Addiction of the Century: Smoking

When soldiers started rolling and smoking tobacco in strips of newspaper in the Crimean War in 1856, they also paved the way for the most popular type of tobacco consumption: cigarettes. Since then, we have learned that 81 out of 7000 chemical compounds formed in smoke from burning tobacco are direct causes of cancer. It is now a scientifically established fact that the particles or gaseous compounds found in tobacco smoke cause injury to the structure and disrupt the function of the respiratory tract, resulting in many respiratory diseases.

A Pulmonologist at Medicana International Hospital in Izmir, Dr. Merda Erdemir Işık, wrote an article for both the World Cancer Day on February 4 and the World Smoking Boycott Day on February 9 to reveal the unknown facts about smoking cessation and lung cancer in particular.

Don’t Invite Diseases

The use of tobacco in cigarettes cause injury to all of the organs in the human body, both lowering the quality of life and shortening life expectancy. Smokers get sick and use healthcare services more often than non-smokers, and they take more sick leaves while working or studying. While lung cancer ranks first among the cancers caused by smoking, some other types of cancer caused by smoking include cancers of the mouth, larynx, esophagus, stomach, kidney and urinary tract, bowel, liver, pancreas, bladder, cervix, and a type of leukemia. The chronic diseases caused by smoking include heart attack, cardiovascular diseases such as high blood pressure, COPD, asthma, tuberculosis, interstitial lung diseases, cerebrovascular diseases, stroke, cataracts, and oral diseases. Female smokers have a high risk of miscarriage, early labor, having a low-birth-weight baby, infertility, and for those who use contraceptive pills, an increased risk of heart attack. For male smokers, smoking causes infertility and impotency.

Always Asking for more Nicotine

The real reason behind cigarette addiction is the nicotine it contains. Nicotine is no different in causing addiction than heroin, cocaine and alcohol. Small doses of nicotine have stimulating effects such as speeding up the heart rate, giving pleasure and improving concentration. When taken in higher doses, a calming effect follows this initial stimulation. The human body starts to crave more nicotine so that these seemingly rewarding effects can continue. As a result, the number of cigarettes one smokes gets higher and higher. Because our bodies build up a tolerance against such effects caused by nicotine. As the amount of nicotine in our bodies increase, its effect is reduced and we want more nicotine as a result. Besides developing a psychological addiction, nicotine also causes physical addiction. Symptoms of nicotine withdrawal due to smoking cessation include anxiety that lasts for three weeks, sleeplessness or, in some cases, a tendency to sleep, anger, irritability, occasional constipation, and inability to concentrate. While some people might think that light cigarettes or menthol cigarettes are less harmful, these types of cigarettes actually contain the same amount of nicotine and it is proved that they might be even more harmful. Research shows that smokers who smoke menthol flavored cigarettes find it more difficult to give up smoking, have a higher relapse rate and that they are more exposed to the harmful substances in tobacco.

First, You Need to be Decisive

To give up smoking, one needs to be eager to do so and be able to make the decision to quit. It is difficult to get rid of an addictive substance, but it is not impossible. It can be achieved through determination. The first 2-3 weeks after quitting is the most difficult period in terms of experiencing nicotine withdrawal symptoms. It is normal to experience the symptoms of anger, restlessness, sleeplessness, difficulty in concentration, occasional constipation, and increased appetite during this period but they will be temporary. It is recommended that you avoid situations and activities that trigger the urge to smoke, get support from your social circle, go for a short walk or take a shower when you think of smoking, chew gums or eat low-calorie snacks to mitigate the effects of increased appetite and drink lots of water during this period. These tips will help you go through this period more smoothly.

Tips That Will Help You Stop Smoking Once and For All

To give up smoking, one needs to be eager to do so and make a decision. It is difficult to get rid of an addictive substance but it is not impossible. It can be achieved through determination. In order to stop smoking, set a quit date for yourself and stick to it. Do not postpone.

-You can motivate yourself by writing down your reasons to give up smoking on a piece of paper and putting it somewhere you can see all the time.

-You can buy yourself a gift on the day you quit smoking.

-You must tell family and friends that you plan to quit and ask for their support. If there are smokers among them, ask them not to smoke when they are around you.

– Remove from your environment any product that might remind you of smoking such as packs of cigarettes, ashtrays, and lighters.

-At the end of a meal, which might remind you of smoking, you can leave the table immediately, brush your teeth, or eat fruits.

-You might want to change your drinks. Try drinking less coffee and tea, which may remind you of smoking, and drink more water instead. -If an activity in your home or workplace reminds you of smoking, you need to try focusing on the task at hand or take a break and keep yourself busy with something else for a while.

