More often than not, smokers know the health risks associated with smoking—even if it leads to cancer or even death. In Singapore, tobacco kills approximately 2,500 smokers and 250 non-smokers each year, according to the World No Tobacco Day information paper.
There is no safe-level of smoking. Smoking even just one cigarette per day over a lifetime can cause smoking-related cancers and premature death. A study found that even those who smoked an average of less than one cigarette a day over their entire lives were 64 per cent more likely to die earlier than people who never smoked.
Smoking and Infertility
Moreover, for couples who are trying for a baby, the importance of stopping smoking becomes more crucial as men and women who smoke take longer to conceive than non-smokers. The chance of smokers getting pregnant are reduced by almost half each month. Smoking can also affect the success rate of fertility treatment, for instance, IVF (In vitro fertilisation).
Still, whether you are a relatively light smoker or a heavy one that lives on an entire pack of cigarettes (or more each day), kicking the habit once and for all can be a tall order.
What stops smokers from quitting even if all they want to do is to stay away from cigarettes altogether? We explore possible reasons and share strategies to help you journey towards a smoke-free life.
What Stops Smokers From Quitting?
There might be many reasons or mindsets that impede smokers from quitting cigarette smoking. Ever heard a smoker leave such comments?
“I don’t need to quit because I’m just a social smoker.”
“I have cut down my number of sticks.”
“I’m smoking an e-cigarette, which is not harmful.”
“I’m too old to quit smoking.”
However, smoking is more than just a mere act and that’s when it is important to identify what one’s smoking habit is like. Doing so can help to pave the way for smokers to quit in a way that is ideal for them. After all, withdrawal symptoms are an all-too-familiar process especially for heavier smokers trying to quit.
For some, smoking could be purely physical and for others, influenced by behavioural or psychological aspects. Smokers who are dependent on the physical aspect of smoking, for instance, may find it uncomfortable not having a cigarette wedged between their fingers.
When smoking becomes habitual, it becomes increasingly difficult for one to be freed from the addiction to nicotine—a chemical substance in cigarettes that produce pleasing effects in the brain.
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Another common quip as to why smokers have yet to quit is: “I’m smoking “filter” cigarettes which are less harmful.”
However, according to Dr. Fahir Khiard from Speedoc, cigarettes are exposed to a variety of toxic chemicals such as nicotine, tar and carbon monoxide, regardless of whether a cigarette has a filter or not.
In addition, harmful chemicals are not filtered out effectively as smokers subconsciously block the filter vents with their hands and mouth. A cigarette alone contains over 7,000 chemicals and in these chemicals, 70 of them are cancer-causing substances.
But if you think that it’s too late to quit smoking since you’ve been at it for the longest time, it definitely isn’t.
Immediate Health Benefits of Quitting Smoking
Here’s why there are more than ample reasons why you should kick the habit right away. For one, you can expect relatively immediate, yet substantial benefits to your health.
Heart rate and blood pressure begin to return to normal levels. When smoking, these levels can reach an abnormal high.
The level of carbon monoxide in the blood begins to decline, allowing for better oxygen flow in the bloodstream. This happens only within a few hours after quitting.
Within a few weeks, quitters find themselves with improved circulation. They also produce less phlegm, experience less frequent wheezing, and stop coughing.
Within just several months, quitters can expect substantial improvements in lung function.
And within a few years, quitters are found to have lower risks of chronic diseases such as cancer and heart diseases among others.
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The journey to being smoke-free can be long and arduous, but we are here with you every step of the way.
Some Factors That Trigger The Urge To Smoke
However, as you embark on your journey to stay smoke-free, there might be instances or situations that might trigger your urge to smoke. Being aware of them can help you better overcome your dependence on nicotine and forge on with a quit plan. Here are some common situations you might want to take note of:
A cup of coffee or tea might seem enticing, but the caffeine present in it can trigger the need to smoke. Caffeine can also be present in soft drinks. It helps to be mindful of how caffeine can be a huge trigger for cravings when you actually quit smoking. Likewise, taking breaks at work can trigger the need to smoke.
Talking on the phone
It’s difficult to resist a stick or even more while enjoying a drink. That’s because nicotine has the ability to alter how the brain responds to alcohol. Coupled with more nicotine intake, the need for the feel-good chemicals produced in the brain increases.
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Spending time with friends
Whether or not you are a social smoker or the type of smoker that cannot go without a cigarette every couple of hours, one can be compelled to smoke in the presence of friends, and even more so with smoking buddies.
Strategies to Quit Smoking
You might have already tried various methods to quit smoking, but here are some tips that you might find useful. Do however note that every individual is different and so is the approach to tackling smoking. Always listen to your body and seek help from health professionals when in doubt.
Going cold turkey (quitting a substance all at once)
Come up with a quit plan and set a quit date—and stay firm on that decision. It is difficult but the mind is more powerful than you think. This is also highly recommended, according to those who have successfully quit smoking through the I Quit 28 Day Countdown.
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If you’re not too into the method of going cold turkey, you can gradually ease into the process by cutting down on the number of cigarettes you are smoking per day.
Following the date that you have set, slowly reduce the number of sticks to zero.
Seek Professional Help from Quit Advisors
Quit Advisors will help to assess your level of addiction and customise a quit plan for you.
You can also call the Health Promotion Board’s Quit Smoking helpline (1-800-438-2000) to speak to a Quit Advisor, or get the “I Quit” mobile app.
There are also smoking cessation programmes in Singapore, as well as quit support groups that you can take to help you journey through the process.
Consider prescription drugs such as Varenicline and Bupropion Hydrochloride tablets as they weaken the urge to smoke. They also help to reduce nicotine withdrawal symptoms. Paired with counselling, pharmocotherapy doubles your chances of quitting for good.
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Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT)
As with quitting smoking, there is a strong likelihood for one to experience withdrawal symptoms to nicotine. Hence, Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT) can be a good way to help reduce its side effects.
As a smokeless nicotine product, how NRT works is that it releases small amounts of nicotine into the body such that it counters the cravings and relieve withdrawal symptoms.
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved five forms of NRT namely: patch, gum, nasal spray, inhalers and lozenges.
Users are advised to steadily reduce their nicotine intake or increase the time between each use until nicotine consumption is no longer a regular affair—and that they no longer experience any withdrawal symptoms.
Do take note however that those who are still smoking or using tobacco products should not use NRT. If one wishes to do so, he/she should seek advice from a health care professional.
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