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Smoking, health effects, addiction, quitting and treatments

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What do we know about smoking common among young people in The Gambia

10 health effects of smoking

Cancer, breathing problems and chronic respiratory conditions, heart diseases, stroc and blood circulations problems, diabetes, infections, dental problems, hearing loss, vision loss.

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Smokers usually become dependent on nicotine and suffer from physical and emotional (mental or psychological) symptoms. These symptoms include irritability, nervousness, headaches, and trouble sleeping. The true marker for addiction, though, is that people still smoke even though they know smoking is bad for them — affecting their lives, their health, and their families in unhealthy ways. Nicotine is an addictive drug just like heroin and cocaine.

How dangerous is smoking     

Smoking is one of the most dangerous habits to pick up for a person and it is even more dangerous for people with asthma or heart problems. Smoking includes products filled with tobacco and is inhaled into the lungs through a cigarette, pipe, cigar or bong

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Smoking is a major health risk because it can cause heart attacks, long-standing lung diseases, and finally lung cancer and death and even cause birth defects of children born from parents who are smokers. The other forms of cancer caused by smoking are also gum, kidney, breast, throat, bladder, stomach and bowel cancer.

Unfortunately, we do not have reports about the death rate of dying of smoking here in the Gambia but according to the facts of biological and long-term harming of smoking and the long-term illnesses caused death of many, many Gambians every year too.

Sadly, the fact is that the importing of poor quality of different kinds of cigarettes into the Gambia in a very large quantity is allowed and sold for far cheaper prices than in the western countries.

This is even more encouraging for very young and younger people to afford buying them and harming their health, starting at a young age in their lives. Cigarettes are available for sale in every corner and every corner shop in the country, sold without any control and any restrictions of age, even selling them in single cigarette out of the box for a few affordable dalasi in particular to very young people too.

It is so heart- breaking to see so many young male Gambian on many public places in front of corner shops and often on the beach smoking cigarettes and pretending adolescence given free to young people to have a test of it and make them buy later.  

More than 12 million people have died from smoking since the 1964 report, and another 25 million people alive today are expected to die of a smoking-related illness, according to the department of Health and Human Services

The death rate in the western countries from smoking has reached almost 500,000 deaths per year and some experts predict that 1/3 of smokers will have their lives shortened because of complications from smoking. Gambian smokers are not an exception, suffering and dying from these mentioned health risks every year too.

Who is most likely to become addicted?

Anyone who starts smoking can become addicted to nicotine. Studies show that cigarette smoking is most likely to become a habit during the teen years. The younger a person is when he or she begins to smoke, the more likely he or she is to become addicted to nicotine. Almost 90% of adult smokers first smoked at or before at a very young age even at 10 years.

The nicotine in cigarette smoke can cause addiction. Nicotine is an addictive drug just like heroin and cocaine:

Nicotine reaches the brain within seconds after taking a puff, but its effects start to wear off within a few minutes. This is what most often leads the smoker to get another cigarette. If the smoker doesn’t smoke again soon, withdrawal symptoms kick in and get worse over time

The typical smoker takes about 10 puffs from each cigarette. A person smoking a pack per day gets about 200 “hits” of nicotine each day.

When taken in small amounts, nicotine creates pleasant feelings that make the smoker want to smoke more. It acts on the chemistry of the brain and central nervous system, affecting the smoker’s mood. Nicotine works very much like other addicting drugs, by flooding the brain’s reward circuits with dopamine (a chemical messenger). Nicotine also gives you a little bit of an adrenaline rush (kindly hormone) — not enough to notice, but enough to speed up your heart and raise your blood pressure.

What does nicotine do?

In large doses nicotine is a poison and can kill by stopping the muscles a person uses to breathe. But smokers usually take in small amounts that the body can quickly break down and get rid of. The first dose of nicotine makes a person feel awake and alert, while later doses make them feel calm and relaxed.

Nicotine can make new smokers, and regular smokers who get too much of it, feel dizzy or sick to their stomachs. The resting heart rate for young smokers increases 2 to 3 beats per minute more. Nicotine also lowers skin temperature and reduces blood flow in the legs and feet. It may play a role in increasing smokers’ risk of heart disease and stroke, but other substances in cigarette smoke likely play a bigger part., Nicotine is what gets (and keeps) people addicted to tobacco, but other substances in tobacco cause cancer.

Why do people start smoking?

Most people begin smoking as teens. Those with friends and/or parents who smoke are more likely to start smoking than those who don’t. Some teens say that they “just wanted to try it,” or they thought it was “cool” to smoke.

The tobacco industry’s ads, price breaks, and other promotions for its products are a big influence in our society. The tobacco industry spends billions of dollars each year to create and market ads that show smoking as exciting, glamorous, and safe. More than one-third of the movies that show cigarettes are youth-rated films. And studies show that young people who see smoking in movies are more likely to start smoking.

TV ads for smoking have been banned for many years, but films that show tobacco brands are much more likely to include smoking scenes as part of their TV trailers. This is also another fact of watching these movies in the Gambia too.

Is smoking common among young people in The Gambia?

I am afraid I must answer this question certainly and surely with a big Yes.  Research has found that even smoking as few as 1 to 4 cigarettes a day can led to serious health outcomes, including an increased risk of heart disease and a greater chance of dying at a younger age

Smoking first hand is not the only danger. Second-hand smoke has also led to the aforementioned conditions of people who do not smoke but are in the company of those who do smoke.

