Expert views on health issues that matter

Cigarettes - the tipping point..

ShyamprofileDr. Shyamprasad


“If you have your first cigarette of the day within five minutes of waking, your addiction is pretty strong. If it’s within 30 minutes, it’s moderate and, if it’s within 60 minutes or later, it’s somewhat lower,” says Cheryl Yates, a master certified tobacco treatment specialist at The Tobacco-Free Wellness Center at The Reading Hospital and Medical Center in Pennsylvania.

Other signs of nicotine addiction include:

  • Smoking in excess of 7 cigarettes a day
  • Smoking during illnesses
  • Moving outdoors even during inclement weather to smoke

Another way to recognise addiction is if one experiences withdrawal symptoms on temporary stoppage of smoking.

Some common withdrawal symptoms are:

  • Irritability and anger
  • General sense of restlessness
  • Depression
  • Physical sensations, like you have a mild case of the flu
  • Inability to sleep continuously
  • Cravings for a smoke
  • Weight gain, without connection to dietary intake

Effects of Smoking

Before discussing over the effects of smoking lets categorize them into 2 groups, short term and long term effects of smoking. These effects should not be overlooked as they are detrimental to your health. Let us have a look into short and long term effects of smoking one by one:

Short Term Effects of Smoking:

The short changes that occur due to smoking can be monitored as the increase in the blood pressure and the heart beat rates, in relation to the person's normal rates. One may also observe the reduction in the blood flow to the hands and feet and there will be short term stimulation to the brain and nervous system.

Some people think that smoking is one of the ways to lose their body weight by reducing appetite, but in reality smoking is not the correct way for weight loss. It has been noticed that after quitting smoking the smokers put on weight, this is because quitting smoking helps in getting back their appetite in normal. In such case body weight should be maintained and controlled by a healthy diet and not by smoking.

Though there is a never an exhaustive list of short term smoking effects these may not show any serious effects.

  • Awful breath
  • Yellowish shade on teeth and fingers
  • Continuous cough
  • Reduction in taste and smell
  • Weaker immune system
  • High chances of getting regular colds and flu
  • Reduced potency in men
  • Reduced fertility in women
  • Negative effects on pregnant women and their baby
  • Smoking also affects skin to look older

Long Term Effects of Smoking

The transition of the effects from short term to long term needs to be observed closely as in most cases this is the point of 'no return'. Sometimes complete stoppage beyond this point may not help the individual to gain back his health fully due to the damage already done.

Following is the list of long term effects of smoking that smoker may have throughout one's life:

  • Cancers (affecting a multitude of organs and/or body parts)
  • Lung diseases
  • Heart disease
  • Heart stroke
  • Blood Circulatory problems
  • Stomach Ulcers
  • Premature aging
  • Damage to the foetus in women
  • Causing low sperm count and impotence in men
  • Spontaneous abortion (miscarriage)
  • Decreased lung function (reduced expansion and contraction)
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (chronic lung diseases)

De addiction methods and options:

            A prolonged period of abuse cannot be overcome in short period of time, the physical and physiological effects take time to return to normalcy. However taking the entire process of de addiction one day at a time is the best way forward.

A few first steps to aid the entire process of de addiction:

Some strategies for dealing with the usual triggers:

  • If you smoke with your morning coffee, plan to have your first coffee at work where you probably can’t smoke.
  • If you smoke while driving, plan to take a different route. It will keep your mind occupied, so that you won’t be on autopilot.
  • If you smoke after meals, plan to get up after a meal. Go for a walk, brush your teeth, do something different.
  • If you smoke when you’re on the phone, put one of those stress balls next to your phone to keep your hands occupied.
  • Plan to keep yourself busy in the beginning. Too much unstructured time is not a good thing when it comes to smoking cessation.

What happens if one cannot manage and has that one smoke..

  • The most important thing you can do is avoid all or nothing thinking. Don’t  

give up and let a slip turn into a major relapse.

  • Throw out the rest of the pack.
  • You’re not a failure if you slip.
  • The more times you try to quit, the greater your chance of success.
  • Learn from your experience. What you could have done differently.
  • Never forget your reasons for quitting in the first place.

Quitting is easier with support. Choose people who you think will be helpful. Tell them your plan and how they can help. Also tell them how they cannot help.

  • Friends can help distract you.
  • They can listen to you.
  • Sharing your struggles makes the the experience lighter.
  • But explain that you want to keep your conversations light. Nothing serious that will add to your tension.

One can seek professional help and advise from the de addiction centers in order to help cope with the withdrawal symptoms associated with quitting smoking. Sometimes de addiction would require medicinal support to help the body cope with the side effects and to prevent any further damage. The body's craving of nicotine can me addressed in a multitude of methods like:

  • Nicotine Patches
  • Nicotine Lozenges and Nicotine Gum
  • Nicotine Inhalers and Nicotine Nasal Spray
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