Smoking refers the addiction to tobacco mainly caused by one of its active components: nicotine. This substance conditions tobacco abuse.

Tobacco causes diseases such as chronic bronchitis, pulmonary emphysema, and lung and pharyngeal cancer. It is also a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease since the incidence of coronary disease in smokers is three times greater than in the rest of the population. The chance of suffering from heart disease is proportional to the amount of cigarettes you smoke a day and the number of years you continue to have this bad habit.

There are two factors due to which tobacco can cause coronary artery disease:

  • Nicotine. It triggers the liberation of catecholamines (adrenaline y noradrenaline) which damages the internal walls of the arteries (endothelium), increases the chance of coronary spasm, produces alterations in coagulation, increases LDL cholesterol levels (bad cholesterol), and reduces HDL cholesterol levels (good cholesterol). Nicotine levels in the blood depend more on the amount of nicotine inhaled than the amount the cigarette itself contains.
  • Carbon monoxide. Decreases the amount of oxygen that reaches your heart and increases cholesterol levels and platelet aggregation (their ability to adhere and clump.)

Why stop smoking?

  • To improve your breathing and become less tired.
  • To decrease the predisposition to cough and catch infections.
  • To help your skin and face rejuvenate.
  • To recover the sense of smell and taste.
  • To slow down pulmonary-function deterioration.
  • To reduce the chance of having another heart attack and of sudden death by a 20-50%.
  • Three years after quitting smoking, the risk of heart attack or stroke for any former smoker is the same as that for any person who has never smoked.

How To Quit Smoking?

Withdrawal symptoms

Quitting smoking is a several-stage process:

1. Pre-contemplation. You are not really thinking about quitting but might do so in the future.

2. Contemplation. You think about quitting in the next six months, even though you second guess about your ability to accomplish that.

3. Preparation. You have thought about a plan of action to quit smoking in the next month. In fact, you are already trying to smoke less.

4. Action. You have quit smoking completely within the last six months.

5. Maintenance. You no longer have to make big efforts to avoid relapse. This is a 6-month to a five-year period from the moment you stop smoking.

6. Relapse. Most former smokers have suffered a relapse. ¡A slip does not mean failure! The real danger is to never try.

7. Finalization. The wish to smoke disappears and you don’t fear relapse.

Strategies To Quit Smoking

It is fundamental that you wish to quit smoking, even after relapsing several times. The following tips will help you reach your goal:

  • Set a date after the following couple of weeks.
  • Make a list of reasons why you wish to quit tobacco.
  • Count the number of cigarettes you smoke without noticing a day.
  • Get rid of cigarette packs, lighters and ashtrays you keep in your house, car or office.
  • Try not smoking for short periods of time.
  • Search for allies among your friends and relatives.
  • Remember that the symptoms (restlessness, anxiety, irritability, sleep disturbances, lack of concentration, increase in appetite, intense urge to smoke, etc.), however intense they might be, they’re always temporary.
  • When the day comes, tobacco suppression is total. Avoid situations in which you would normally smoke, eat large amounts of fruit, exercise more, have some sugar-free candy at hand, surround yourself with supportive people… and remember: ¡each hour you spend without smoking is already a huge accomplishment!

Treatments For Tobacco Addiction

1. Behavioral and psychological

  • Self-help material
  • Brief advise
  • Counseling.
  • Education aimed at motivation, association and risk-situation analysis; learning how to deal with conflictive situations and how to seek social support
  • Social support
  • Team support.
  • Psychotherapy methods

2. Pharmacotherapy

  • Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT): gums, inhalers, sprays, patches and lozenges.
  • Agonists or antagonists for nicotinic receptors: lobeline and mecamylamine
  • Aversive: silver acetate.

3. Other types of therapy

  • Physical exercise.
  • Acupuncture and hypnotherapy.

Smoking During Pregnancy

Smoking during pregnancy exposes the fetus to great danger as a young passive smoker:

  • High risk for spontaneous abortion
  • Chances for premature birth
  • Decrease in newborn’s weight
  • Congenital malformations in the skull and urinary system
  • Increase in risk of the infant’s sudden death as statistics show that the number of smoking mothers is three times greater. For mothers who smoke more than 20 cigarettes a day, incidence can be seven times more frequent.

Smoking In Children And Teenagers

Some factors which explain this early addiction are:

  • Social influencing
  • Family and friends who smoke
  • Attitudes that favor cigarette smoking
  • Associating tobacco and alcohol with pleasure

Young people who reach 15 years of age without smoking have a good chance to never be smokers in their entire lives.

Passive Smokers

Exposure to air contaminated by tobacco smoke implies a 30% increased risk of cardiovascular disease. If you live with someone who smokes a pack of cigarettes a day, it is almost as if you smoked nine cigarettes too.