Smoking is a practice in which a substance such as tobacco or cannabis is burned and the smoke inhaled or tasted. Today, the most common form of smoking is through cigarettes, cigars, pipes, vaporizers, bongs, beedies and hookahs. Tobacco remains the most popular form of smoking with approximately one billion people in the world practicing for recreational purposes.
The history of smoking dates back 5000 years ago, where it evolved in association with religious ceremonies, in cleansing rituals or for spiritual nourishment by priests. During European exploration, the culture spread across the world in regions like India and Sub-Saharan Africa.
Cigarette smoke contains thousands of chemical components, the addictive ingredient being Nicotine. After smoking cigarettes, nicotine is absorbed quickly into the blood stream before reaching the brain and the muscle tissues. In the brain, it causes it to release epinephrine chemicals resulting in increased heart pulse rate, drop in skin temperature brought about by increased blood pressure, increased tension and relaxation of the muscles and increase in stomach secretions and brain activities. These bring about the feeling of pleasure and energy. The body is build up to withstand high levels of nicotine, thereafter the feeling fades away within a couple of hours resulting in depression and sadness, thus the cycle of smoking repeats itself. As emotion and stress levels increase, so does the craving for nicotine, resulting in an individual’s cigarette smoking addiction.
Besides nicotine, cigarette smoke contains carbon monoxide, a harmful gas compound brought by incomplete combustion of tobacco matter to enable complete oxidation to carbon dioxide. Exposure to carbon monoxide increases the risk of developing health complications. Cigarette smoke also contains tar, which is a product of partially combusted tobacco matter. Tar contributes to a number of health complications as discussed in detail below. It should be noted that when an individual smokes, it does not only affect the person smoking, but also those around him, who are also exposed to the smoke. This is called Second hand smoke and is otherwise dangerous.
Health Effects of Smoking
Tobacco smoking is extremely detrimental for one’s organism. It causes a wide range of illnesses that may be fatal, while those who survive may suffer from long-term poor health. Smoking leads to the following effects:
It is documented that smokers have a higher chance of suffering from respiratory illnesses than non smokers. These respiratory diseases are: Chronic Obstruction Pulmonary Disease (COPD), which includes: Bronchitis and Emphysema conditions. In Bronchitis, the cilia is damaged and bronchia mucosa is irritated and produces too much mucus, causing the narrowing of the respiratory tract, which results in accumulation of excessive mucus amounts, breathing difficulties and chronic coughing. Emphysema condition involves difficulty in breathing. In this case, the alveolar sacs, which have a large surface, bust and unite in larger sacs and it becomes difficult to get enough oxygen.
Another respiratory condition is Asthma, which affects the airways of the lungs. The bronchia and bronchioles’ walls contain muscle bands, which become inflamed and irritable. These muscles constrict, narrowing the breathing ways resulting in shortness of breath, wheezing and coughing and tightness of the chest. These attacks are, however, intermittent with periods of normal respiration.
Pneumonia is a condition caused by smoking, where there is inflammation of the lungs primarily affecting the alveoli resulting in difficult breathing, chest pain, and fever and coughing.
These are diseases that affect the circulatory system of the body. They include: Angina Pectoris, which is chest pain as a result of restriction of the coronary muscle of the heart. Stroke may also result from tobacco smoking. Stroke is a rapid loss of brain function through disturbance of blood supply to the brain. This comes about as tobacco smoking causes restriction of blood supply to the brain. The affected area of the brain will thereby cease to work affecting movement, sight or speech. Heart attack can also result from smoking tobacco. This occurs after restriction of coronary artery, which supplies oxygen to the heart. The restriction results in shortage of oxygen into the heart to bring about damage and subsequent death of the heart tissues. Smoking also results in insufficient blood flow into the lower limbs as majority of leg amputees are tobacco smokers.
Tobacco smoke contains nearly 70 elements that are known to cause cancer. Individuals exposed to carcinogens, such as asbestos and radon, are likely to suffer from: Lung cancer, Oral and nasal cavity cancer, pharynx and larynx cancers, and esophagus cancer, pancreatic cancer, urinary bladder cancer, stomach, liver and kidney cancers. They may also suffer from leukemia and uterine cervix cancer.
Miscellaneous Health Effects
Smoking may cause complications to the eyes, such as cataract, macular degeneration, which results in loss of sharp vision. Smoking has a major influence on oral hygiene, such as bad breath increasing the risk of tooth loss. It also contributes to bone loss, poor healing of muscle and skeletal injuries and compromised reproductive health.
