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 Smoking, Drinking & Addiction

 
Risks of Smoking and Benefits of Quitting
Dr Kumaresh Krishnamoorthy
 
Did you know that there are over 4,000 chemicals in cigarette smoke? These include formaldehyde (used to preserve dead bodies), ammonia (used in strong cleaning liquids) and cadmium (a highly poisonous metal used in batteries).

And if that isn’t reason enough for you to quit smoking, there are more.

Risks of smoking and smoking-related conditions
It is estimated that about half of all smokers die early from a smoking related disease. The following are some of the most common smoking related diseases that can be fatal:
  • Coronary heart disease - may result in heart attack, other vascular disease, and perhaps lead to stroke.
  • Lung diseases - infections such as pneumonia are more likely to be fatal for smokers.
  • Lung cancer - as well as most other forms of cancer.
  • Additionally, impotence, stomach ulcers and fertility problems may be associated with smoking.
  • Everyday complaints such as coughing, sneezing and shortness of breath on exertion can be attributed to smoking.
  • Smoking also causes premature wrinkling of the skin, bad breath, and an increased risk of macular degeneration, one of the most common causes of blindness in the elderly.
Women smokers are up against some unique risks:
  • Women over 35 who smoke and also use birth control pills are in a high-risk group for heart attack, stroke and blood clots of the legs.
  • Women who smoke are more likely to have a miscarriage or to deliver babies with comparatively lower birth weights. And babies born of mothers who smoke are not only likely to have low birth weight, they are more likely to die or to be impaired.
Why do people smoke?
For most people, the common reasons for starting on the habit include peer pressure, the desire to be ‘grown-up’, natural curiosity and a sense of rebellion or freedom. Children see adults smoking in an attempt to relieve stress, tension and boredom, and children want to mimic this ‘grown-up’ behaviour. Indeed, it could be argued that smoking is sold as a lifestyle and that smoking is a ‘cool thing’ to do.

Why do people become addicted to smoking?
People continue to smoke after having begun on the habit owing to the physical addiction to nicotine, the daily rituals around the habit and the emotional and psychological dependence that is associated with the habit.

Physical addiction: Nicotine is a drug found naturally in tobacco, and is highly addictive. Over time, the body becomes both physically and psychologically dependent on nicotine. After a while, the smoker develops a tolerance, and then smokes to maintain this level of nicotine dependence.

Psychological and emotional dependence: Smoking means different things to different people. For many, cigarettes are a friend, a relief from boredom and a form of relief from stress. For those on a low income, smoking is often identified as their ‘one luxury ’.

Stress: Many smokers believe that smoking relieves stress and there is no doubt that nicotine withdrawal may be followed by unpleasant mood changes. Stress levels can worsen withdrawal symptoms.

But then, for those smokers who have determined to kick the habit for good, there is a lot of gain to look forward to.

Benefits of quitting
Smokers are repeatedly being told about the harmful effects of their habit on their health. However, a better method of motivating smokers to quit the habit is to emphasize the dramatic health benefits they could look forward to:
 
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