouth, throat, larynx,
oesophagus, bladder, kidney, pancreas and stomach
- coronary heart disease
- chronic bronchitis and emphysema
Smoking is the biggest cause of death and illness in the
Deciding to quit and really wanting to succeed are
important steps in becoming a non-smoker. There are three stages to giving up
- preparing to stop
- and staying stopped
It can take up to 3 months to become a non-smoker,
although it usually takes less time. The physical craving for a cigarette
often goes in less than a week. The psychological craving can last longer.
Preparing to stop
It is important that you stop smoking because you want
to. Write down your reasons, and keep the list to hand over the next few
months. Think of the benefits: less coughing, cleaner clothes, better
breathing (for you and your friends and family), more money, and a lower risk
of developing smoking-related illnesses.
When you have decided to stop, make a plan:
- choose a day to quit; ask family and friends for
- plan a reward for the end of your first day, and the
end of the first week, and the first month
- and the day before, get rid of cigarettes, ashtrays
You could also talk to your doctor or pharmacist about
nicotine replacement therapy. Used properly, these products can double the
success rate of stopping smoking.
Your goal is to get through the first day without
smoking. If you need to put something in your mouth chew sugar-free gum or
something healthy and non-fattening. Drink juice and eat fruit. If you feel a
strong craving, try taking some deep breaths and delay giving in to the urge.
It will usually pass in a couple of minutes.
If you need to do something with your hands, find
something to fiddle with - a pencil, a coin, anything but a cigarette.
You may wish to ease the withdrawal symptoms with
nicotine replacement therapy. Consult your GP and follow the manufacturers
instructions to make sure you use enough, for long enough.
Take it one day at a time. Each day congratulate
yourself on having made it so far. Keep reminding yourself of your reasons for
giving up, and what you are gaining by not smoking. Think positively, remain
determined and reward yourself. At the beginning it may help to change your
normal routine, to avoid situations that would normally encourage you to smoke
such as going to the pub.
After the first weeks, especially if it was easy, people
may stop encouraging you, and even forget you're stopping. This period is
crucial. Try not to be complacent. Don't allow yourself to be tempted.
Don't be tempted to smoke one cigarette. This can easily
lead to two or three cigarettes and you risk becoming a smoker again.
Save the cigarette money. For an average smoker it could
be over £100 a month. Six months without smoking could buy you a holiday and
this is a great incentive to keep going.
Side Effects of Quitting
Nicotine affects the brain with seconds of inhaling
cigarette smoke. It increases the heart rate and blood pressure, constricts
the small blood vessels under your skin, causes changes in blood composition
and metabolism, and increases the production of hormones. Nicotine can also
affect your mood and behaviour.
Withdrawal from nicotine can cause (within 24 hours):
- depressed mood
- difficulty in sleeping
- frustration or anger
- difficulty with concentration
- decreased heart rate
- and increased appetite
As soon as you stop your body starts to clear itself
of the toxins in tobacco smoke.
- Your blood pressure and pulse rate will quickly
drop (within an hour of stopping).
- Carbon monoxide levels will return to normal
(within 2 days).
- Your sense of taste and smell will improve (within
a couple of days).
- Your circulation (the movement of blood around your
body) will improve (within a few weeks).