The effects of tobacco smoke are not limited to smokers alone. Those around the smokers also face respiratory, vascular and cancer risks as smokers do. Smoking also reduces fertility levels in women and has dangerous effects on developing fetus including miscarriage, growth retardation and placental disorders, which may result in death of the infant at birth.
Smoking withdrawal is a determining step in increasing the length and quality of life of a tobacco smoker. Quitting smoking has major advantages to a smoker because: it has major health benefits to both men and women of all ages. The benefits extend to those, who already have smoking related illnesses. Ex-smokers have a longer life span than those, who still smoke meaning that they will live longer than those, who still smoke. Quitting smoking lowers the risk of acquiring chronic illnesses as heart attack, stroke, chronic lung diseases, lung cancer and other cancers. Women, who stop smoking during pregnancy, reduce chances of delivering unhealthy babies with low birth weight. Quitting smoking results in improved fertility in both men and women and improves individual’s social interaction with non-smokers as it improves a person’s appearance and health. Quitting smoking enables saving of money, which would have been used to buy cigarettes and this sets a good example to children.
Cutting back on nicotine, the hooking up ingredient in tobacco, results in withdrawal symptoms, which is either physical or mental. Physically, the body will react to nicotine deficiency in the blood system. Mentally, an individual is faced with change in behavioral characteristics. Withdrawal symptoms include: Dizziness, which results after 1 to 2 days after quitting, headaches, and feeling of depression, frustration and anger. Anxiety, irritability, concentration problems, restlessness and boredom effects are also felt. Fatigue, increased appetite, weight gain, constipation and bloated stomach discomforts are also felt. Cough, dry mouth, sore throat, nasal drip, chest tightness and slower heart rates appear. Sleep disturbances and insomnia can be felt at night. These symptoms can force a patient to relapse to replace the nicotine levels in blood. Proper medical advice should be noted at this stage.
Process of Smoking Secession
Making the Decision to Quit
The ability to know whether one is ready to stop smoking is the first plan in quitting smoking. This puts the individual contemplating quitting smoking in control and able to make important decisions along the way. He should assess thoughts about smoking including identifying and learning the direct risks associated with smoking and second hand smoke to the health of individuals. Readiness to quit smoking requires an individual to identify his smoking habits and to develop a way of countering the habit.
Making a Plan and Setting a Quit Date and Implementing the Plan
Picking a quit date allows an individual to rationalize his actions. A strong commitment should, however, be put across on the quit date. In order to successfully accomplish quitting, on the set quit date an individual should mark the date on the calendar, tell family and friends about the quit date, get rid of all smoking accessories, such as ash trays and cigarettes at home and work place, learn to have positive self talk about quitting smoking, stock up oral substitutes such as carrot sticks and cinnamon sticks. Finally, a support team should be set up, such as a group program. In order to avoid relapse on the quit date, the following should be done: you should not smoke, keep active through walking or exercising, and take plenty of fluids. Follow your self-help plan, avoid people who are smoking and reduce the use of alcohol.
Successful quitting of smoking will result in withdrawal effects, which can either be physical or psychological. The biggest challenge is the psychological quitting, which can be enhanced better by using nicotine replacements and other medicines. Proper care should be taken at this stage to avoid relapse. The health of the individual should remain important as the individual will tend to increase weight. Research has shown that women significantly gain more weight than men and to reduce these effects of quitting smoking, nicotine replacement therapy and exercising may help reduce weight gain although weight gain is inevitable.
Successful quitting results in increased stress levels, which if not well monitored may result in relapse by the individual. Nicotine replacement can help for a while, but it’s not recommended for the long term. The best way to reduce stress is through physical activity, such as walking and exercising. Spiritual practice has also proven to reduce stress levels and improve focus on quitting smoking.
Temptations come about as a result of coming into contact with smokers resulting in slips and relapses. To avoid temptations, an individual should stay away from smokers. Over time, confidence comes in and an individual can mingle with smokers without deviating.
An individual should change from coffee and alcohol to water to reduce chances of relapse and slips. Choose foods that discourage an ex-smoker from smoking and breathe deeply to fill your lungs with clean air.
Smoking secession is a difficult process, however, all the money that might have been used to buy cigarettes can now be used for self treatment, such as buying clothes, visiting museums and libraries among other beneficial courses.
An ex-smoker can now use the same strategy in staying quit as the one used in coping with withdrawal symptoms. To try staying quit without slips or relapse an individual should remember the reasons for quitting smoking, benefits to one’s health, financial benefits and family benefits. An individual should keep away from alcohol as alcohol lowers the chances of quitting smoking. Plan on a healthy diet and exercise routines to avoid relapses and slips brought about by stress from weight gain. Finally, an ex-smoker should rule out the desire to smoke.
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