Smoking is the inhalation of the smoke of burning tobacco that is encased in cigarettes, pipes, and cigars. A smoking habit is a physical addiction to tobacco products. Many health experts now regard habitual smoking as a psychological addiction, too, and one with serious health consequences.
Depending on the circumstances and the amount consumed, nicotine can act as either a stimulant or tranquilizer, which explains why some people report that smoking gives them energy and stimulates their mental activity, while others note that smoking relieves anxiety and relaxes them. The initial ‘‘kick’’ results in part from the drug’s stimulation of the adrenal glands and resulting release of epinephrine into the blood. Epinephrine causes several physiological changes. It temporarily narrows the arteries, raises the blood pressure, raises the levels of fat in the blood, and increases the heart rate and flow of blood from the heart. Some researchers think epinephrine contributes to smokers’ increased risk of high blood pressure. Nicotine, by itself, increases the risk of heart disease. However, when individuals smoke, they ingest much more than nicotine. Smoke from a cigarette, pipe, or cigar is made up of many additional toxic chemicals, including tar and carbon monoxide. Tar is a sticky substance that forms deposits in the lungs, causing lung cancer and respiratory distress. Carbon monoxide limits the amount of oxygen that the red blood cells can convey throughout the body. Also, it may damage the inner walls of the arteries, which allows fat to build up in them.
Besides tar, nicotine, and carbon monoxide, tobacco smoke contains about 4,000 different chemicals. More than 200 of these chemicals are known to be toxic. Nonsmokers who are exposed to tobacco smoke, through second-hand smoke, also take in these toxic chemicals. They inhale the smoke exhaled by the smoker as well as the more toxic sidestream smoke—the smoke from the end of the burning cigarette, cigar, or pipe.
Sidestream smoke is actually more toxic than exhaled smoke. When individuals smoke, they inhale and then breathe out, leaving harmful deposits inside the body. However, because lungs partially cleanse the smoke, exhaled smoke contains fewer poisonous chemicals. Thus, exposure to tobacco smoke is dangerous even for a nonsmoker, and smoke from a burning cigarette is more dangerous to the nonsmoker than is exhaled smoke.
The U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) report that each and every day in the United States another 4,000 people under the age of 18 years smoke their first cigarette. Further, each day another 1,000 of these adolescents become new daily cigarette smokers. On average, a smoker will die approximately ten years earlier (due to smokingrelated problems) than a nonsmoker. These health problems include cancer, heart disease, lung diseases, and stroke. Broken down by specific medical conditions, according to WebMD, a smoker faces much more risk than a nonsmoker for the following:
1. 14 times greater risk of dying from cancer of the lung,
mouth, or throat
2. four times greater risk of dying from cancer of the esophagus
3. two times greater risk of dying from a heart attack
4. two times greater risk of dying from cancer of the bladder
Causes and symptoms
Observing someone with cigarettes and a lighter or matches is another sign of regular smoking. Further, someone who has smoked for many years will often have nicotinestained fingers and teeth. They may also smell of smoke as the lingering scent remains on their clothes and other possessions. Smokers are likely to exhibit a variety of symptoms that reveal the damage caused by smoking. A nagging morning cough may be one sign of a tobacco habit. The chronic smokers cough and the gravelly voice, throughout the day and night, are two other clear signs that one smokes. Other symptoms include shortness of breath, wheezing, and frequent occurrences of respiratory illness, such as bronchitis. Smoking also increases fatigue and decreases the smoker’s sense of smell and taste. Smokers are more likely to develop poor circulation, with cold hands and feet and premature wrinkles. Sometimes the illnesses that result from smoking come on silently with little warning. For instance, coronary artery disease may exhibit few or no symptoms. At other times, there will be warning signs, such as bloody discharge from a woman’s vagina, a sign of cancer of the cervix. Another warning sign is a hacking cough, worse than the usual smoker’s cough, that brings up phlegm (mucus) or blood, a sign of lung cancer.
Individuals who try to quit may expect one or more of these withdrawal symptoms: constipation or diarrhea, drowsiness, headache, insomnia, irritability, loss of concentration, nausea
We highly recommend:
Experts suggest the following for smokers who want to break their habit:
1. Have a plan and set a definite quit date.
2. Get rid of all the cigarettes and ashtrays at home or at work.
3. Do not allow others to smoke in the house.
4. Tell friends and neighbors that you are quitting. Doing so helps make quitting a matter of pride.
5. Chew sugarless gum or eat sugar-free hard candy to redirect the oral fixation that comes with smoking. This will prevent weight gain, too.
6. Eat as much as necessary, but only low-calorie foods and drinks. Drink plenty of water. This may help with the feelings of tension and restlessness that quitting can bring. After eight weeks, individuals lose their craving for tobacco, so it is safe then to return to usual eating habits.
7. Stay away from social situations that prompt one to smoke. Dine in the nonsmoking section of restaurants.
8. Spend the money saved from not smoking on an occasional treat.
To satisfy nicotine dependence:
Various smoking cessation programs are available in the United States for the purpose of quitting to smoke tobacco products, primarily cigarettes.
Smoking cessation can be achieved in a variety of ways, those with the help of health care professionals and/or medications, and those without the use of such people and drugs. Some of these programs include nicotine replacement therapy (NRT), individual and group counseling, and computer programs.
There are a wide range of alternative treatments that can help a smoker quit the habit, including hypnotherapy, herbs, acupuncture, aromatherapy, vitamins, and allopathic treatment. For example, a controlled trial demonstrated that self-massage can help smokers crave less intensely, smoke fewer cigarettes, and in some cases completely give up cigarettes.
