Smoking - Why It's Good For Me But Bad For You!
Well this is obviously a stupid heading but at least it got your attention! Sure, doctors and undertakers deal with the sick, the dying and the deceased and smoking certainly helps people to get sick and die earlier in life than they probably would have but no-one, apart from the cigarette companies, would seriously wish illness and premature death on anyone!
Now that you're reading this document it's likely that you are a smoker who has found it very hard to stop or you are close to someone whom you wish would stop their filthy habit! (it's pretty clear where I'm coming from!). Well this document is intended to give you some hard facts about what smoking is doing to your health and also to explain why it's so hard to give it up. Hopefully, the advice provided at the bottom of this document will help you to eventually give up smoking and regain some of your lost health!
What Does Smoking Do To One's Health?
Smoking does so many bad things to one's health it's a bit hard to know where to start! Statistically a regular smoker has a 50% chance of dying due to a disease aggravated or directly caused by smoking! Pretty bad odds in my opinion!
Smoking deposits tiny carbon particles into the lungs. Many are coughed up as they adhere to the continuous "conveyor belt" of mucus produced by the tiny mucus glands in the skin lining all the air passages. However many are taken up by the lung tissues themselves and remain there permanently slowly turning a smoker's lungs black. This helps to slowly destroy the lung tissues and also the conveyor belt mechanism which means that smokers gradually have less functioning lung tissues to exchange oxygen and carbon dioxide to and from the blood stream. And it becomes harder and harder to cough up the sputum which forms so that more lung infections result thereby contributing to more lung damage. These problems are called emphysema and chronic bronchitis (also collectively called "chronic obstructive airways disease"). Sufferers become progressively more breathless with exertion and finally can't do without a continuous supply of oxygen from a bottle or an oxygen concentrator machine!
Smoking aggravates asthma and makes asthma more dangerous!
Cigarette smoking is the single most important factor contributing to lung cancer, whichis one of the commonest cancers in men. Although they have lagged far behind, women are rapidly catching up with men in the "lung cancer stakes" as more and more young women smoke nowadays! Tragically, it is uncommon for lung cancer to be diagnosed at an early stage when it can still be cured. Therefore most people who get lung cancer will die because they smoked!
Smoking contributes to a buildup of cholesterol deposits in the linings of blood vessels. It adds to the separate risks of high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels in the blood and diabetes. So smoking accelerates the growth of the cholesterol desposits inside blood vessels and promotes heart attacks and strokes. Cigarette smoke contains high levels of carbon monoxide, the gas from car exhausts which kills people when they connect a hose from their car exhaust to the cabin!
Carbon monoxide attaches to that part of the blood which carries oxygen and it prevents the blood carrying as much oxygen. Smoker's blood carries 10% less oxygen than non-smoker's blood so that automatically aggravates conditions such as emphysema and chronic bronchitis (see above). It also makes heart attacks more lethal!
The Blood Vessels:
Smoking causes blood vessels to tighten up or spasm. This narrows the channel for blood and so smoking reduces the capacity of blood vessels to carry as much blood to where it's needed. In addition, as mentioned above, smoking speeds up the deposition of blockages in blood vessels/ Long-term smokers are very prone to developing poor circulation which can lead to gangrene killing off toes and entire feet as well as lower legs! This is virtually never seen in non-smokers!
Smokers are more likely to suffer with dementia, caused either by countless minor strokes progressively killing off more and more brain cells, or by Alzheimer's dementia. As mentioned above, smoking contributes in a big way to the risk of having a major stroke which can kill or, worse still, cause crippling paralysis, disability and permanent dependency!
Smoker's skin develops wrinkles at a far younger age than that of non-smokers. All too often one hears comments that smokers age more rapidly than non-smokers. Smoking damages the elastic tissue of the skin so that it sags and wrinkles earlier in life.
