Effect of smoking on health
An average of about 17,000 Australians die from smoking related diseases each year, making it the leading preventable cause of death and illness in Australia.
Tobacco smoke contains over 7,000 different compounds including a cocktail of known cancer-causing chemicals.
Smoking is linked to the development of certain types of cancer including lung, pancreatic, mouth, throat, bladder and stomach. It is also linked to the development of coronary artery disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), stroke, rheumatoid arthritis and osteoporosis.
During pregnancy, tobacco smoke can cause issues with fetal growth, an increase risk of miscarriage, bleeding complications, preterm delivery, reduced fetal lung function and, in some cases, infant death.
Benefits of quitting
People have a range of reasons for why they would want to quit. Personal health and well-being is one of the main reasons, as well as the health and well-being of those around you including family, or your unborn child.
Quitting at any age will benefit your health, and sometimes you will feel the effects straight away as the body begins to repair itself. It is never too late to quit.
Because nicotine dependence is a chronic condition, it may take more than one attempt to give up smoking, and it is quite normal to see people attempt to quit multiple times before kicking the habit completely.
By quitting you will also be financially better off. If a person smokes a packet a day, they will save over $9,000 a year by quitting. Money saved here can then go towards other things which can benefit physical, mental and emotional well-being.
Knowing your triggers
Smoking has many different aspects which can lead to dependence. Obviously, nicotine dependence is the primary trigger, but different people have different triggers which can cause the craving for a cigarette. Here is an outline of possible triggers that may affect your path to quitting:
Habits or patterns
Sometimes tying in a cigarette to daily habitual activities can trigger a craving to have a cigarette. These can include, but are not limited to:
having a drink or a cup of coffee
finishing a meal
talking on the phone
being with friends
starting a new task
taking a break
Smoking is oftentimes used during times of intense emotion, to either deal with them or to enhance the pleasure from them. These could include times that you are:
Social situations where you are around other smokers are a major trigger for cravings. Some examples are:
going to a pub or a bar
going to a party or other social event
going to a concert
seeing someone else smoke
being with friends who smoke
celebrating a big event
As you smoke for a long period, the body becomes used to receiving regular doses of nicotine, so when you stop by quitting, the body reacts to the lack of nicotine by increasing the desire to smoke. This can appear in the form of:
craving the taste of a cigarette
smelling cigarette smoke
feeling jittery or anxious and wanting a smoke to calm you down
The first few days will be the hardest in terms of withdrawal, so the four D’s of smoking cessation can help:
1. Delay acting on the urge to smoke.
2. Deep breathing, slowly and deeply, repeat 3 times.
3. Drink water, slowing sipping, holding it in your mouth.
4. Do something else to get your mind off of it – listen to music, go for a walk or jog, talk to a friend.
There are a range of methods by which someone who has committed to quitting can reach that goal.
Going “cold turkey” means that a person will quit smoking completely, without cutting down on smoking intake, and without any other aid or supports in place. Some find their willpower is enough to get them through this, whilst others find that the cravings and withdrawal symptoms are too overpowering.
Gradual cutting down
Whilst going cold turkey isn’t for everyone, others find it a little less confronting to reduce the number of cigarettes over time. Increasing the time between each cigarette, leading to eventually cutting down the number of packets a day.
General strategies for this method include setting goals and a date to completely quit, whilst being mindful of triggers and learning how to control them.
People often find that using nicotine replacement as a backup to this method alone may be of benefit.
Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT)
Nicotine replacement aims to ease the body of its nicotine craving and withdrawal, whilst avoiding all the harmful chemicals present in tobacco smoke. By helping with the cravings and withdrawal, you are then free to focus on other triggers such as social and emotional stimuli.
Nicotine replacement therapy is available in many forms and dosages. If one type of nicotine replacement product is unsuccessful, there are other options which may be able to address triggers such as habits and patterns of use.
Speak to your doctor or one of our pharmacists to discuss which product is most suitable for you. Your doctor will also be able to assess whether you qualify to have some sorts of nicotine replacement subsidised by the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) on prescription.
There are prescription alternatives to help you to quit smoking but are not suitable for everyone, thus will require a doctor’s assessment before they are dispensed by the pharmacy. These products can block the nicotine in the brain to effectively make smoking less of an enjoyable experience.
Quitting is an important decision, so having the right supports in place around you will help drive your success.
The Quitline (13 78 48) is the first point of call for most people as there are trained counsellors who specialise in smoking cessation on the other end of the line. They are also able to point you in the right direction for further resources such as the QuitPack and are able to help you get back on track with your goals with call-backs.
· QuitlineSA (13 78 48)