-If you have oral and tactile cravings, you can keep your hands busy playing with squeeze balls or pencils, chew sugar-free gums, drink water, or eat fruits when you want to have a smoke.

-During the first 2-3 weeks, you need to try and stay away from situations where others smoke around you. You can take up a physical activity that suits your age.

-If you find yourself asking “where is the harm in smoking just one cigarette”, you should never give into that thought.

If a person has a hard time when they try to quit smoking by themselves, they can use one of the clinically proven treatment methods. These methods include nicotine replacement therapies such as nicotine gums and patches, or orally administered medicines such as bupropion and varenicline. All three methods successfully decrease the desire to smoke and prevent symptoms of withdrawal. When used under physician control, effectiveness of these medicines will increase. The therapeutic activity must be conducted with patients who are willing to quit and by physicians specialized in this area on a repetitive basis and as long as necessary. Today, we see some non-medicinal methods that are being widely preferred (such as acupuncture, luxopuncture, bioresonance, IOS, Allen Carr method, laser therapy, e-cigarettes, nicotine cigarettes, etc.) but the effectiveness of these methods are not proven and they are not recommended.

So What Happens Once You Quit?

As soon as you quit smoking, you will start to experience the following physical changes:

20 minutes after your last cigarette: Your heart rate, blood pressure and body temperature returns to normal,

After 24 hours: The carbon monoxide levels in your blood reduce rapidly.

After 2 weeks – 3 months:

– Your effort capacity increases,

– Coughing decreases and diminishes in 3 months,

– If you have phlegm, it decreases by half in 2 weeks,

– Breathing gets easier,

– Your senses of smell and taste improve,

– Your immune system starts to get stronger,

– Yellow stains on teeth and fingers disappear.

 After 1 year:

– Risk of having a heart attack decreases by 50%,

– Risk of apoplexy and vascular diseases in legs are reduced by 30-50%,

– Prevents the occurrence or halts the progression of lung diseases that might lead to respiratory failure such as COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.)

 After 5 years:

– Risk of developing cancers of the mouth, throat, esophagus, bladder is reduced by half.

After 10 years:

– Within 5-10 years, risk of having a stroke drops to the same as that of a non-smoker,

– Risk of developing cancers of the lungs, mouth, throat, esophagus, bladder, kidney and pancreas continues to drop.

After 15 years:

– Risk of coronary artery disease and heart attacks drops to the same as that of a person who has never smoked a cigarette.

The Closest Friend of Smoking: Lung Cancer

Lung cancer occurs as a result of uncontrolled cell growth in tissues of the lung due to DNA mutation. There are several causes for that to happen such as inhaling chemicals, smoking cigarettes, genetic susceptibility, and being exposed to cigarette smoke. Lung cancer is the most common cause of cancer-related deaths worldwide for both males and females, and is responsible for 20% of all cancer-related deaths.

Non-Smokers Make Up Only 1% Of The Patients 

Lung cancer is divided into two groups as small cell lung cancers and non-small cell lung cancers. Small cell lung cancers make up 10-15% of all lung cancers. They develop really fast and cause metastasis. This type of cancer is closely related with smoking and non-smokers make up only 1% of the patients. And the non-small cell lung cancer which make up 85-90% of all lung cancers is divided into three groups as squamous cell carcinoma, adenocarcinoma, and large cell carcinoma. Adenocarcinoma is commonly seen in non-smokers and women and it becomes more likely to occur in the recent years.

Smoking cigarettes is the most common cause of lung cancer and how long one has been smoking, how many cigarettes they smoke per day, the age at which they started smoking, how deep they inhale and how much tar there is in their cigarettes are all factors that determine the risk of cancer development. When one stops smoking, their risk of developing lung cancer decreases over time and almost drops to the same as that of a non-smoker in 10-20 years. Passive smoking also increases the risk of developing lung cancer by 20-30%. Other main causes of lung cancer include exposure to chemicals such as asbestos, radon gas and uranium beryllium, air pollution, genetic susceptibility, high doses of arsenic in drinking water, radiotherapy and damaged tissues due to lung diseases.

Despite all diagnosis and treatment opportunities, lung cancer still ranks first among the causes of cancer-related deaths. The typical five-year life expectancy is 5% for patients with small cell lung cancer, 57-67% for patients with stage 1 non-small cell lung cancer, and 1% for stage 4 patients. Since the disease is avoidable and treatable in the early stages, the most important aspect of the fight against lung cancer is to raise public awareness of the symptoms of the disease the and the harm caused by the use of tobacco products.