Smokers are much more prone to the development of "macular degeneration", the progressive and irreparable damage to the retina, the light-sensitive region at the back of the eye. The macula is the part of the retina which we use at the very centre of our vision - it enables us to see very fine detail and without the macula reading, watching television, driving and recognising faces become almost impossible!
Just about every type of cancer is known to be more common in smokers! Some cancers are almost exclusive to smokers eg. cancer of the larynx or voice box.
Smokers are more likely to suffer with repeated bouts of bronchitis or pneumonia than non-smokers.
Why Do People Continue To Smoke If It's So Bad For Health?
Well just ask any smoker why they continue to smoke. Some will say that they just love smoking, others will say that they can't give it up! Some will say that they're worried about putting on weight if they stop smoking (there's certainly some truth in this as most people who successfully give up smoking will put on some weight, at least on a temporary basis!).
Whatever the reason it's well recognised that smoking causes nicotine addiction and also one develops a habit of smoking. A third and less well known feature of long-term smoking is the formation of neural connections in the brain which connects anxiety or stress with the need to have a cigarette ie. the connection of relaxing when one has a cigarette - more on this later on!
Addiction to Nicotine:
Nicotine is a major component of cigarette smoke and it is a stimulant. If it is taken regularly either by smoking or by mouth or through the skin for a long time, users will develop a dependency on it. This means that abrupt withdrawal and therefore a drop in blood levels of nicotine will result in withdrawal symptoms developing. These include agitation, a feeling of restlessness and irritability as well as a distinct craving for cigarettes (or whatever was the original source of nicotine!). Smokers seeking to give up for good can choose to withdraw quickly or slowly either by going "cold turkey" or by using gradual withdrawal while still smoking or by using substitute sources of nicotine (eg patches, or chewing gum) and slowly using less and less of these substitute sources of nicotine.
Habituation to Nicotine:
Habits are a bit like routines. Smokers get into the routine of say, smoking when they have a cup of coffee, or when they relax after work or after a meal or with their mates down at the pub. After a while and many episodes of reinforcement of the behaviour, it becomes harder and harder to do things differently! We literally are "creatures of habit". To break out of a habit one must first explore and understand one's current habits, then plan to do things differently and then carefully set about "unlearning" the habit while learning new ones!
Hard-wiring the Brain:
As described above, nicotine withdrawal symptoms are pretty miserable for people giving up cold turkey. And smokers often relax when they have a cigarette! However these are two entirely different phenomena!
The symptoms are nicotine withdrawal are very similar to symptoms we experience when we are under extreme pressure or stress, such as with a family or personal crisis or a serious money or work situation. So the brain rapidly associates stress with nicotine withdrawal. It also recognizes that the relief smokers experience when they have that first "drag" on a cigarette after going without a cigarette for too long is very similar to the relief they experience for example at the end of the day when they relax with friends and have a fag! The brain puts 2 and 2 together as it were and creates a permanent wiring which links feeling under stress with needing a cigarette!
This explains why so many people take up smoking again when they get into a very stressful situation even if they had successfully given up smoking, sometimes even for several years! This is such a common situation that people who plan to stop smoking really need to know about so that they will understand that their brain will alway send them an unconscious message saying " You're under stress, therefore you need a cigarette!"
So How Does One Give Up Smoking?
The bottom line is "If you don't succeed at first, keep trying!" Most people who try to give up smoking will fail at least several times. No matter - the most important thing is not to give up.
Most people who want to give up smoking can and will succeed in becoming non-smokers.
Some people need advice from their doctors, some will just go cold turkey, others will gradually cut down bit by bit. Some will use nicotine skin patches or nicotine chewing gum and some will even try the fancy new tablet called Zyban even though it's terribly expensive and has no better a track record than nicotine patches!! It's also potentially more dangerous than patches or chewing gum.
Some people will need to try acupuncture or even hypnotherapy before they successfully give up.
It doesn't matter what you try or how many attempts it takes to succeed. The only thing that matters is that you do give it up!
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