Tobacco smoking is one of the world’s most serious public health hazards today. According to the latest World Health Organization estimate, as of August 2023, direct tobacco use has caused more than 8 million premature deaths per year, including 1.3 million nonsmokers exposed to second-hand smoke. The detrimental effects of smoking on health are well-documented, nonetheless, people consume it daily due to the addictive nature of tobacco.

In this blog post, we will look at the damaging impact of smoking on individuals, highlighting the different health problems linked with tobacco usage. In addition, we will explore effective ways for assisting folks in quitting smoking and improving their general well-being.

The impact of smoking on health

Respiratory Diseases: Tobacco use has a negative impact on the entire lung — affecting every aspect of lung structure and function — including an increased risk of infections like pneumonia and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Smoking is a primary cause of lung cancer, as well as respiratory disorders such chronic bronchitis and emphysema. Tobacco smoke contains toxic substances that cause lung illness by damaging the airways and small air sacs (alveoli) in the lungs.

Cardiovascular Diseases: Smoking cigarettes can permanently damage your heart and blood vessels, causing a major risk for heart disease, stroke, and peripheral vascular disease. The chemicals inhaled during smoking damages blood vessels, increases blood pressure, reduces oxygen levels, and promotes the formation of blood clots. These factors contribute to the development of cardiovascular conditions that can be life-threatening.

Cancer: Smoking is the leading cause of preventable cancer worldwide. Tobacco smoke contains a deadly cocktail of almost 7,000 chemicals. Many of them are poisonous. The chemicals in tobacco smoke can damage DNA and cause mutations that lead to the uncontrolled growth of cancer cells. At least 70 have been linked to cancer in humans or animals. People who smoke cigarettes are 15 to 30 times more likely than nonsmokers to develop or die from cancers in the mouth, throat, esophagus, pancreas, bladder, kidney, and cervix.

Reproductive Issues: Smoking can have detrimental effects on reproductive health. Tobacco usage has been linked to an increased risk of infertility, erectile dysfunction in men, and complications during pregnancy, such as miscarriage, premature birth, and low birth weight. Second-hand smoke exposure or passive smoking can also harm the health of unborn babies and children.

Chronic Conditions: Tobacco smoking is a recognized risk factor for many chronic diseases such as diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and age-related macular degeneration. There is sufficient evidence to support the claim that smoking can worsen symptoms and decrease the effectiveness of treatments for these conditions.

How to quit smoking

Set a quit date and make a plan: Set a date for quitting smoking and mentally and emotionally prepare yourself to ditch the cigarettes for good. Create a unique quitting strategy that includes coping methods for cravings, identifying triggers, and finding healthy alternatives to smoking.

Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT): This is a medically approved way to treat people with tobacco use disorder by providing low levels of nicotine, without the tar, carbon monoxide and other poisonous chemicals present in tobacco smoke. Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) items such as nicotine patches, gums, lozenges, nasal sprays, and inhalers can help manage withdrawal symptoms by delivering controlled doses of nicotine. They are available without a prescription and over-the-counter.

Behavioural support: Behavioural interventions provide an alternative – or additional – way to help people stop smoking. When combined with nicotine replacement or other medicines to help people stop smoking, it can significantly enhance the chances of quitting smoking successfully. Consider joining a support group, attending counselling sessions, or participating in smoking cessation programs for guidance, encouragement, and strategies to overcome challenges and maintain motivation.

Identify and avoid triggers: Identify events, activities, or emotions that make you want to smoke and devise alternative coping strategies. Replace smoking with better behaviours such as exercise, deep breathing, or a pastime. Remove smoking accessories from your environment and avoid places where smoking is widespread.

Practice stress management: Smoking relapses are frequently exacerbated by stress. Investigate stress-reduction practices such as exercise, meditation, yoga, and engaging in things that offer you joy and relaxation. These tactics can help minimise stress and the need to smoke as a coping mechanism.

Closing thoughts

Quitting smoking is a challenging journey that requires persistence, support, and a commitment to long-term health. It is important to stay persistent, celebrate milestones, and remind yourself of the health benefits and improved quality of life that come with being smoke-free.

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