Quitting smoking was never on my list of priorities. I’m young and generally healthy and so logically there is no reason whatsoever to quit smoking, right? For God’s sake, I am 26 years old. I mean people who quit smoking are usually middle aged, or suffer from asthma or have just discovered a deadly disease. Other than that, there is no real reason to quit smoking, right?
WRONG WRONG WRONG.
Last week, I had to interview someone for an article I was writing. For once I had made the appointment on time and was therefore feeling rather graceful. I walked into the entrance of the building and found the bawab informing me (with a very apologetic look) that the lift wasn’t working. No problem, I can easily go up some stairs … And with that sense of gracefulness, up the stairs I went.
Who on earth was I fooling!!!! Seven floors later I was out of breath and sweating. I was so embarrassed when my interviewee opened the door and saw this out of shape, out of breath, sweaty and not quite in control interviewer! I tried hiding my lack of breath: “Hello— huh huh, I’m from —huh huh— the magazine —-huh huh”. My introduction lasted a good 30 seconds instead of the usual 5. The title of “Miss Graceful” was quickly stripped away from me.
And that day it hit me: My dependency on the “cancer stick” had crept up on me without my knowledge. OH MY GOD! I am officially an addict! Tobacco had me down, addicted and enslaved beyond recognition.
When you come to the realisation that you’re an addict, things become disturbingly clear. My “get-up-and-go” attitude just seems to have got up and went. Nearly every photograph I have of myself shows me with a cigarette in my hand. Even my social/ family life is being affected. My social life revolves around my smoking and I realised that my non-smoking friends were slowly being deleted from my address book. I panic if I see the pack reaching half and I run out to buy two packs just in case. I seem to spend too much time looking for matches, lighters, ashtrays, and thinking about smoking to be truly efficient either at home or at work.
So that day I decided to quit smoking, or at least try to cut down. I’m sick of smelling like an ashtray, sick of coughing like a 70-year-old and just sick of feeling so unhealthy. It’s time I stop the denial I’m in and get healthy.
I went out and bought some Nicorettes chewing gum. My God they taste awful! I was determined the first day to make it and I went from having about 30 cigarettes a day to just 7. Not bad, an improvement I suppose but the withdrawal symptoms were killing me. I was chewing frantically, trying to drink loads of water and desperately trying to do all the good things I’m supposed to do. But it’s hard being almost “in love” with cigarettes (other smokers, you’ll understand what I mean…. Non-smokers get that expression off your face: it’s hard being addicted!) I never thought that the NICO-DEMON would have such a strong hold of me!
Your mind becomes divided, on one hand you think it’s sexy to smoke; on the other it’s not so sexy when you get up in the morning sounding like Samuel L Jackson. One the one hand, smoking gives you something to do when at a social event. On the other hand it can become dangerous when you’re not listening to the person talking to you at the party because you’re eyeing the room for a lighter or a set of matches. Even my wonderful perfume has been kidnapped by the smell of smoke!
The other problem with smoking is that it is often associated with other things. For example, I ALWAYS smoke when I have coffee. I automatically light up a cigarette when I’m on the phone. I just have to puff away after a good meal. Does this mean that if I stop smoking I have to give up coffee, talking to my friends and eating??
It’s all really a question of will power and determination. I’ve been reading on some facts that have horrified me. I keep reading them every morning to remind myself of why I want to quit.
Take a look at these facts and see if they can encourage you to quit too.
- Cigarette smoking is a well-known risk factor that contributes to, and significantly, increases the chance of having cardiovascular disease.
- Depending on the number of cigarettes smoked, cigarette smokers are six times more likely to die from different mouth related cancers.
- Nicotine causes chemical or biological changes in the brain. This effect is called psychoactive and although it is less dramatic than heroin or cocaine, the strength of the addiction is just as powerful. It is a ‘reinforcing’ drug, which means that users desire the drug regardless of the damaging effects.
- The human body builds a tolerance to nicotine and the effect of the drug is reduced over time. As a result, regular smokers can inhale greater amounts of smoke and therefore greater amounts of toxins, without showing immediate effects (i.e. coughing, nausea).
- Tobacco smoke contains many harmful chemicals, and the smoke itself limits our lungs’ natural filtering/cleaning system. Cigarette smoke also contains substances that directly damage the lung tissue. Smoking irritates the bronchial tubes in the lungs, which in turn results in the production of more mucus. Smokers’ cough, as it is commonly known, is a sign that the lungs are trying to clean themselves.
- Smoking is known to have an effect on babies before they are born. Nicotine, carbon monoxide and other chemicals in tobacco smoke are passed on to the baby through the placenta.
- During pregnancy, smokers have a greater risk of miscarriages. During the birth, they are more likely to have complications. The chances of a baby’s dying at birth or shortly thereafter are increased if the mother has smoked during pregnancy.
SOME MORE POSITIVE FACTS: Quitting: the immediate benefits.
A few minutes after you finish your last cigarette your body begins to repair itself and you’ll reap the health benefits for the rest of your life.
Blood pressure lowers and returns to normal.
Pulse rate slows and returns to normal.
As the nicotine continues to leave your system you will feel the symptoms of withdrawal . REAL CRAVING! Stay strong.
The levels of nicotine and carbon monoxide in the blood are halved.
Oxygen levels increase and return to normal.
Lungs start to work more efficiently and clear out mucus left there by cigarette smoke.
Carbon monoxide is completely out of your bloodstream.
Nicotine is completely out of your bloodstream.
Sense of taste and sense sharpen.
Most of the nicotine withdrawal symptoms are completely gone.
WITHIN TWO TO TWELVE WEEKS
Circulation is improving – blood flow improves to hands and feet. Skin looks more fresh. Overall energy level increases.
WITHIN THREE MONTHS
The tiny hairs (cilia) in the lungs that were paralysed by the tar start to work again and are able to remove the mucus so you can cough it up (lovely!). In fact, when this happens you might find that you are coughing even more than usual, don’t worry this is a good thing and it will soon pass.
THREE TO NINE MONTHS
Lung function has increased by 10%.
Less breathing problems.
Less coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath and sinus congestion.
AFTER FIVE YEARS
Risk of having a heart attack half that of a smoker.
Risk of cancer of the mouth and throat half that of a smoker.
Risk of having a stroke the same as a non-smoker (5 – 15 years after quitting).
AFTER TEN YEARS…
Risk of lung cancer half that of a smoker
Risk of having a heart attack the same as if you’d never smoked a single cigarette!