By Emsie Martin
31 May was Anti Smoking Day; let’s see if you can quit smoking! To quit smoking is one of the most difficult challenges to overcome and most people use stress at work or at home as an excuse to smoke, or some use it as an excuse to take a smoke break. Whatever your reason, it’s bad for your health.
You can stop smoking for five to six years and one pull on a cigarette, just for the fun of it, can cause you to start smoking again. Hopefully you have already experienced the benefits of quitting smoking or perhaps you have to quit now because your doctor advises you to do so.
- The global tobacco epidemic causes the death of approximately six million people each year.
- More than 600 000 of these are non-smokers who die due to inhaling second-hand smoke.
The list of health problems linked to smoking cigarettes is endless and includes cancer, lung diseases, heart attacks, strokes, blindness, problems with fertility and various other problems. The good news is that it’s never too late to stop smoking and the second you stop, your body begins to recover.
This is what happens to your body if you quit smoking:
- Approximately 20 minutes after smoking your last cigarette, your blood pressure will fall it a normal level.
- Your blood circulation and lung capacity will improve.
- “Smoking suppresses some functions of the lungs and when you stop smoking, your lungs will become over-active,” warns Dr Vorster, a pulmonologist at Mediclinic Panorama. Some people cough more and experience more secretions from their lungs after having stopped smoking. Initially you will therefore feel worse than when you were still smoking. However, the coughing will clear up gradually and your lack of breath will be something of the past.
- Your taste will improve as well as your sense of smell.
- The cilia in your lungs will begin functioning normally again and help to clear your lungs.
- A year after you stopped smoking, your risk for coronary heart diseases will be half of that of the smoking person.
- Five years after you stopped smoking, your risk for cancer of the mouth, oesophagus and bladder will have diminished by half.
- Your risk for cervical cancer will be equal to that of a non-smoker.
- After two to five years your risk of a stroke will be equal to that of a non-smoker.
- Ten years after you stopped, your risk of dying of lung cancer will be half of that of a smoker.
- The risk of cancer of the larynx and pancreas also diminishes.
- After 15 years your risk of developing coronary heart diseases will be equal to that of a non-smoker.
- The ageing process will slow down.
The Cancer Association of South Africa (Cansa) provides 10 tips to help you kick the habit:
- Decide on a date on which you will stop smoking and stick to it.
- Throw away everything that reminds you of smoking, including cigarette packets, ashtrays and lighters.
- Drink plenty of water – it will help to flush the nicotine from your body.
- Become more active. Exercise regularly, for example walking or jogging.
- Change your routine. Avoid smokers or things that make you want to smoke for the first few days.
- Tell your family and friends that you are trying to quit smoking so that they can support you.
- If you’ve stopped, you might experience light-headedness or light headaches. However, this is normal and should improve after a day or two.
- If you are afraid of gaining weight, eat at regular intervals during the day; eat fruit between meals and set aside time for exercise. Not all former smokers gain weight.
- Don’t use a crisis or a special event as an excuse for ‘just one’. One cigarette leads to another, and another …
There are many ways to quit smoking. Enquire about alternative treatments such as acupuncture, hypnosis and homeopathy. Many people use nicotine substitutes such as stickers, a spray or chewing gum.
Do you need help?
Contact the National Council against Smoking’s QUIT line at 011 720 3145
Join CANSA at https://www.ekickbutt.co.za/
The Occupation Guild for Nursing is your partner through all stages of your career: whether you are studying, practising or preparing for retirement. Within your profession you experience challenges every day, such as patients with cancer due to smoking. The guild is there to help you develop and equip you with knowledge to be able to tackle your daily tasks professionally and ethically. They act on behalf of the profession by building relationships with other instances that can have an influence on the profession. Visit https://guilds.solidarity.co.za/nursing/