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Giving up smoking

Smoking is the biggest cause of preventable death in the UK. Around 114,000 people in the UK die prematurely every year because they smoked.
If you are a smoker and you do want to quit then you have already taken the first step by choosing to read this article.
Many smokers are aware that it is bad for your health but the urge to smoke is so strong that people simply put this fact to one side in favour of another cigarette.
There are 4,000 chemicals known to be in a single cigarette, many of which are known to be toxic. Here are some of the most toxic:
  • Nicotine which is the most known chemical, but what is not as well known is that it is also used to kill insects in insecticide
  • Tar also a well known chemical in cigarettes includes a mixture if chemicals; formaldehyde, arsenic and cyanide
  • Methane which is sewer gas, need I say more
  • Butane also used in lighter fluid
  • Cadmium a highly poisonous metal used in batteries
  • Arsenic or poison if you prefer
  • Stearic acid used in candle wax
  • Hexamine also used in barbecue lighter
  • Carbon monoxide
  • Toluene an industrial solvent
  • Methanol which is also used as rocket fuel
  • Ammonia toilet cleaner
  • Paint
You know smoking is harmful and can cause a very long list of diseases and health problems including:
  • Lung cancer
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
  • Stroke
  • Heart disease
  • Cervical cancer in women
  • Impotence
  • Osteoporosis giving you brittle bones
  • Smoking also affects your breathing, taste and sense of smell

Passive smoking

Passive smoking or second-hand smoking occurs when smoke from the tip of a cigarette and the smoke that is breathed back out by the smoker which then stays in the air which is inhaled by none smokers around you and passersby. Wherever people smoke, there is second-hand smoke in the air even though you may not notice it because it is almost invisible and odourless.
Second-hand smoke can still be present for up to two and a half hours even in a room with the window open. You may not see or smell any smoke but it's still there.
Second-hand smoking affects children more so because they have not fully developed and it puts them at greater risk of developing lung diseases such as bronchitis and pneumonia, and predisposes them to cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease as adults. They are also more likely to begin smoking if they see you smoking at home.

Smoking while pregnant

A baby in the womb gets nutrients and oxygen from its mother via placenta and umbilical cord. When a person smokes, some of the oxygen in their blood is replaced by carbon monoxide, If a pregnant women smokes, her blood and therefore her child's blood will contain less oxygen than normal which will cause the baby's heart rate to raise as it struggles to get enough oxygen.
Babies born to mothers who smoke may suffer from these issues:
  • It can cause a low birth weight
  • More likely to be born prematurely it is also linked with an increase risk of miscarriage
  • Have smaller organs on average than those born to non-smokers
  • Have poorer lung function
  • Risk of being a victim of sudden infant illnesses later in life, such as respiratory infection, asthma and cardiovascular disease

Why it's so hard to quit

Nicotine is an addictive drug that causes both physical and psychological dependence. This is a complex form of addiction as you will have a strong desire to smoke, even if you want to stop.
Quitting smoking is not easy by any means especially when smokers suffer from withdrawal symptoms such as:
  • Irritability
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Craving for another cigarette
  • Anger
  • Weight gain
  • Depression
  • Fatigue
  • Constipation
  • Restlessness
  • Insomnia
  • Dizziness
  • Anxiety
Fortunately, the majority of these symptoms tend to disappear after a few weeks. Symptoms such as cravings, concentration problems and an increased appetite will be experienced over a longer period of time.
Have you tried quitting before? Don't worry about failing to quit too much most people who give up successfully have been through several attempts to quit before they actually manage it.
You know that smoking is bad for you and you know that if you give up you can improve your health and enjoy a longer, healthier life, but what else do you benefit from giving up smoking?
If you smoke 20 cigarettes a day, in one year you would save 1,898 if you stopped smoking. In five years that would be 9,490 and it ten years you will save 18,980.
Not only will you feel healthier you will look healthier to as smoking reduces the amount of nutrients, including oxygen the skin gets causing it to age faster. Stopping smoking has been found to reduce the appearance of wrinkles.
Within two to twelve weeks of quitting the circulation improves making all physical activities easier.

How to quit

Set yourself a date for quitting a good target would be a month. Those that choose to cut down gradually will prolong the withdrawal process and therefore making it harder to quit. Nicotine can be eliminated from your body as quickly as 48 hours after your last cigarette. The withdrawal symptoms will therefore be most severe for the first two or three days, and will then settle over the following two or three weeks.
You can also try getting yourself a quitting partner someone you know that also smokes whether it's a family member, a friend or a work colleague and you will be able to give each other support.
Not sure you can do it on your own? There are lots of people around that will be able to give you help and support:
  • Family and friends
  • Support groups
  • Dedicated smoke free help lines
  • You're GP
Now that you have the basic guidelines you can work towards being smoke free. Good luck!
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Editor: Ryan Cranston

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All content within this article is provided for general information only, and should not be treated as a substitute for the medical advice of your own doctor or any other health care professional. Health Matters is not responsible or liable for any diagnosis made by a user based on the content of the Health Matters website. Health Matters is not liable for the contents of any external internet sites listed. Always consult your own GP if you're in any way concerned about your health.

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