All of us know that smoking is injurious to health, still, people are doing it. Smoking is the major and avoidable cause of premature death and ill-health in the world. About 30% of the smoking-related deaths are due to coronary heart disease and smoking is responsible for about 20% of all deaths from CHD.
Why is smoking risky?
Tobacco smoke is a dangerous cocktail of over 4000 thousand chemicals, 60 of which are carcinogens. Nicotine, carbon monoxide and tar are the poisons. Nicotine is a highly addictive toxic substance. Nicotine damages the heart in the following ways:
1) stimulates the sympathetic nervous system and causes the body to release more stress hormones like adrenaline, which increases the heart rate and blood pressure.
2) the heartbeat can become irregular
3) induces spasms in the coronaries, damages the endothelial lining, and promotes the formation and progression of atherosclerosis.
4) can trigger a major ischemic event
5) increases the stickiness of platelets and fibrinogen levels and promotes clot formation.
Carbon monoxide enters the bloodstream and binds to the haemoglobin reducing the oxygen-carrying capacity of the blood.
It is important to note that apart from the smoker the people around(passive smokers) especially the family members who are exposed repeatedly to the smoke are also at great risk. Since passive smokers inhale the smoke that is not filtered the toxic effects are said to be much more in them.
Why do people start smoking
Smoking is a learned behaviour. Studies have shown that children at a young age are aware of smoking because of the publicity it receives in the various media. Smoking starts commonly in the adolescents age or young adults and can be due to:
1) peer group pressure
2) a desire to rebel- the act of defiance
3) out of curiosity and suggestibility.
Why do people continue to smoke?
Many people continue to smoke though they are aware of the health risks. The reasons are for this behaviour could be:
1) the serious ill effects are not seen immediately and smokers feel that no damage is being done to them and hence continue to smoke.
2) protection by denial — smokers falsely try to protect themselves by thinking that nothing will happen to them or feeling that they can give up anytime.
3) highly addictive nature of nicotine – the dependence can be physical/chemical/psychological/ emotional. It can be a learned behaviour becoming an automatic habit.
4) smokers feel that they are getting benefits like enjoyment, relaxation, concentration, weight control, and mood control by smoking.
5) fear of failure to quit
How do help smokers to quit?
Doctors and other health professionals have the highest credibility to persuade and help smokers to quit. It is helpful to know the target groups who can quit smoking relatively easily so that they can be identified and helped to quit.
1) adolescents and teenagers
2) pregnant women
3) people who have recently become parents or grandparents
4) adults with established smoking-related diseases
5) adults who seem to be aware of the health risks.
Health professionals must be explained that the so-called benefits of quitting smoking can be easily in a healthier way through meditation, stress management, exercise getting more involved in the family. The relaxation a cigarette gives is nothing but a dangerous addiction to nicotine. Apart from the long term health benefits( reduced risk of CHD, lung cancer and other smoking-related diseases) that quitting gives the short term benefits like the food tasting better, breathing becoming easier, getting rid of smokers’ coughs that smell will not be offensive etc. must be explained. Quitting smoking may add a few kilos of weight which can be easily controlled by diet and exercise.
Once the smokers have quit smoking there are chances that they may go into a relapse. So, here again, the health professionals and the family members have a very important role in preventing the relapse.
So, I hope we should take some steps for the benefit of people’s health.