How does smoking cause illness?
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)
Cancer Society (2006). Smoking and Cancer: A Cancer Society Fact Sheet. www.cancernz.org.nz/assets/files/docs/info/CSNZ_IS_SF_smoking.pdf