In 2009, around 10 million adults in Britain smoked cigarettes, with a lesser number smoking pipes and cigars. Those who smoke are more than twice as likely to have a heart attack as those who have never smoked. Most smokers are in the 25-34 and 35-49 year old age groups. Scotland has the highest prevalence of smokers in the UK, followed by Wales. Within England, the North West has the highest number of smokers and by 15 years old, 12% of children admit to smoking regularly.
There are many components in cigarette smoke and these cause or contribute to a wide range of diseases. The main health risks from smoking are coronary heart disease and cancer.
Smoking and the Heart
Because smoking damages the linings of arteries, it causes a build-up of fatty plaques called atheromas. These atheromas cause the arteries to narrow, making it harder for blood to pass thorough, thus leading to coronary heart disease.
Coronary heart disease increases the risk of a blood clot (thrombosis) forming, as blood is unable to properly move through the artery. If a clot forms in the coronary arteries (which supply blood to the heart), a heart attack (or myocardial infarction) can occur. When this happens, part of the heart loses its blood (and oxygen) supply. Because the heart is formed of muscle, if it does not receive oxygen it cannot continue working. If the artery remains blocked, then that part of the heart will die.
Coronary heart disease can also cause angina. Angina refers to a certain type of pain, caused by a lack of oxygen, which occurs when blood tries to move through the narrowed arteries because activity levels increase.
The heart has to work harder because the carbon monoxide in tobacco smoke is able to bind to red blood cells, preventing oxygen from binding to them. This means that because less oxygen reaches other cells and tissues in the body, the heart beats faster in an attempt to deliver the necessary oxygen to them. Nicotine is also likely to stimulate the release of adrenaline, which raises blood pressure and causes the heart to beat faster.
Smoking and Strokes
If a clot forms in an artery in the body, or manages to break off from the wall of an artery, it may travel towards the brain and block its blood supply. This will cause a stroke, which can be a cause of severe disability or even death in adults.
Smoking and Cancer
Around four in every five cases of lung cancer is smoking related. Smoking also has links to the incidence of many other cancers, such as mouth, larynx, pharynx, liver, pancreas, bladder, cervical and bowel cancer. There is a risk of cancer because a number of the 4000 or so chemicals found in cigarette smoke are known to damage DNA. If certain lengths of DNA (or genes) become damaged they can cause cancer.
The health implications are the main reason for most people to take the first step towards quitting, but there are financial reasons as well. With the price of cigarettes continuing to rise, the money saved over a year is more than enough to pay for a family holiday or put towards a new car.
Should a date be set to quit?
Yes, this allows time to investigate the support and treatments available before quitting. It also allows individuals to notify family and friends beforehand.
What treatment or methods work best?
Each person will respond in different ways to various treatments and ways of quitting. Take time to discuss quitting solutions with a doctor or other health professional.
What about weight gain?
Many people put on some weight when stopping smoking. When quitting, try to avoid snacking and consider swimming or joining a fitness class.
What about drinking?
For those who smoke when drinking alcohol, try to keep going out to a minimum for the first few months after quitting, thereby minimizing temptation.
How much money can be saved by quitting?
To answer this, open a new bank account and on pay day, transfer across the money that would have been spent on cigarettes. At the end of the year, see how many hundreds or even thousands of pounds is in the account. A 20 per day habit costs upwards of £2500 per year.
Help with Quitting
The NHS offer a number of free of charge tools, including a Quit Kit and a variety of support materials to help smokers with quitting. A number of people try hypnotherapy to stop smoking. Hypnotherapy is a state of consciousness that is somewhere between sleep and wakefulness. While in this state suggestions are made that help individuals to modify their behavior, such as stopping smoking.
Smoking Cessation Treatment
Champix is a smoking cessation medicine. It contains varenicline, which is a sub-type of nicotinic acetylcholine receptor. These receptors are in the nervous tissues in the body, particularly in the brain. When individuals smoke, these receptors become saturated with nicotine. Because the receptors eventually become desensitized with nicotine exposure, individuals begin to crave cigarettes. Champix works like nicotine and is able to block the receptors. This means that the craving for cigarettes begins to decline. Because nicotine is now unable to find receptors to bind to, individuals no longer feel a desire for, or any satisfaction from, smoking.
As with any medication, there are potential side effects such as nausea and vomiting, heartburn, a bad taste in the mouth, changes in appetite, sleep problems and headaches.
This medication is suitable for most healthy adults, although it may be unsuitable for those who are breastfeeding or on dialysis. Because Champix is a prescription medicine, an appointment with a doctor is necessary to ensure that it is appropriate. In most cases, those who want to stop smoking will start treatment with Champix at least one week before looking to cut down or stop. The dosage starts at around 0.5 mg per day and then increases to 2 mg per day.
There are a wide variety of nicotine-replacement treatments available, including patches, lozenges, sprays, inhalers and gum that may also help people to stop smoking.