The dangers of smoking and second-hand smoke have forced many countries, cities and even states worldwide to create public smoking bans. Many bans have made it illegal to smoke in restaurants, bars, casinos and arenas and offices. I am certainly thankful to Gambian Authorities for creating the same regulation in the Gambia too.

Smoking is extremely prominent in films and literature. The most famous movie star smoker was Humphrey Bogart and the most famous literature character smoker was Sherlock Holmes.

There are a variety of ways for smokers to quit their bad habit. Tobacco and nicotine are extremely addicting drugs that can be difficult to pull away from. Some ways of quitting smoking are using nicotine replacement therapies which include gum and the patch, hypnosis, quitting ‘cold turkey’ and acupuncture.

How smoking affects children?

DR Paulino a senior Consultant Pediatrician at the Medicare Clinic express the following ‘concern”

Children breathe faster than adults and inhale more chemicals when exposed to second-hand smoke. They are at greater risk of:

Asthma — passive smoking increases both the risk of developing asthma and the symptoms of asthma, Behavioral problems — these include attention deficit hyperactivity disorder  (ADHD) and antisocial behavior, Middle ear infections — these can cause temporary hearing impairment and in severe cases the damage can be permanent, Poor lung development — children’s lungs are still developing and the increased levels of carbon monoxide from second-hand smoke aggravates allergies and increases the risk of respiratory illness, Respiratory illness — bronchitis, croup, bronchiolitis and pneumonia are the most common causes of death in childhood worldwide, Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) — the risk of SIDS is double for children exposed to second-hand smoke, School absences — missing school through health issues can result in gaps in their learning, Children of smoking parents may also have learning difficulties, slower growth and be shorter than children of parents who do not smoke. They are more likely to become smokers themselves, putting their long-term health at risk.

What are the health effects of smoking?

While smoking has long been linked to an array of health problems, recent research shows that the harmful habit is worse than previously known.

The new report found that smoking is conclusively linked to leukemia (blood disease, cataracts and pneumonia (lung diseases as well as cancers, cervix and kidneys. Other complications linked to smoking in the report included diabetes complications, hip fractures and reproductive complications.

The toxins from cigarette smoke can go everywhere through the blood flow. “I’m hoping this new information will help motivate people to quit smoking and convince young people not to start in the first place.”

Despite the damaging effects of tobacco use, quitting smoking has immediate and long-term effects such as improved circulation and a drop-in heart rate, the report found. Even quitting late in life can have positive effects: Giving up tobacco at age 65 can reduce a smoker’s risk of dying of related disease by 50 percent.

Smokers have been led to believe that “light” cigarettes are a lower health risk and are a good option to quitting. This is not true. Studies have not found that the risk of lung cancer is any lower in smokers of “light” or low-tar cigarettes.

Hand-rolled cigarettes are thought by some people to be a cheaper and healthier way to smoke, but they are not safer than commercial brands. In fact, life-long smokers of hand-rolled cigarettes have been found to have a higher risk of cancers of the larynx (voice box), esophagus (swallowing tube), mouth, and pareve though herbal cigarettes do not contain tobacco, they give off tar and carbon monoxide and are dangerous to your health. The bottom line is there’s no such thing as a safe smoker (throat) when compared with smokers of machine-made cigarettes.

Some cigarettes are now being sold as “all natural”. They are marketed as having no chemicals or additives and rolled with 100% cotton filters. There is no proof they are healthier or safer than other cigarettes, nor is there good reason to think they would be. Smoke from these cigarettes, like the smoke from all cigarettes, contains many agents that cause cancer (carcinogens) and toxins that come from the tobacco itself, including tar and carbon monoxide.

Smoking causes cancer

Lung cancer is one of the most common causes of cancer deaths in the world. According to the American Lung Association, 90% of male lung cancer patients develop their disease because of smoking. In addition, male smokers are 23 times more likely to develop lung cancer than those who have never smoked. Female smokers are 13 times more likely to develop lung cancer than those who have never smoked.

In addition to lung cancer, smokers also have a significantly higher risk of developing:

Smoking contributes to 80% of lung cancer deaths in women and 90% of lung cancer deaths in men (American Lung Association).

Bladder cancer, Kidney cancer, Cancers of the pharynx and larynx (throat cancer), Mouth cancer, Esophagus cancer, Cancer of the pancreas, Stomach cancer, some types of leukemia, Cancer of the nose and sinuses, Cervical cancer, Bowel cancer, Ovarian cancer, In some cases, also breast cancer., Smoking also raises the risk of cancer recurrences (the cancer coming back).

Risk factors you can change

Smoking is by far the leading risk factor for lung cancer. About 80% of lung cancer deaths are thought to result from smoking and this number is probably even higher for small cell lung cancer (SCLC). It’s very rare for someone who has never smoked to have SCLC.

The risk of lung cancer for people who smoke is many times higher than for people who don’t smoke. The longer you smoke and the more packs a day you smoke, the greater your risk.

For further information and advise you can send text messages to Dr Azadeh on 7774469 /3774469, between 4-6 pm working days and email to [email protected] and DR PAOLINO [email protected] and to THE FRANCIS Degaulle NJIE FOUNDATION (FDNF) on 8903104/3903104. Email: [email protected]

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