Importance of Quitting Smoking/Vaping

Importance of Quitting Smoking/Vaping

Tobacco products kill one out of every two people who use them.

On average, smokers die about ten years earlier than people who have never smoked. Smokers nowadays generally smoke fewer cigarettes than was the norm a few decades ago, but they still have a greater risk of lung cancer now than in previous years. Changes in the design of cigarettes and the materials used to make them have led to an increased risk of lung adenocarcinoma, a type of cancer that develops in the glands lining your organs, which is harder to treat than most other types of lung cancer. These changes in the making of cigarettes include the addition of ventilated filters that allow for more vigorous inhalation and, by extension, the drawing of the cigarette's carcinogens deeper into your lungs. Speaking of which, there are about seventy chemicals in cigarette smoke that are known carcinogens, or cancer-causing substances. In addition, the levels of some of these chemicals have increased over the years through changes in the processes used to manufacture cigarettes. More than 40 types of cancer, occurring in many different parts of the body, have been linked to tobacco use. Smoking also leads to premature skin aging (wrinkles, liver spots), worsening of diabetes, impaired immune function, slower wound healing, erectile dysfunction, macular degeneration (an eye disease that causes vision impairment), problems during pregnancy, weaker bones, and a slew of other problems.

People who quit smoking reduce their risk of having a heart attack by half almost immediately after quitting. After 2 to 5 years of not smoking, the risk of stroke for someone who was previously a smoker is approximately the same as the risk of stroke for someone who has never smoked. 10 years after quitting, a smoker's risk of lung cancer reduces by half.

 Smokers can -- and do -- quit. However, only 5% of smokers who want to quit are actually able to do so without getting assistance. The "cold turkey" method for quitting --- the practice of stopping smoking completely and immediately rather than tapering off a bit at a time --- is probably the least effective way to go. 50% of the people who try this resume smoking within 14 days of quitting, and 75% of people resume smoking within 30 days.

However, there are methods that do work. These treatment options are proven to help you stop smoking and start on down a path to a healthier, longer life:

  • Counseling. This can be done individually or in a group, and can occur in person or over a phone or video call. The more intense the intervention, the more effective this treatment option is.

  • Medications. Over-the-counter nicotine replacement medications, such as patches, lozenges, or chewing gum all can help you taper off of smoking; but those who are or may become pregnant should consult their doctor prior to use. There are also prescription non-nicotine medications such as varenicline (Chantix) or bupropion (Wellbutrin) that your doctor can order for you. A combination of counseling and medications is more effective than either treatment alone.

  • Acupuncture and hypnosis may work for some people, but they didn't prove effective in smoking cessation studies.

Some people buy e-cigarettes, or vapes, as a method of quitting. However, if you do this, you're not actually quitting smoking. Instead, you're continuing to use a product that has a rather similar effect on your body to cigarettes in terms of the risks it poses to your health. In addition, some e-cigarettes labeled as having no nicotine have actually been found to contain nicotine upon lab testing of their ingredients. E-cigarette use is also associated with lung injury, especially when vaping THC, the active ingredient in CBD oil. Finally, there have been multiple severe accidents with vape pens, including a teenager whose vape pen exploded in his mouth and shattered half of his jaw, another teen who got electrocuted by attempting to smoke vaping liquid off an industrial electric radiator, and several other cases.

Lastly, it's important to remember that you're not alone, and that quitting smoking --- or any substance, for that matter --- is hard. There are helplines you can call or text for help, and therapists and counselors who specialize in helping people recover from substance addiction. In addition, slips and relapses are normal, and they're considered part of the process of changing your habits. Often, quitting smoking requires repeated interventions and attempts, but the good news is that there are people who can help you each step of the way. 

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