Every one in five cancer related deaths in the world is due to lung cancer.
Smoking is the most important cause of lung cancer, and on the occasion of ‘world lung cancer day’, we give you the most important reasons for quitting smoking and some tips on how to do it.
Most smokers first began smoking when they were young adults, either due to peer pressure or by modelling themselves on a parent or an older sibling. Almost none of them planned on turning it into an addiction, but kicking the habit became harder for them with passing time.
Although most smokers recognise that tobacco is unhealthy, many do not fully realise the harm it does to their body. On the surface, smoking not only causes a person to look unhealthy but also makes them look older. The tobacco in cigarettes and beedis leaves yellow stains on teeth and nails. It also restricts blood flow in the bloodstream causing dry skin and early wrinkling. This leaves the person looking much older than their actual age.
But the effects of smoking are much more harmful at a deeper level. In India, tobacco related cancers account for 50% of all cancers among men. This also makes tobacco the most preventable cause of cancer.
The perils of smoking
Lung cancer is the most common cancer in the world. In 2018 alone, it affected 2.1 million people and resulted in 1.8 million deaths.
Lung cancer is the second most common type of cancer among men in India, after lip and oral cavity cancers. It is also the second largest cause of death among cancer patients.
While smoking is strongly linked to lung cancer, that is not the only cancer it can cause. It also causes cancers of the cervix, head and neck, stomach, kidney, bladder, pancreas and bone marrow.
Smoking also causes a plethora of other diseases like asthma, pneumonia, emphysema, bronchitis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), vision difficulties, cataracts, heart problems, high cholesterol, infertility, erectile dysfunction and early menopause.
If all the above reasons are not prompting you to quit smoking right away, you may want to consider that the mortality rate for smokers is three times that of those who do not smoke. So smoking shortens your life, while also worsening the quality of your remaining life by making you susceptible to innumerable diseases and weakening your immune system.
Furthermore, it is not just you who suffer from your habit of smoking. Smoking affects domestic finances. According to a story, smoking just five cigarettes a day could amount to expenses of over one crore INR by the time of your retirement. Second hand smoke could weaken your family’s health, particularly those of young children, even leading to sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) and several other diseases. By inhaling your cigarette smoke, the non-smoking members of your family increase their risk of lung cancer by 20 – 30%.
What happens when you quit
All of the above risks can be reduced once you quit smoking. Here is how long it will take for your health to improve:
Within 20 mins: Your heart rate and blood pressure drop.
Within 12 hours: Carbon monoxide in your blood drops to normal level.
Within 12 weeks: Your lung function improves.
Within 1 year: Your risk of heart diseases reduces to half.
Within 5 years: Your risk of stroke reduces.
Within 10 years: Your risk of lung cancer is reduced by half.
Quitting smoking may not be the easiest task you set for yourself but it will certainly be one the most important steps towards improving the quality of life for yourself and your loved ones.
Tips to quit smoking
Once you’ve decided to make this change, you can follow a few important steps to make the transition easier.
1. Write down your reason for quitting
Think about why you need to quit. Give yourself clarity on how important this is for you because the journey ahead may not be very easy. Write down your reason(s) where you can read them whenever you need to motivate yourself.
2. Identify triggers
A trigger is any particular event or time of the day when your urge to smoke is the most. Knowing what your triggers are will help you avoid them or find a way to deal with them. It will also help you mentally prepare yourself to be determined during those times.
3. Set a date to quit and start preparing
Start gearing up for the process of quitting. Set a date after which you will not smoke again, no matter how badly you feel the urge to. Clear out all the leftover tobacco products and related accessories like lighters, ashtrays etc that you have in your home, workplace and car.
4. Let everyone know
Tell your family and friends that you have quit so that they can help you in your weak moments. Inform them that the initial withdrawal might make you irritable or even sick so that they can be there for you. Avoid friends who are unsupportive of your decision to quit smoking.
5. Get help from your doctor
There are products that can help you quit smoking. Speak with your doctor about nicotine replacement and other medication that can help you make this change successfully.
6. Find a distraction
The first couple of weeks might be the hardest. It would be great to find a suitable distraction to see you through these weeks, while your body adapts. A new hobby that absorbs your attention might help.
7. Reward yourself
Depending on what will make you happy, reward yourself for each successful day that you do not light up. It might be a food treat, or a new outfit to show your appreciation to yourself for making this change.
As with any achievement, you may not succeed in the very first attempt. It will mean that you will have to learn to pick yourself up and try again. Don’t let a failure become your motivation to stop trying.
There are tobacco cessation clinics and rehabs that can help you kick the habit, if you are unable to do it yourself. Speaking with someone who has successfully quit smoking might motivate you. Alternatively, try speaking with someone who has suffered from cancer as a result of their smoking habit.
The Government of India provides a toll free helpline number for those seeking help to quit smoking. You can call 1800-11-2356 to avail counseling and tips to help you. Help is provided in Hindi and calls from those who prefer Kannada, Telugu, Tamil or Malayalam are transferred to a unit run by NIMHANS (Bengaluru) for counseling and advice.