Not normalising tobacco!

In 2020, 22.3% of the global population used tobacco, 36.7% of all men and 7.8% of the world’s women.
Not normalising tobacco!
"Tobacco kills more than 8 million people each year." Pixabay

BY DR YASIR RATHER and ZOYA MIR

As normal as it feels, tobacco- cigarette consumption is never thought of as a serious problem. It’s considered as a normal way of coping to stress and something that is glamourised, a way of acting cool and stylish.

Today is World No Tobacco Day, DO WE KNOW THE FACTS ABOUT TOBACCO?

Tobacco kills up to half of its users.

Tobacco kills more than 8 million people each year. More than 7 million of those deaths are the result of direct tobacco use while around 1.2 million are the result of non-smokers being exposed to second-hand smoke.

Over 80% of the world's 1.3 billion tobacco users live in low- and middle-income countries.

In 2020, 22.3% of the global population used tobacco, 36.7% of all men and 7.8% of the world’s women.

How does one become addicted to tobacco?

The nicotine in tobacco is highly addictive. It makes your brain release a chemical called dopamine. Dopamine is a ‘feel good’ chemical that:

makes you feel happy helps you to concentrate gives you more energy.

But this effect doesn’t last long. As the nicotine levels in your body fade, your brain craves more dopamine. The longer you have been smoking, the more dopamine you need to feel good.

You become dependent on nicotine. Once you are dependent on nicotine, without it you will have withdrawal symptoms. You may find it difficult to concentrate or feel nervous, restless, irritable or anxious.

These two things — nicotine dependence and nicotine withdrawal — make you want to smoke more. You become addicted to tobacco.

Is smoking dangerous?

Cigarettes contain about 600 ingredients, many of which can also be found in cigars and hookahs. When these ingredients burn, they generate more than 7,000 chemicals. Many of those chemicals are poisonous and at least 69 of them are linked to cancer.

Within 10 seconds of your first puff, the toxic chemicals in tobacco smoke reach your brain, heart and other organs. Smoking harms almost every part of your body and increases your risk of many diseases. Smoking also affects how you look and feel, your finances and the people close to you.

Tobacco use is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease, cancer, chronic lung disease and diabetes. Smoking is known for causing lung cancers and is one of the strong causative factor for malignancies in other body organs.

Smoking is the main cause of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a serious, progressive and disabling condition that limits airflow in the lungs. Smoking is major cause of cardiovascular disease, such as heart disease and stroke.

Smoking increases the risk of blood clots, which block blood flow to the heart, brain or legs. Smoking causes type 2 diabetes, with the risk of developing diabetes 30 to 40% higher for active smokers than non-smokers. Smoking may also worsen some of the health conditions related to type 1 diabetes, such as kidney disease.

Research has also found that smoking in young people is one of the main factors for sexual problems and infertility. Smoking weakens your immune system so you’re more likely to get bacterial and viral infections.

Smoking increases the risk of gum diseases, tooth loss and tooth sensitivity. Once a person has gum damage, smoking also makes it harder for their gums to heal.

Are e-cigarettes safe?

E-cigarettes- nowadays a trending form of cigarettes commonly known as e-cigs, mods, vape pens, etc. Often people think it’s safe to use vapes as it doesn’t contain tobacco but it does contain nicotine which comes from tobacco and is also harmful for health.

Use of e-cigs is more trending among youth, studies show that e-cigs affect the brain of teenagers and vaping can be a gateway to later use of regular cigarettes, other tobacco products and other substances.

Sometimes people use e-cigs as a substitute to quit regular cigarettes considering it safer but it still affects your health in one way or other.

Switching to e-cigarettes still exposes users to potentially serious ongoing health risks. It’s important to stop using all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, as soon as possible both to reduce health risks and to avoid staying addicted to nicotine.

Is it late to quit now?

Often people say it has been decades of smoking behaviour, it’s a part of our lives. If we quit, will it change anything? Smoking cessation, at any age, will improve your health. Years of smoking damage can reverse with time. Right after 20 minutes of quitting your blood pressure and heart rate drop, and the temperature of your hands and feet increases.

