Time to kick it where it hurts

December 28, 2019

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THE most obvious solution to most problems often happens to be a bit too simple to execute. Really. Take for instance, smoking. The best decision that any smoker can make is to quit it altogether. We all know that. The smokers know that. But the unfortunate reality is that most adult smokers carry on with what they have been doing for years.

It remains one of the biggest challenges being faced by nations across the world in their fight against cancers related to this self-harming addiction. Not only smoking increases the risk of cancer and causes several other diseases, but it also affects the lifestyle of the smokers. Smoking is difficult to quit, but smoke-free alternatives can now be used to improve lives and lifestyles of the smokers and, to some extent, even the non-smokers who share the space with them.

Currently, there are over a billion adult smokers around the world and the number is estimated to increase with time. Every day around the world, more than 2,500 youngsters, under the age of 18, light their first cigarette, whereas more than 400 of them subsequently become regular smokers. Horrible numbers.

Smoking has never been considered a good habit and the best time to quit smoking is now. The process of quitting is tough as your body urges you to take more nicotine. Many researches indicate that the person who wants to quit smoking should pay attention to things or habits that trigger the desire. People often quit for a period of time – from a week to even several years – before they slide down the slippery path of temptation. Other triggers include stress, but it mostly is lifestyle-related.

According to a survey by American Legacy Foundation, most of the adolescents who have smoked at least 100 cigarettes in their lifetime said they wanted to quit, but were not able to do so. People can opt for alternatives and nicotine replacement therapy.

While there are alternatives available, nothing beats the simplicity of quitting the habit and being nicotine-free.

No matter how many cigarettes a person smokes in a day, the risk to the health begins from the first one. The first smoke that goes inside the body increases the risks of developing many diseases which may include cardiovascular diseases, respiratory diseases, 12 types of cancers, and maternity health risks for women.

According to a study by Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, a large number of youths that begin smoking under the age of 18 end up dying prematurely from a smoking-related disease. The benefits of quitting the habit cannot be overemphasised.

There are many immediate and long-term benefits. Within 12 hours of the quit, for instance, the blood pressure and heart rate drop, and the level of carbon monoxide in blood gets normal. In the next two to 12 weeks, blood circulation and the functioning of the lungs improve. Within one to nine months, the coughing and shortness of breath improve. And, as the times passes by, without smoking or staying around the people who smoke, the risk of coronary heart disease drops by half. The risks of stroke, pancreatic diseases and cancers of lung, mouth, throat, oesophagus, bladder and cervix also decrease. And yet, it is hard to imagine that people struggle to quit. But they do.

Now, thanks to advances in science and technology, although not totally risk-free, products that are relatively better, such as e-cigarettes and heated tobacco products (HTPs), are their to help the strugglers. But their consumption is affected owing to the overall lack of awareness about these products.

A recent research found that more than two-thirds of the smokers are more likely to switch to alternative products if they had more clarity on how the products differ from cigarettes. It also uncovered that 41 per cent people are not aware of alternative HTPs.

The basic motive behind the smoking alternatives is to fulfil the ‘desire’ part of the deal. The devices are being made in similar designs, giving the smokers the feel of a cigarette, so that they can switch to less harmful products easily. After all, it is more about lifestyle compulsions than anything else.

The study cited above also explored the smoking attitudes of both smokers and non-smokers as well as the role that smoking or quitting plays in human relationships. Almost half of the ex-smokers who had switched to smoke-free alternatives (48 per cent) reported better relationships with family and friends since they changed, and 45 per cent reported that their social lives improved accordingly, with a slightly higher proportion of men reporting this improvement.

Intimate relationships are not the only ones affected. The survey revealed that smoking can get in the way of friends and, quitting smoking, can have a positive impact on the social life. More than 69 per cent of non-smokers indicated that they did not like going to smokers’ houses because they feel uncomfortable being around the smoke.

Quite rightly, there is a wealth of regulation encouraging people to quit or to not start smoking. A number of laws were developed long before vaping, HTPs and other smoke-free alternatives existed, and, as such, don’t clearly distinguish between them and regular cigarettes, thereby leaving the smokers confused about ways to kick the habit by taking advantage of better alternatives.

Access to information has been shown to improve public health in different areas. In an era where governments and companies alike are taking measures to help address global public health issues, access to credible, fact-based information about science-backed alternatives and giving the power to the individuals to make choices regarding their own health is logical and in line with the tenants of freedom of information.

While there are valid alternatives available for adult smokers, nothing beats the simplicity of quitting the habit and being nicotine-free. The alternatives come only when the solution is too simple to execute.