Kick the stick!
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When it comes to addiction to smoking, the quitters are the real winners
S TATISTICS reveal that in India, quitting smoking is a rare phe nomenon, with only two per cent of adults showing the determination to kick the butt, compared to 40 per cent in the US and Europe. Most smokers find it difficult to quit smoking because of the addictive nature of nicotine. Nicotine withdrawal can cause unpleasant side effects such as nicotine cravings, fatigue, irritability, aggressiveness, anxiety, mood swings, headaches and sleeping difficulties. Since most smokers pick up the habit at an early age, quitting the habit becomes even more difficult. This apart, cessation efforts is one of the most neglected areas in curbing the use of tobacco in the country. These are only some of the major reasons why it is hard to quit smoking. But there are also several strategies and quitting techniques that may aid smokers to finally give up on this tenacious habit.
Smoking is one of the major causes of death and disability in India. Cigarette smoking is the primary cause of lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases, and a major risk factor for coronary heart disease. It is also the primary cause of chronic bronchitis and emphysema. Each year, more than nine lakh individuals between the age group 25–69 die of smoking. In a country with at least 30 million smokers, the problem assumes epidemic proportions, with it being estimated that by 2010, this figure could cross the one million mark. A report by the World Health Organization states that India is home to 12 per cent of the world’s smokers. And the smoking population seems to be increasing with each passing year, with the smoking population increasing and only a negligible number of smokers quitting the habit.
There are various therapies that can help a tobacco addict avoid relapse of the addiction, and result in some of the highest long–term abstinence rates from tobacco. One of the therapies that has gained importance over the last few years is the Nicotine Replacement Therapy and the use of chewing gums. To overcome nicotine cravings and strengthen the goal of becoming healthy, a great trick is to drink a glass of water very slowly when a craving hits. Apart from these therapies and tricks, a visit to a smoking cessation clinic, with psychological and medicinal support, can yield positive results.
Dr Surendra Shastri, HOD Preventive Oncology, Tata Memorial Hospital, who also leads the SmokeFree Mumbai campaign opines that quitting smoking can be achieved successfully, provided the determination to quit is strong, along with the involvement of psychological counseling and various other therapies. Dr. Shastri says, “Smoking is only about 10 per cent physical addiction and 90 per cent psychological addiction. Therefore, smokers must understand that quitting smoking takes more than one attempt. They must also try several methods before they can finally succeed.
With determination, will power and an effective strategy, smokers can quit the habit. Smoking cessation represents the single most important step that smokers can take to enhance the length and quality of their lives. Education and awareness play a vital role in curbing the scourge of smoking.” While quitting smoking is no easy task, Dr Shastri points out that the benefits of quitting smoking are farreaching. According to him, within 20 minutes of kicking the habit, the blood pressure returns to normal, while carbon monoxide levels return to normal within eight hours. Blood circulation improves after two months and the chance of a heart attack is cut in half after one year. Further, quitting smoking reduces the risk of cancer and other diseases such as cardiovascular and respiratory diseases caused by smoking. There need not be any stronger reason to finally stub that killer nicotine stick.