After eight hours, your blood will contain lower levels of carbon monoxide and higher levels of oxygen. After 24 hours, your heart attack risk decreases.

After 48 hours, your nerve endings adjust to the absence of nicotine, and you begin to regain your ability to taste and smell. After two weeks to three months, your circulation improves, and you can tolerate more exercise. After one to nine months, your overall energy level increases, and you cough less.

Plus, sinus congestion, fatigue and shortness of breath decrease. After one year, your risk of heart disease cuts in half compared to a current smoker. After five to 15 years, your risk of stroke lowers to that of people who never smoked.

After 10 years, your risk of dying from lung cancer drops to almost the same rate as a lifelong non-smoker. Plus, you decrease the risk of other cancers. After 15 years, your risk of heart disease finally reaches that of people who never smoked.

When media has glamourised tobacco?

Bollywood has a long history of portraying heroes and villains with cigarettes or hand rolled bidis dangling from their lips. According to a study conducted by WHO, tobacco is portrayed in 76% of Bollywood movies. Nowadays, movies like KGF, Kabir Singh, etc have glamourised use of cigarettes- more like a style statement. This induces modelling behaviours in youth where it pushes youth more towards smoking behaviours.

TREATMENT:

Nicotine Replacement Therapy: People smoke is because they are addicted to nicotine. NRT is a medication that provides you with a low level of nicotine, without the tar, carbon monoxide and other poisonous chemicals present in tobacco smoke. It can help reduce unpleasant withdrawal effects, such as bad moods and cravings, which may occur when you stop smoking. It's available as skin patches and chewing gums. Treatment with NRT usually lasts 8-12 weeks, before you gradually reduce the dose and eventually stop. It needs to be supervised by a doctor.

Other medicines: There are other pharmacological treatments that are also provided for smoking cessation by a psychiatrist.

SELF HELP TOOLKIT:

Take a step: Decide to do it today, if not today-tomorrow never comes.

Avoid triggers: Tobacco urges are likely to be strongest in the places where you smoked or chewed tobacco most often, or at times when you were feeling stressed or sipping coffee. Find out your triggers and have a plan in place to avoid them or get through them without using tobacco.

Delay: If you feel like you're going to give in to your tobacco craving, tell yourself that you must first wait 10 more minutes. Then do something to distract yourself during that time. Try going to a public smoke-free zone or sit with family.

Chew on it: Give your mouth something to do to resist a tobacco craving. Chew on sugarless gum or hard candy. Or munch on raw carrots, nuts— something crunchy and tasty.

Don't have 'just one': You might be tempted to have just one cigarette to satisfy a tobacco craving. But don't fool yourself into thinking that you can stop there. More often than not, having just one leads to one more. And you may end up using tobacco again.

Get physical: Physical activity can help distract you from tobacco cravings. Even short bursts of activity — such as running up and down the stairs a few times — can make a tobacco craving go away. Get out for a walk or jog. If you're at home or in the office, try squats, push ups, running in place, or walking up and down a set of stairs. If you don't like physical activity, try praying, or writing in a journal. Or do chores for distraction, such as cleaning or filing papers.

Try relaxation techniques: Smoking may have been your way to deal with stress. Fighting back against a tobacco craving can itself be stressful. Take the edge off stress by trying ways to relax, such as deep breathing, muscle relaxation, yoga or listening to calming music. When you get the urge to smoke, take a deep breath. Hold it for ten seconds and release it slowly. Repeat this several times until the urge to smoke is gone.

Choose what to drink: Drink plenty of fluids, but limit caffeinated beverages. They can trigger urges to smoke.

Prof (Dr.) Yasir Hassan Rather is In-charge De-addiction centre Institute of Mental Health and Neuroscience, Srinagar (IMHANS) and Zoya Mir is Clinical Psychologist –IMHANS.

They can be reached at yasirhrather@gmail.com and mir.zoya01@gmail.com

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author.

The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK.

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