“Give immediate relief in cases of asthma.” “Your throat protection against irritation.” “A health cigar.” These are real slogans from real cigarette adverts from the early 1900s. Thankfully, long gone are the days when cigarettes were endorsed by actors, sportsmen, and even medical professionals.
How Smoking Harms
In 2001, South Africa placed a total ban on cigarette advertising. However, research shows that a large proportion of adults (17.6%) still use tobacco products today. Lung cancer (which is caused by smoking) is one of the five most common cancers in the country and is the “leading cause of cancer-related mortality.” Smoking can also cause cancer in almost every other part of your body. This is because when the 600 ingredients in a cigarette burn, they release 7000 chemicals, 69 of which are carcinogenic.
If you need any other reasons not to smoke, it also causes heart disease, stroke, diabetes, emphysema, chronic bronchitis, and increases the risk for tuberculosis and rheumatoid arthritis. We’re not saying it’s easy to quit, but surely those are more than enough reasons to try?
If you think you’re off the hook because you smoke e-cigarettes (also known as vaping) or rollies, think again! E-cigarettes may be less harmful than regular ones, but they still contain a number of cancer-causing chemicals, and they are just as addictive. Despite the increase in popularity of roll-your-own cigarettes (rollies) in recent years, the idea that they are better for your health is a misconception; your chances of getting lung cancer and negatively impacting every organ in your body are just as high when you roll your own. And if you justify your habit with the excuse that you are a “social smoker,” keep in mind that every pull on a cigarette, no matter how infrequent, is going to have an unwanted impact on your heart and lungs.
On a positive note, our bodies are wondrous things, and even if you have been smoking for years, your organs will heal when you quit! In as little as 24 hours after your last cigarette, your blood pressure will drop, reducing your risk of heart disease. After one month, your lung function will begin to improve, and after 9 months your lungs will be significantly healed. Fast forward 20 years, and your risk of dying from lung cancer is equivalent to that of someone who has never smoked in their life!
Beating the Addiction
If you’re ready to eliminate the cancer sticks from your life, we want to do everything we can to help you! The first thing you need to be aware of when you make the decision to quit smoking is that you are most likely going to struggle with withdrawal symptoms in the first few weeks. These include cravings, anxiety, depression, headaches, fatigue, digestive problems, weight gain, and stress. These symptoms can be extremely unpleasant, but after you’ve made it through the first 48 hours, they will start to subside. So, don’t give up and follow the advice below to make things easier for yourself:
- Use a nicotine patch, spray, or gum to alleviate intense cravings. Nicotine replacement therapy gives your body the nicotine that it is craving without the harmful chemicals that accompany it in a cigarette.
- Avoid your triggers! Many smokers strongly associate certain settings (often a club or bar) with smoking. So when you are trying to quit, we recommend staying as far away from those places as possible. Find other places to socialize until your withdrawal symptoms are fully under control.
- Distract yourself. As soon as you start to feel like a cigarette, go for a walk, take some deep breaths, or cook something instead! It’s a good idea to have a supply of healthy snacks on hand so that you can keep your mouth busy when the cravings kick in.
- Find yourself an accountability partner. While an exercise accountability partner is someone who will get you to go for a run with them when it’s the last thing you feel like doing, a quitting accountability partner is a person who you can call to remind you why you’re quitting when the only thing you feel like doing is smoking a cigarette.
- If you’ve tried all of the above and you’re still batting to beat the nicotine pull, give hypnotherapy a try. Although the research results are mixed, there is anecdotal evidence that it works for some people, and you could be one of the lucky ones! Click here for a list of hypnosis practitioners based in South Africa.
- Join CANSA’s eKick Butt Program (it’s free!).