Smoking is a dangerous and addictive habit which can be very hard to break, but can have life threatening consequences if you don’t quit. Nearly 20% of all deaths in over 35s are caused by smoking related illnesses, according to Public Health England. Smoking can increase the risk of you suffering from high blood pressure, a heart attack or stroke, or lung illnesses such as emphysema and bronchitis. It can also lead to many kinds of cancer - 98% of lung cancer cases are caused by smoking. Smoking also causes serious damage to those around you, as passive smoking (secondhand smoke) can be just as dangerous as smoking yourself. However, if you quit for good, you can reduce the risk of suffering from these illnesses, and after a few decades of being smoke free, your risk will go back to that of a non smoker. You can buy smoking cessation aids from an online doctor such as iMeds. You should take these smoking cessation tablets alongside other methods to quit, such as joining a support group or having a sponsor to help you give up for good.
Smoking is a very dangerous habit which can have serious long term health impacts such as increasing your risk of suffering from lung cancer, bronchitis, COPD or heart disease. If you give up, you can reverse the damage done over the course of a few decades. You can buy smoking cessation tablets such as Champix to help you give up. Champix should be taken alongside being a part of a support group to help you give up for good. This tablet contains an active ingredient which replicates the good feeling that nicotine gives you, to help ease you off smoking. It is a 12 week course which you can repeat if you relapse back to smoking.
Smoking in the UK
Smoking is one of the most common, addictive and dangerous habits you can have. It is also one leading cause of death in the UK. Around 17% of all deaths in over 35s are caused by smoking, according to statistics from Public Health England (PHE). Around one in five people in the UK smoke, and you're more likely to smoke if you come from one of the most deprived areas in the country as opposed to one of the least deprived areas.
Smoking is one of the most difficult habits to kick, and in many cases it takes multiple attempts to quit for good, but there is plenty of help available to do so. Quitting smoking benefits you, your close friends and family, and improves your chances of having happy and healthy children in the future. Although smoking is very dangerous, if you quit for good then over the course of several decades the health risks you may have previously faced will be reduced back to those of a non-smoker.
How does smoking damage my body?
Every cigarette you smoke contains hundreds of chemicals. When you inhale these they damage you from the inside out, but the second hand smoke from your cigarettes can be equally damaging to your friends, family, and the people around you too. When you smoke, the chemicals thicken your blood and reduce the amount of oxygen your red blood cells can carry. If your blood is thicker than normal, you will be at a higher risk of suffering from a blood clot. As your heart will have to pump harder to get the same amount of blood and oxygen around your body, you're also at an increased risk of suffering a heart attack or heart failure. Smoking also increases your risk of suffering from a stroke, which can lead to life changing brain damage.
The most common dangers associated with smoking are to do with your lungs. The vast majority of lung cancer is caused by smoking, but it can also lead to cancers in your stomach, mouth and throat. Smoking will age your skin prematurely as it inhibits the amount of oxygen in your blood. It will also damage your teeth, yellow your fingers, and impact the lives of those around you. Over time there are very few aspects of your life that smoking won't affect. The good news is that if you stop today, over the course of several decades your risk of dying from smoking-related illness will decrease close back to that of a non-smoker.
What are the dangers of smoking?
As well as being an unpleasant habit and causing cosmetic damage such as prematurely ageing your skin and yellowing your teeth, smoking carries with it dozens of serious long-term health risks. The following includes the most common illnesses, but is by no means an exhaustive list:
- Lung cancer. Around 90% of all lung cancer is caused by smoking.
- It can cause asthma, or make it worse if you already have it.
- It puts you at increased risk of having bronchitis, emphysema, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (better known as COPD).
- It increases the risk of you getting a blood clot.
- It causes high blood pressure.
- Increased risk of having a heart attack, stroke, or mini-stroke.
- Increased risk of coronary heart disease, and long-term damage to the arteries around your heart.
- It increases your risk of suffering an aneurysm in the brain or subarachnoid haemorrhage. These can cause long-term neurological brain damage which may impact your life significantly.
- It increases your risk of pneumonia
- It increases your risk of experiencing acid reflux
- It ages the skin prematurely by 10 to 20 years, and can cause your bones to weaken.
Although smoking is found to be more common among those suffering from anxiety, depression and schizophrenia, the relationship between these variables is very complex and although there is a correlation, that does not necessarily mean there is causation. However, there is evidence to support that giving up smoking can help improve your mental health.
What are the dangers of smoking during pregnancy?
Smoking can affect your ability to have a happy and healthy child in a number of ways. In men, smoking has been found to cause impotence. This is because it damages the blood vessels around the penis, but more seriously it can also damage your sperm and reduce your sperm count. Smoking is also a cause of testicular cancer. In a lot of ways, smoking can affect a man's fertility. If you're a woman, smoking might also affect your fertility. It may also increase your chance of getting cervical cancer, as studies have shown that female smokers have more difficulty getting rid of HPV infection which causes it. The fertility a woman who smokes is around 72% of that of a woman who doesn't smoke.
