11 reasons to quit smoking

March 14 is "NO SMOKING DAY". Did you know, on an average, each cigarette cuts down a smoker's life by around 11 minutes? Reason enough why you need to stop being Smokin' "Joe" or "Jane"

CigaretteMost habits start early in life; also, most often, we do nothing to change them. In the long run, these habits become as natural as breathing, sleeping, and eating.

Cigarette smoking is one foremost example of such a distressing tendency, nay addiction, gone askew. It is also a paradox, really. On the one hand, we have strong evidence to suggest that cigarette smoking is dangerous to health. On the other, both cigarette companies and the media continue to play a colossal role in making cigarette-smoking eye-catching and enthralling to adults and kids alike. Not only that. They also glamourise smoking in print, on television, and in movies.

The only thing a smoker can do if s/he is concerned about one's own and others' health is to give up the craving - lock, stock, and barrel. But, the fact remains - quitting smoking is not easy, although it can be achieved.

As Mark Twain said, "Quitting smoking is easy. I've done it a thousand times." You would, perhaps, think on the same lines. Okay. But, the fact of the matter is there are good reasons to give up the obsession - and, once you achieve this objective, you will sure benefit and also add not only years to your health, but also optimal wellness to your wellbeing.

Here are 11 good reasons why you should kick the smoking lure. The earlier you overcome the "practice," the better it is for you, your family, and also others around you.

  1. Two Ds: Death & disease

    Smoking is evidenced to be the #1 principal cause of avoidable disease and death in the West and the East. This is what it does - cancer of the mouth, throat and lungs, asthma, chronic bronchitis, and emphysema, to name a few. Smoking can also lead to high blood pressure, elevated LDL ["bad"] cholesterol, heart disease, and stroke. In effect, a smoker's risk of sudden cardiac death is 2-4 times greater than non-smokers. What's more, tobacco smoke contains over 4,000 chemicals, some of which have marked hazardous properties. Also, some 60 of them are known, or suspected, carcinogens [cancer-causing substances].

    Nicotine is the chemical in tobacco products that "networks" with the brain and leads to addiction, or dependence. When you use tobacco products, nicotine moves swiftly throughout the body. It is absorbed through the mucosal linings, and the skin of the nose and mouth, or by way of inhalation. When drawn in, nicotine is absorbed by the lungs. From there, it moves rapidly into the bloodstream through which it reaches the brain in less than eight seconds - much more quickly than drugs.

  2. Breathing difficulty

    Smoking leads to a sticky, black tar build-up in the lungs. This affects the flow of oxygen to the lungs and the blood, which carries oxygen to the whole body. This is one major reason why smokers tend to have a tough time breathing. In addition, they are susceptible to chronic coughing [smokers' cough], thanks to increased phlegm [mucous] production.

    Fortunately, the good news is - if you stop smoking, your lungs have the ability to clean up some tar and heal quickly.

  3. Depression

    Smoking is suggested to be a major cause of depression. Research that followed hundreds of smokers and non-smokers over a span of five years, to cull one example, found that the former was twice as likely to suffer from major depression when compared to the latter.

    Remember, it ain't too late to give up smoking. Giving up smoking can sure provide you with a sense of better control over your life. This may prove to the most useful antidote against depression itself. What's more, it also helps you lead a happier, healthier, and more fulfilling life.

  4. Bad influence

    Smoking in the presence of your kids is a dangerous indulgence. Kids are notorious for trying to impersonate their parents. Smoking is no exception. An American Heart Association study demonstrated that 50 per cent of kids of smokers thought smoking was "cool," and also stylish. Not only this. Over an equal percentage of kids of smokers intended to take up the smoking practice, down the line.

    Smoking also reduces the amount of oxygen the blood can carry; it damages the arteries. This may lead to early onset atherosclerosis [hardening of the arteries], or sudden infant death syndrome [SIDS].

    It may also be mentioned that kids of smokers tend to be, by and large, less active.

  5. Nutritional defects

    Kids of smokers have poor nutrition status, and awareness. So, there are no two opinions about it - if you are concerned about your kids' future, stop smoking. There is nothing better than being a role model to your kids and also other kids.

  6. Second danger

    Smoking not only affects your health and wellbeing, it also affects the health of those around you through second-hand smoke. Studies suggest that second-hand smokers are also at a higher risk of developing lung cancer and heart disease, not to speak of other respiratory problems, such as shortness of breath, cough, excess phlegm and asthma - particularly in children.

