The reasons to stop smoking are numerous. Smoking is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease, is the leading cause of lung cancer, and is related to many other health issues. Smoking is estimated to kill between 4500 and 5000 New Zealanders each year. Indeed, smoking kills one in every two regular smokers. And if smoking doesn’t kill you, it will damage your health.
How does smoking cause illness?In relation to cardiovascular disease, smoking is linked to atherosclerosis (hardening and narrowing of the arteries), it reduces "good" blood cholesterol which transports fat away from artery walls, and raises blood pressure. Smoking raises blood glucose levels, which makes diabetes harder to control. Diabetics who smoke will have a greatly elevated risk of heart attack and other complications associated with diabetes.
Studies demonstrate that a person's risk of cardiovascular disease starts to decline very soon after they stop smoking. New Zealand's Cardiovascular Risk Guidelines state that the risk of heart attack or stroke is significantly reduced within 1 year of stopping, and reaches that of a non-smoker within 3-5 years.
In relation to lung and other cancers, carcinogens (cancer causing agents) in tobacco cause damage to cells in the smoker’s body that, over time, can become cancerous. Lung cancer risk can also be reversed by stopping smoking but it takes a lot longer - perhaps 10-15 years. Among men who start smoking young, the estimated risk of death from lung cancer by age 75 is 16% for those who continue to smoke, 6% for men who stop smoking at age 50, and 2% for men who stop at age 30.
It’s not just a smoker’s health that can deteriorate as a result of smoking. A smoker’s children are more likely to get pneumonia, bronchitis and develop asthma. And they’re more likely to follow their parent’s example of become smokers themselves.
Quitline is a free service that supports New Zealanders as they quit smoking. Quitline outlines five steps that will increase a smoker’s chance of kicking their addiction:
- Step 1 – Set a quit date (tell family and friends you intend to quit and be ready to combat cravings)
- Step 2 – Know your reasons for quitting (write a list – health, money, impact on others)
- Step 3 – Know your triggers (addiction, habits, emotions)
- Step 4 – Use patches, gum or lozenges (they can double your chance of quitting and the cost is subsidized)
- Step 5 - Stay quit (Use the 4Ds to deal with cravings: delay, deep breathe, do something else, drink water)
ReferencesQuitline (2012). The Quit Book: Beating the Smoking Addiction. www.quit.org.nz/file/publications/the-quit-book.pdf
Cancer Society (2006). Smoking and Cancer: A Cancer Society Fact Sheet. www.cancernz.org.nz/assets/files/docs/info/CSNZ_IS_SF_smoking.pdf
Last reviewed – August 2013