Why you should stop smoking today

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UTG Medical Students’ Association

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Sharon Praise C. Uyamadu
6th year medical student (UTG)

You’ve probably asked yourself why health professionals advocate against smoking or why “smoking kills” is boldly written on a cigarette packet even though it temporarily relaxes and calms you after a few puffs. But the dangers of smoking certainly outweigh whatever “benefits” it has.

Within 10 seconds of the first puff, about 7000 toxins are released into your bloodstream. These toxins alter and destroy certain cells, tissues and organs in body systems and predispose you to life-threatening diseases.

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According to a recent report published by WHO, more than eight million people die every year from tobacco smoking, seven million of those deaths being the result of direct tobacco use and around 1.2 million being the result of non-smokers exposed to second-hand smoke.

In the Gambia, 519 people die each year as a result of smoking.

Quitting smoking, as challenging as it may seem, has many health benefits at any age, regardless of how long or how much you have smoked and these benefits are almost immediate.

50 reasons why you should stop smoking

Let’s start with your appearance, smoking affects your physical appearance almost immediately.

1.         It results in bad breath, yellowing of teeth, and formation of dental plaques.

2.         Smoking makes your skin look wrinkly and leathery and age faster because tobacco and the other toxins present destroy certain proteins that give the skin its elasticity.

3.         These wrinkles are commonly seen around the eyes and lips.

4.         Smoking blocks oxygen to fingernails and results in a yellow hue of the fingernails

5.         Smoking is associated with delayed wound healing, increased skin infections as well as skin disorders such as Psoriasis.

Smoking takes your breath away

6.         Smoking Increases your risk of Lung cancer and death from it- Smoking is the number one risk factor for lung cancer and studies have shown that smokers are 25 times more likely to get lung cancer than non-smokers.

7.         About 85-90% of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease(COPD) cases are caused by smoking.

8.         Smoking harms the tissues of the lungs and greatly reduces lung function.

9.         The tar in smoke damages the cilia in the nasal cavity which prevents air from being cleaned up, hence smokers are more likely to develop respiratory infections (e.g. bronchitis, pneumonia).

10.       Smoking worsens asthma and increases the number and severity of attacks.

Smoking shatters your heart

11.       Smoking increases your risk of heart disease and death from it.

12.       Smoking damages the lining of the arteries and leads to the formation and build-up of plaques (Arteriosclerosis) which reduces blood flow to the heart and results in a Heart attack.

13.       Smokers are three times more likely to die from stroke and heart attack compared to non-smokers.

14.       Smoking also causes clot formation in the arteries which can cause pulmonary embolism and heart attack too.

15.       Abnormal bulging of blood vessels (aneurysms) is frequently found amongst smokers.

16.       Smokers are at least three times more likely to die from sudden cardiac death.

Smoking is not your gut’s friend

17.       Smoking is a predisposing factor for peptic ulcer disease and Heartburn

18.       It is also associated with Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)

19.       Smokers are prone to Crohn’s disease as well as intestinal polyps.

20.       Increases risk of Pancreatitis, and liver diseases among others.

Smoking affects fertility

21.       Smoking has been found to disrupt normal ovarian function by reducing the quantity of important female hormones, reducing egg quality, and causing damage to eggs.

22.       Smoking reduces sperm concentration, quality, and motility and changes the morphology of sperm cells.

23.       Smoking is associated with erectile dysfunction in men since smoking restricts oxygen-rich blood flow to all areas of the body including the genitals. The dysfunction is more likely to persist and become permanent unless he quits smoking earlier on.

24.       Quitting smoking reduces the risks of miscarriages, ectopic pregnancy, premature births, infertility, and the birth of frail and underweight babies.

 Smoking causes over 20 types of cancers

25.       Smoking is linked to cancers of the mouth, esophagus, stomach, pancreas, liver, colon and rectum.

26.       Smokers are at a significantly higher risk of developing acute myeloid leukaemia; cancer of the nasal and paranasal sinus cavities and cancer of the urinary tract (including the kidney, bladder, ureter, and renal pelvis).

27.       There’s an increased link between smoking and breast cancer, especially among women who smoked before their first pregnancy, as well as Ovarian cancers.

28.       Smoking is also known to increase the risk of cervical cancer in women already infected with the Human papilloma virus.

29.       Several other cancers not mentioned, are associated with smoking.

Other organs harmed by smoking

30.       Smoking alters cells in the eyes that can cause one to develop eye diseases such as cataracts, glaucoma, and even vision loss.

31.       Smokers are prone to hearing loss

32.       Tobacco smoking reduces life span by 10 years.

33.       Smokers are at a higher risk of Dementia caused by Alzheimer’s.

34.       Smokers are 30-40% more likely to develop diabetes mellitus than non-smokers because nicotine, which is an addictive substance found in tobacco, alters or destroys cells in such a way that they are resistant to insulin.

35.       Smoking is associated with menstrual disorders in women, such as shortened menses, painful periods, and irregular menses.

36.       Smoking weakens the immune system.

37.       Smoking weakens the bones and makes one prone to fractures.

38.       Thyroid and adrenal gland functions are negatively affected by smoking.

Smoking burn holes in your pocket

39.       Smoking is expensive.

40.       An average Gambian smoker spends approximately D50 on cigarettes in a day, D350 in a week, and D127,750 in a year, and this amount of money could be channeled into something more important like basic needs, shelter, and food.

41.       One can go broke due to high healthcare costs from smoking-related diseases.

42.       Smoking-related diseases affect one’s health and productivity.

Smoking affects others around you

43.       Smoking pollutes the air and environment by releasing toxic chemicals into the atmosphere.

44.       Secondhand smoke (smoke from burning tobacco products like cigarettes) puts a nonsmoker at a 20-30% risk of developing lung cancer because they are breathing in the same toxic chemicals that you are but are even more contaminated.

45.       Secondhand smoke exposure (passive smoking) also poses individuals to diseases that smokers are prone to such as heart diseases, and lung infections among others.

46.       Infants exposed to secondhand smoke are at an increased risk for sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), and more severe respiratory infections and diseases such as bronchitis, asthma, and pneumonia.

47.       Exposure to secondhand smoke slows lung growth in children.

48.       Exposure to tobacco smoke during pregnancy poses risks for fetal death and stillbirths.

49.       The cigarette butts (the brown part of cigarette sticks) litter the environment and the toxic chemicals in the toxic residues seep into water and soil, causing water and soil pollution respectively.

50.       Smoking can negatively impact social interactions and relationships.

To sum up everything that has been stated so far, smoking is extremely detrimental to the smoker and those exposed to the smoke. Quitting smoking may seem challenging and impossible because of the presence of nicotine which makes it highly addictive. However, with the right approach, smoking cessation is possible and achievable. Although most people try to quit on their own, it is not the most successful method as only 5-7% are able to quit on their own.

There are rehabilitation centers, nicotine replacement therapy, medications, behavioral therapy, etc that can help you quit smoking. Support from family and friends are also important in helping one quit smoking.

Remember, smoking puts your life on fire, stop smoking today.