  7. Pregnancy complications

    Women who smoke during pregnancy often develop ectopic pregnancy - in which the fertilised egg develops outside of the uterus. This is a condition that may be grave for both mother and baby. Other risks for the baby's health may include lower birth weight and birth defects. There is also the likelihood for smoking moms delivering premature babies with notable fatality risks. Besides this, women smokers can also have a difficult time getting pregnant.

  8. Low sperm count

    Male smokers often have a lower sperm count. Most importantly, recent studies suggest genetic mutations of the sperm in smokers - this can also cause infertility and/or impotency.

  9. Spoils beauty

    Smokers will always look like smokers - fire at one end, and fool at the other! Jokes apart, smokers often have more wrinkles - 10 times more - than non-smokers. They have a dull, ashen skin, and countenance, yellow teeth and fingers. Want to look good, again, and make your skin glow? Just do one thing - give up smoking!

  10. Bad body odour and air

    Smokers not only carry the smell of cigarettes around, the penetrative, unpleasant odour also resides in their hair and clothes. It follows them wherever they go. Bad breath is another problem that is as appalling as the smoker's unhealthy body odour. Call this double-trouble, or what you may.

    This is not all. The bad smell of smoking extends to the smokers' homes and cars - another major "side-effect" of this very repulsive practice.

  11. Expensive routine

    Smoking not only burns a big hole in your wallet, it also burns a bigger hole in your health. A pack of cigarettes may cost you anywhere between Rs 20-80+ on an average. Result? If a smoker smokes a pack of cigarettes a day, it is tantamount to Rs 7,200.00-30,000.00+ a year!

    Example: if an individual starts smoking at age 18 and lives till age 70, s/he would have, in effect, spent more than Rs 5,00,000.00-21,00,000.00+ on cigarettes alone!

    If this is not an outrageous waste of one's resources and one's own health and others' wellbeing, what is?!

    Gag the Fag

    You should remember that smoking is not a habit. It is an addiction.

    Experts say that it takes the typical smoker anywhere between six and seven attempts to successfully give up smoking.

    The good news today is - with more and more substitutes to smoking available - there is no reason why addiction to nicotine should kill a compulsive smoker, six-and-a-half years earlier than a non-smoker.

    The mortality from smoking, for example, can be reduced by 24 per cent when the amount of tar is reduced to 10-12 mg in a cigarette. But, the "catch" is - the reduction can happen only when the smoker is able to quit.

    There are also other options to smoking that come to mind - the nicotine transdermal patch, and nicotine gum. The two approaches provide small dosages of nicotine [2-4 mg]. But the best part is: they do not contain disease-causing agents, tar, or carbon monoxide.

    New research has also found that a certain gene could make the difference whether or not someone will start smoking and become addicted to nicotine.

    Gene, or no gene, you have it in you to say "no" to smoking, at any point in time. Want to give up the smoking habit? No need to search the world, again - remember that with a wide array of counselling services, self-help tools, and therapists, to help you combat symptoms of withdrawal - which may goad you to get hooked, again - and, medicines available today, smokers have more options than ever before to help them quit smoking successfully.

    Well, well, well. This also speaks of the good, old dictum. Where there's a will, there's a way. So, if it has to be, it is only up to you to kick the smoking habit - for the good.

    Stat Signals

    • About one-third of the male adult global population smokes
    • Smoking-related-diseases kill one in 10 adults globally. This accounts for nearly 5 million deaths per year
    • Tobacco is the only legal product that causes the death of half of its regular users. Out of 1.3 billion smokers worldwide, 650 million people die prematurely
    • If current trends continue, smoking will kill one in six people by 2020 - three million in the industrialised world and seven million in developing countries
    • Over 300 million men in China, which is equal to the population of the US, are smokers
    • Between 80,000 and 100,000 children worldwide start smoking every day - roughly half of them live in Asia
    • Evidence shows that around 50 per cent of those who start smoking in adolescent years go on to smoke for 15-20 years
    • Among young teens [aged 13-15], about one in five smokes worldwide.

    - Compilation: JUILEE Dandekar

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Rajgopal Nidamboor
Rajgopal Nidamboor, a trained physician, is a writer, commentator, and author. In a career spanning 25 years, Nidamboor has published over 2,000 articles, on a variety of subjects, two coffee table books, an E-book, and a primer on therapeutics, aside from an encyclopaedic treatise on Indian philosophy.

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