Authored article by Dr. Pavan Yadav, Consultant, Interventional Pulmonology, Aster RV Hospital
According to recent figures revealed by the Global Adult Tobacco Survey 2, about 266.8 million adults aged 15 and above are tobacco users in India and every 10th adult is a tobacco smoker. Lung cancer is the topmost cancer worldwide and is the leading cause of cancer deaths. 90% of all lung cancers are associated with smoking. A recent WHO report has stated that at least 38.5% smokers have attempted to quit out of which 16.8% were able to successfully drop the habit. However, consistent efforts are the need of the hour to help more smokers quit smoking.
Effects and risks of smoking
Smokers have 2-4 times a higher risk of developing heart attack and stroke. Smoking causes your heart to race faster, blood pressure to go higher and induces clot formation in the blood vessels which eventually leads to heart attack and stroke. The lungs have breathing tubes called bronchi and bronchioles which end up in the alveoli where gas exchange between oxygen and carbon dioxide happens. Smoking damages these breathing tubes and air sacs leading to chronic bronchitis and emphysema (COPD). Smokers are 12-13 times more prone to die of COPD as compared to nonsmokers. Smoking is associated with most cancers in the body. Smokers also have a 30-40% higher chance of developing diabetes and are shown to have poorer immune systems. Smokers also have higher rates of infertility. It can lead to higher incidence of preterm delivery, birth defects, low birth weight and stillbirth. Female smokers have been found to have weaker bones.
Though the effects of smoking may not be immediate, the complications that arise from it may appear after many years. Quitting smoking at any point is good because many of the effects can be reversed. If one quits smoking today, in the next 2-5 years the risk of developing a stroke will drop and become similar to that of a non smoker, the risk of developing mouth, throat and esophageal cancer is halved and that of lung cancer will be halved in 10 years post quitting.
Smokers do not just inhale 4000 odd toxins and cancer-causing substances into their lungs, but they also pollute the air around them. This secondhand smoking by bystanders and family members puts them at a similar risk of developing complications as experienced by smokers – and children specially are vulnerable to this.
Kicking the Habit
Nicotine is addictive and withdrawal symptoms may be real, lasting from a few days to weeks depending upon how much you were smoking. Symptoms could range from increased appetite, insomnia, headaches, dizziness etc. however there are any number of reasons to not look back to lighting your cigarettes and you must #findyourreason to QUIT. Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) provides small doses of nicotine minus tar, carbon monoxide and other cancer-causing substances in a cigar. NRT given in tapering doses helps in combating the withdrawal symptoms. NRT is available as chewing gum, skin patches, nasal, mouth spray etc. Bupropion and Varenicline (Champix) are also useful in tobacco de-addiction. Smoking isn’t just a bad habit; it is an addiction and some addictions die harder. As it has popularly been said – ‘Cancer cures smoking” – while this is true, the costs, physical and emotional trauma caused by cancer is too much to bear for anyone with big ambitions, dreams and quitting smoking at the earliest may be more logical.
Every attempt at quitting smoking puts you at a much healthier state than before and brings you a step closer to complete eradication of the habit. Do not forget – help is always around the corner, and you just must look to find the support and resources to help you quit smoking.
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