Hypnotherapy helps the smoker achieve a trancelike state, during which the deepest levels of the mind are accessed. A session with a hypnotherapist may begin with a discussion of whether the smoker really wants to and truly has the motivation to stop smoking. The therapist will explain how hypnosis can reduce the stress-related symptoms that sometimes come with kicking the habit. Often the therapist will discuss the dangers of smoking with the patient and begin to reframe the patient’s thinking about smoking. Many smokers are convinced they cannot quit, and the therapist can help persuade them that they can change this behavior. These suggestions are then repeated while the smoker is under hypnosis. The therapist may also suggest while the smoker is under hypnosis that his feelings of worry, anxiety, and irritability will decrease. In a review of numerous studies of the effectiveness of hypnotherapy, the percentage of people treated by hypnosis who still were not smoking after six months ranged from 4% to 8%. In programs that included several hours of treatment, intense interpersonal interaction, individualized suggestions, and follow-up treatment, success rates were above 50%.
This seminal book has enabled millions of smokers to quit easily and enjoyably:
A variety of herbs can help smokers reduce their cravings for nicotine, calm their irritability, and even reverse the oxidative cellular damage done by smoking. Lobelia, sometimes called Indian tobacco, has historically been used as a substitute for tobacco. It contains a substance called lobeline, which decreases the craving for nicotine by bolstering the nervous system and calming the smoker. In high doses, lobelia can cause vomiting, but the average dose—about ten drops per day—should pose no problems.
Herbs that can help relax a smoker during withdrawal include wild oats and kava kava.
To reduce the oral fixation supplied by a nicotine habit, a smoker can chew on licorice root, the plant, not the candy. Licorice is good for the liver, which is a major player in the body’s detoxification process. Licorice also acts as a tonic for the adrenal system, which helps reduce stress. And there is an added benefit: If a smoker tries to light up after chewing on licorice root, the cigarette tastes like burned cardboard.
Other botanicals that can help repair free-radical damage to the lungs and cardiovascular system are those high in flavonoids, such as hawthorn, gingko biloba, and bilberry, as well as antioxidants such as vitamin A, vitamin C, zinc, and selenium.
This ancient Chinese method of healing is used commonly to help beat addictions, including smoking. The acupuncturist uses hair-thin needles to stimulate the body’s qi, or healthy energy. Acupuncture is a sophisticated treatment system based on revitalizing qi, which is believed to flow through the body in defined pathways called meridians. When a patient suffers from an addiction such as smoking, qi is not flowing smoothly or gets stuck, the theory asserts.
Points in the ear and feet are stimulated to help the smoker overcome the addiction. Often the acupuncturist will recommend keeping the needles in for five to seven days to calm the smoker and keep the person balanced.
One study demonstrated that inhaling the vapor from black pepper extract can reduce symptoms associated with smoking withdrawal. Other essential oils can be used for relieving the anxiety a smoker often experiences while quitting.
Some aromatherapists use a blend of essential oils of lavender, marjoram, palmarosa, frankincense, cedarwood, vetiver, and geranium to reduce the effects of nicotine while in smoking cessation. When a craving for a cigarette is present, use ten drops of each essential oil in an equal part of jojoba oil. Diffuse this mixture with a simmering pot to let it circulate throughout the home, or place it on handkerchief to inhale the aroma. Other aromatherapists use a mixture of cinnamon, nutmeg, and peppermint to inhale when a cigarette craving occurs. Still others use a mixture of thyme and ylang-ylang essential oils, along with jojoba oil.
Vitamins and supplements
Smoking seriously depletes vitamin C in the body and leaves it more susceptible to infections. Vitamin C can prevent or reduce free-radical damage by acting as an antioxidant in the lungs. Smokers need a higher dosage of vitamin C than do nonsmokers. Foods rich in vitamin C include citrus foods, broccoli, red and green peppers, and spinach. Fish in the diet supplies omega-3 fatty acids, which are associated with a reduced risk of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (emphysema or chronic bronchitis) in smokers. Omega-3 fats also provide cardiovascular benefits as well as an antidepressive effect. Vitamin therapy does not reduce craving, but it can help beat some of the damage created by smoking. Vitamin B12 and folic acid may help protect against smoking-induced cancer. Vitamin B6, which helps to metabolize fat and proteins in the body and works with the nervous system to synthesize neurotransmitters, serotonin, and dopamine, helps to maintain a more balanced mood while quitting to smoke. In addition, vitamin B6, in association with serotonin, helps with insomnia caused by smoking cessation. Foods with plenty of B6 include bananas, beans, cereal, nuts, meat, and potatoes. Vitamins B12and B5 help to calm the body (making it feel less irritable) while stopping to smoke. Both vitamins, found in bananas, nuts, tuna, and whole grains, also help to reduce stress and fatigue, and promotes a more regular sleep routine. L-tryptophan is an amino acid that is sometimes used for smoking cessation. Found in the protein of many plants and animals, L-tryptophan is an essential amino acid, one that must be acquired from food because it is not made in the body. After consuming L-tryptophan from food, the human body converts it to 5-hyrdoxytryptophan (5-HTP), and then to serotonin, a hormone that transmits signals between nerve cells. Increased levels of serotonin can improve one’s mood while going through the process of quitting to smoke.
Smoking is recognized as the leading preventable cause of death, causing or contributing to the deaths of approximately 443,000 Americans each year. Anyone with a smoking habit has an increased chance of lung, cervical, and other types of cancer; respiratory diseases such as emphysema, asthma, and chronic bronchitis; and cardiovascular disease, such as heart attack, high blood pressure, stroke, and atherosclerosis (narrowing and hardening of the arteries). The risk of stroke is especially high in female smokers who take birth control pills. Smoking can damage fertility, making it harder to conceive, and it can interfere with the growth of the fetus during pregnancy. It accounts for an estimated 14% of premature births and 10% of infant deaths. There is some evidence that smoking may cause impotence in some men.