Since 1988, the World Health Organization has always declared World No Tobacco Day on the last day of May, i.e. May 31. Let’s take this opportunity to recall the risks of smoking and focus on the principles of successful quitting. This is a day to celebrate by deciding to quit smoking once and for all.
Tobacco addiction is one of the most important preventable causes of premature death, it is proven to be behind up to a sixth of them. According to statistics, smoking affects almost two million inhabitants of the Czech Republic. More than 70% of Czech smokers would like to quit their addiction, 40% will actually try, but only a fraction will succeed without professional help.
The matter of quitting smoking is not only about suppressing withdrawal symptoms (physical addiction). Suppressing the desire for a cigarette alone cannot celebrate success if the individual is still exposed to crisis situations in which he was used to lighting a cigarette until now (manifestations of bio-psycho-social addiction).
The health risks of smoking are significant
Let us first mention the carcinogenic effect of smoking. Every sixth heavy smoker (defined as having smoked 20 cigarettes a day for at least 20 years) will develop lung cancer. Most lung cancers are diagnosed at an inoperable stage, and their prognosis is thus very poor. Smokers also develop other oncological diseases more often, such as tumours of the oral cavity, oesophagus, urinary system, or intestines.
Each cigarette increases the risk of a heart attack or stroke.
Other diseases, the risk of which is increased by smoking, include peptic ulcer disease or cataracts.
Smokers have roughly twice the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Last but not least, drugs are metabolised differently when smoking, and the risk of their side effects increases for smokers.
Quitting smoking, therefore, always makes sense. Within 20 minutes after the last cigarette, the heart rate and blood pressure decrease. After two weeks, blood circulation and lung function improved. Over the course of a year, the risk of a heart attack is halved compared to smokers. Within 15 years of not smoking, the risk of heart disease also drops to the level of a non-smoker. So every cigarette counts.
I want to quit smoking, but how do I start?
Deciding to quit smoking is the first step on a long, and certainly not easy, journey. Know that it is one of the best decisions you can make for yourself. How do I successfully abstain? Let’s summarise the basic points and tips.
Set your day. This day should ideally be within a month of making the decision to quit smoking. Unnecessarily delaying the date of the last cigarette reduces your chances of success.
Tell the people around you about your decision. On the one hand, they will be a support for you, and on the other hand, you will prepare them for possible mood swings or irritability, which unfortunately are an inherent part of withdrawal symptoms.
Buy preparations containing nicotine at the pharmacy. Calculate your daily dose of nicotine based on the number of cigarettes you usually smoke. There are preparations in the form of patches to choose from, which are released throughout the day. Patches are stuck to places with softer skin, usually under the collarbone or on the inner thighs. The sides alternate. Nicotine in the form of chewing gum or spray can be used as a supplement to suppress the acute craving for cigarettes.
Make up scenarios in advance of how you will react when someone offers you a cigarette. Avoid situations where you usually smoke. If this is not possible, try to think about what else you can do.
Visit your general practitioner and find out about the possibilities of drug addiction treatment, or find a specialised smoking cessation centre directly. You can find their list here. These are services covered by public health insurance.
There are also several mobile applications that can help you quit.
Prepare for possible withdrawal symptoms. These include, especially, feelings of anger, irritability, anxiety, nervousness, a bad mood or sadness, and difficulty concentrating. Also of concern is the increased appetite and associated weight gain. Furthermore, quitting smoking is usually accompanied by sleep disorders, constipation, or nausea.
If you fail, remember why you decided to quit. Learn from the mistakes you’ve made along the way. Don’t stop stopping.
Do not be afraid to explore the possibility of professional help. Statistics show that smokers who decide to visit some of the smoking cessation centres are significantly more successful than those who decide to fight on their own (only 3-5 smokers out of 100 do not smoke after a year, while those who decide to go to a comprehensive treatment are up to 10 times more successful). Tobacco addiction is a disease; get help!