Identifying warning signs and overcoming setbacks
Having ‘just one’ is the way that most people go back to regular smoking. Quitting means resisting the urge to smoke even one cigarette, despite the cravings, the habit, the pressure and your own emotional reasons.
You take puffs of other people’s cigarettes but excuse it as ‘not really smoking’. You know it’s only a matter of time before you find yourself buying a pack.
Many of these people have a nicotine addiction and are in denial. They may be social smokers who only use tobacco while they are out with friends, or they may be smokers who believe they can quit when they are ready. Recognising the signs of an addiction to nicotine is important to overcoming denial and getting over the addiction.
Common Signs of Addiction
- Requiring more tobacco to feel satisfaction
- Experiencing withdrawal symptoms, such as irritability
- Using tobacco in larger amounts than intended
- Having a desire to quit or decrease use but being unable to do so
- Experiencing cravings and intense urges to use tobacco
- Continued tobacco use despite awareness of consequences and health risks
Nicotine withdrawal symptoms include:
- Trouble concentrating
- Anxiety and panic attacks
- Trouble sleeping
- Irritability and frustration
- Increased appetite and weight gain
Once a person’s brain is rewired for addiction to tobacco, scenarios that are associated with tobacco use (psychological triggers) can cause cravings for tobacco.
Common triggers for people with a nicotine addiction are driving, drinking, music and even work.
The Risks of Tobacco
Most people, including those who use tobacco, are aware of the serious health risks associated with using tobacco. There are more tobacco-related deaths each year than all deaths from illicit drugs, alcohol, car accidents and murders combined. Many people with addictions have a desire to quit because they understand the health risks. Therefore, it is unsurprising that about 70% of tobacco users have a desire to quit.
Some of the health risks associated with tobacco use include:
- COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease)
- Lung cancer
- Heart disease
- Mouth and esophageal cancer
- Tobacco and Cancer
These are only some of the most common health risks associated with tobacco use. Carcinogenic chemicals in tobacco cause genetic changes, putting tobacco users at a higher risk for many types of cancer.
Smoking causes lung cancer deaths in approximately 90% of men and 80% of women.
How smoking damages the body
As well as nicotine, there are more than 4,000 chemicals in tobacco smoke, of which many are poisons. At least 60 of these chemicals cause cancer.
Tar: When you breathe in tobacco smoke, some tar is deposited in the lungs. Your lungs are lined with tiny hairs that help ‘sweep’ germs and other things out of your lungs. It is harder for these hairs to move if your lungs are coated with tar.
The tar in cigarette smoke contains chemicals called carcinogens, which encourage the development of cancer cells in the body.
Carbon monoxide: Carbon monoxide binds itself to haemoglobin in the bloodstream and prevents it from carrying enough oxygen around the body. This means that someone who smokes is likely to get out of breath and get tired more easily.
Eventually, you can get a lung disease called chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). If you have this, it gets harder and harder to breathe.
Oxidant gases: Oxidant gases are gases that react with oxygen. They make blood more likely to clot, increasing the risk of heart attack or stroke.
Benzene: Exposure to benzene can cause cell damage at the genetic level, and has been linked to a range of different cancers, such as leukaemia and kidney cancer.
Benzene used to be added to petrol, but the practice was stopped because of health concerns.
What Is the Life Expectancy of Cigarette Smokers?
For smokers, quality and length of life depends on the number and severity of smoking-associated illnesses they may develop and if they have other medical conditions such as diabetes or high blood pressure. Other lifestyle factors, for example, use of alcohol or other drugs also make a difference in long-term outcomes for smokers. For smokers who quit, projected health and life expectancy improve markedly at any age of life.
Smokers who quit before age 50 years have half the risk of dying in the next 15 years compared with those who continue to smoke.
Quitting smoking substantially decreases the risk of lung, larynx, esophageal, oral, pancreatic, bladder, and cervical cancers. For example, 10 years after quitting, an ex-smoker has lower risk of lung cancer compared to a continuing smoker. Continued smoking abstinence continues to lower the risk.
Quitting lowers the risk for other major diseases including coronary heart disease and cardiovascular disease. The increased risk of coronary heart disease halves after 1 year of abstinence. After 15 years, the risk of coronary heart disease approximates that of someone who never smoked.