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Tobacco Addiction

We have all heard that smoking is injurious to health but seldom do we ponder over it and ask ourselves why. Here are a few points that we must all be aware of to create a society that’s battling and fighting its addiction. To do so, let’s begin with some data:

The Big Facts:
  • Smoking leads to an increased risk of disease and disability that harms nearly every organ of our body. In fact, it is said that Cigarette smoking remains the leading cause of preventable disease, disability, and death in the United States.
  • Over more than 16 million Americans are living with a disease caused by smoking and for every person who dies because of smoking, at least 30 people live with a serious smoking-related illness. Smoking addiction is responsible for causing severe illnesses such as cancer, heart disease, stroke, lung diseases, diabetes, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which includes emphysema and chronic bronchitis. It also increases the risk for tuberculosis, certain eye diseases, and problems of the immune system, including rheumatoid arthritis.
  • According to the data released by the CDC,
    • About 40 million U.S. adults still smoke cigarettes, and about 4.7 million middle and high school students use at least one tobacco product, including e-cigarettes.
    • Every day, about 1,600 U.S. youth younger than 18 years smoke their first cigarette.
    • Every year, nearly half a million Americans die prematurely of smoking or exposure to secondhand smoke.
    • Another 16 million live with a serious illness caused by smoking.
    • And every year, the United States spends more than $225 billion on medical care to treat smoking-related diseases in adults.
  • That being said, firstly let’s learn a bit more about Tobacco and its addictively noxious nature. 
Why is it said to be bad for you?
  • Cigarettes contain about 600 different ingredients which when burnt releases more than 7,000 chemicals out of which at least 69 of them is learnt to cause Cancer and several more have been found to be toxic to the human body.
  • By inhaling his own cigarette smoke, an average smoker takes in about 1-2 milligrams of nicotine per cigarette. And Nicotine as we may know is a stimulant drug that rapidly speeds up the connections between the body and brain. A typical smoker takes about 10 puffs on a cigarette (in roughly 5 minutes- when the cigarette is lit) and thus if he consumes about 1 pack (20 cigarettes) daily, his brain gets about 200 “nicotine hits” each day.
  • And among the population who does not inhale nicotine (i.e the smokeless tobacco users and Cigar/Pipe smokers), nicotine is absorbed via the mucous membranes in the mouth and reaches the brain levels a bit slowly.
  • And once the nicotine reaches your brain, the “kick” you get from it is set in by the adrenaline (epinephrine) released by the neurons (brain cells) in your brain and this rush of adrenaline stimulates your body to cause an increase in blood pressure, respiration and heart rate making you feel “high” and “good”. But the sequelae that succeed after it are far from good and gets uglier as we go down in time making it more difficult to get out of the bog of addiction.

How does smoking affect those around you?
  • The people surrounded by cigarette smoke, even if they are not actively smoking are said to be passive smokers or involuntary smokers and they are said to be the consumers of “second-hand smoke”. Secondhand smoke exposure contributes to approximately 41,000 deaths among nonsmoking adults and 400 deaths in infants each year.
  • Secondhand smoke (SHS) is a mixture of two types of smoke coming from burning tobacco:
    • The Mainstream smoke: Smoke exhaled by the smoking person and
    • The Sidestream smoke: Smoke released from the lightened end of cigarette/pipe/Hookah. And this type of smoke has higher concentrations of nicotine and other cancer-inducing agents than mainstream smoke.
  • There is no risk-free level of secondhand smoke exposure; even brief exposure can be harmful to health especially to people with multiple existing conditions like cardiac problems and respiratory distress issues like asthma. The more a person consumes second-hand smoke, the higher the levels of noxious substances in the body accumulates, the more harmful it is!
  • Effects of cigarette smoking on children: Children who are exposed to secondhand smoke are at increased risk for developing severe conditions like sudden infant death syndrome, acute respiratory infections, etc. and thus must not be exposed to cigarette smoke at any cost.
Are e-Cigarettes/Vapes any different?
  • Short Answer, No. Any tobacco use by youth and young adults, including e-cigarettes, is unsafe as most e-cigarette products sold contain nicotine, the same addictive drug found in other tobacco products including cigars and cigarettes.
  • E-cigarettes also called “e-cigs,” “vapes,” “e-hookahs,” “vape pens,” and “electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS)” have different vernacular names. Some e-cigarettes look like regular cigarettes, cigars, or pipes. Some look like USB flash drives, pens, and other everyday items and are equally dangerous.
  • Vapes are mostly abused by adolescents and youth contains nicotine which is highly addictive can harm the adolescent brain in more ways than one. Compared with older adults, the brains of youth and young adults are more prone to nicotine’s harmful effects such as reduced impulse control, mood disorders and poor attention & thinking skills. And it doesn’t help that many youth and young adults who smoke e-cigarettes are more likely to use other tobacco products as well and are more at risk for future addiction to other drugs.


How to quit smoking?
  • Ah, the most important part. The key most researchers argue here is making a firm decision to quit and then the next or equally important step is to be consistent with the decision. But admittedly, it’s not easy so let us break the steps even more so that a more practical plan can be devised. Here it is:
  1. Define your reason
    • Be specific. Dig deeper and define the reason behind your decision to quit. Reasons can be preventing the risk of developing cancers or averting your hypertension from going worse, protecting your family etc. Make your reason stronger than your yearning to lit a cigarette.

2.    Prepare yourself before jumping on the wagon:

    • Since we have already acknowledged smoking or tobacco abuse is an addiction, be prepared beforehand for both the good and bad days. Talk to your doctor, book your place in the support groups, look out for counselling centres or at least have an open, honest conversation with your good friend so that you have a support system ready when things go tough.

3.    Educate yourself about the prescription pills:

    • Yes. We have those! They can help you curb your cravings, mood swings and depression or if the withdrawal symptoms get a little out of hand the pills can come in handy! Be sure to make yourself aware and talk to your family physician.

4.    Avoid your triggers:

    • Is it being around your peers smoking at the workplace? Being under too much stress? If you smoke after having your coffee, consider developing a new habit or skipping coffee altogether for a few days. See what ticks you, and stay clear from it.

5.    While detoxifying yourself, detoxify your space:

    • Make your living space free from ashtrays, cigarette stubs, wash your clothes and linens that smell of cigarette smoke. Your living space is an extension of you so make sure to get the environment and your surroundings happy, healthy and motivating.

6.    Do not be discouraged if you fall back again:

    • Healing is a process and it takes patience and a significant amount of time to get there. Be kind to yourself. Identify what made you go down the lane again. Learn from it and try not to repeat it. Keep a “target day” till you want to be nicotine free and celebrate your progress! Next, keep a farther target day and keep going! You got this.

7.    Be proud of yourself!

    • Develop a holistic approach towards life and stay positive. Reward yourself by realising how far you’ve come. Develop the habit of staying physically active. Go for walks. Enjoy being with people. Develop a new perception towards life and remind yourself that you are the captain of your life and can steer yourself in ways that’ll make your journey worthwhile and fulfilling and steering clear from the addictions is one major way to do it!

Naila Mohiuddin
2021 Red Ribbon Week Team Member at Whitetulip












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