If you do manage to get pregnant and continue to smoke, it can lead to complications during the pregnancy, and may even have an impact on your child's life. As smoking starves the blood of the oxygen it needs, the foetus will not get the oxygen it needs to grow properly. The complications and risks of smoking during pregnancy can cause include:
- An increased chance of the baby being stillborn, and an increased chance of miscarriage.
- An increased chance of the baby being born prematurely. If your baby is born early this can lead to complications in early life such as being at a higher risk of infection, or having to stay in hospital for a longer time after the birth.
- An increased chance of the baby being born too small. Like a premature birth, being born below the expected weight can put your baby at a higher risk of infection, and it is harder to keep the baby warm.
- An increased risk of cot death (sometimes known as sudden infant death syndrome)
- An increased risk of your baby being born with birth defects.
- An increased risk of your baby developing asthma, chest and ear infections, pneumonia and bronchitis.
- An increased risk of psychological problems.
If you're pregnant, or planning to get pregnant, the best time to stop smoking is now. If your partner smokes, you will also benefit from them stopping smoking too. However, it is a very difficult thing to give up, and even if you only manage to cut down, or only stop smoking a few weeks before the due date, you can decrease the associated risks. If you still smoke once your baby is born, if you should do absolutely everything possible to avoid smoking anywhere near your child.
What is secondhand smoke?
When you smoke, the majority of the smoke and by extension the chemicals, do not go into your lungs. Both the smoke you exhale and the smoke your cigarette releases as it burns are known as secondhand smoke, sometimes called passive smoke. Passive smoking is just as dangerous as being a smoker yourself, and carries all the same health risks. This type of smoke is often colourless and odourless, see you can be very convinced that isn't actually there. It can linger in a room for several hours even if you open the window, and it can clean to furniture and spread around the house.
There is no way to contain passive smoking, and it can be especially dangerous in vehicles. In October 2015, it became illegal to smoke in a private vehicle if a person under 18 years old is present, which is indicative of how dangerous it is. The effect of secondhand smoke means that if you are a smoker, your friends and love ones are in just as much danger as you are. Second hand smoke is particularly dangerous to babies and young children, and means they're more like to develop asthma, a chest infection, meningitis, coughs and colds, and ear infections. The safest way to ensure you're not doing any damage to yourself and your friends and family is to give up smoking for good.
What makes smoking addictive?
A chemical called nicotine which alters your brain. Nicotine alters the levels of dopamine and noradrenaline in your brain, and as these increased, you will experience boosting mood and some stress release. Understandably, this is a good feeling to have, and is that people get addicted to. As you smoke more to chase that good feeling, your tolerance for nicotine increases too.
This means you need to smoke more to get the same feel good feeling. The more you smoke, the more you need, and this is how the addiction grows. If you try to stop smoking, you'll get that same feeling of misery and stress which having a cigarette relieves. If you try to give up on long-term basis, you're likely to experience withdrawal symptoms such as paranoia, sleeping problems, shaking and irritability. There will be times when it feels like just one cigarette can relieve all the problems, and this is why trying to quit can be so difficult. However, it is far from the impossible and many people quit smoking the good every year with a combination of medical and moral support.
Why should I give up smoking?
In the short term, it may feel awfully difficult to give up smoking. You will experience short-term side-effects like increased stress, which can grow into paranoia, sleeping problems, and anxiety. Although nicotine will leave your body after 72 hours, you may still be experiencing withdrawal symptoms couple of months later. However there are aids to help you get through the stress and withdrawal symptoms.
No matter what age you only give up, quitting smoking can improve your life hugely. Many of the long-term health risks of smoking can reversed 15 to 20 years after you quit, but your body and health will start to repair itself as soon as you begin the process. After the first few months, you should feel less stressed and anxious in your day-to-day life, and find activities like walking upstairs or running for the bus are significantly easier than they used to be. Because of the dangers of passive smoking, your friends and family will also benefit from you giving up smoking. If you are pregnant, giving up smoking will improve the health of your unborn child, and if you plan to become pregnant one day, giving up smoking will improve your chances of an uncomplicated pregnancy.
Once you give up smoking, you'll probably realise what an expensive habit it was. In the short and long term you should notice you’re saving quite a bit of money by quitting.
What help can I get to quit smoking?
There is a wide range of help you can get either through the NHS or through organisations to help you quit. It is advised to try at least two methods at once: something to stop you smoking, and a support group or sponsor system to help with your morale whilst you do. A lot of people choose to use a chemical aid to help them give up, such as patch or tablets. Champix is one such aid, and replicates the feeling of stress release and happiness that a cigarette triggers. It contains the active ingredient varenicline, which mimics the effect of nicotine, but without the life threatening effects that a cigarette has. Champix is a 12 week course to help you quit, but it can be repeated if necessary to avoid a relapse.
It's important to remember that many people don't manage to give up fully on their first attempt, and it may take a second or third before you do. Speak to your GP for more advice on how to get help in quitting smoking.