Sunday, June 3, 2007

A public service announcement

которые не курят и не пьют, умирают в добром здравии

(Who do not smoke or drink, die in good health) – A famous Russian proverb.

Hey all…

Life if a gift from god and no matter how crappy it is, living through it is certainly better than dying, or even worse, dying a slow and painful death. Yeah, I know you know that Smoking Kills, but yet you smoke, despite the discouragement by those around you, your friends, your family. What the hell, even I did. If you are a smoker, then I urge you to read this, and if you don’t smoke, then please read this and let your smoking friends read this.

Many smokers feel that they are the masters of their own destiny and that they could quit smoking anytime they want, but then they convince themselves that they enjoy smoking and that they will not quit today. As time passes, the habit becomes ingrained until it becomes a lifestyle and an addiction that causes physical discomfort if stopped. The only way to stop smoking is to overcome the psychological dependence on tobacco and the physical addiction to nicotine.

During my smoking days, I often used to joke around with my friends saying “It’s very easy to quit smoking… I have quit nearly a million times”

But from my experience, I did learn one thing, “It is indeed very simple to quit smoking… all it takes is to not to take that one puff” . That one puff there, referring to your days first puff.

Studies show that smoking one to five cigarettes a day increases heart attack risk by 40% compared with nonsmokers, and smoking one pack per day quadruples the risk. In 1984, cigarette smoking was found to be the major cause of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (e.g., emphysema, cancer) for both men and women. A 2004 report stated that cigarette smoking causes diseases in nearly every organ of the body, and that it is conclusively linked to leukemia, cataracts, pneumonia and cancers of the cervix, kidney, pancreas and stomach. Unborn children and non-smokers who breathe smoke exhaled by smokers and burning tobacco (second-hand smoke) can also become sick, and thousands of smoking-related fires occur yearly.

Well I am sure all of you who smoke know why smoking is harmful. But here are some details you ought to know. Tobacco smoke contains more than 60 cancer-causing chemicals (carcinogens), including polycyclic hydrocarbons, N-nitrosamines, aldehydes, and inorganic compounds. Twenty of the carcinogens cause cancer in the lungs and throat. The most carcinogenic chemicals in tobacco are the nitrosamines. These are found in tobacco smoke, including second-hand smoke (environmental tobacco smoke), and chewing tobacco. The chemicals cause irritation and inflammation that gradually damage the cells of the mouth, nose, throat, and lungs causing them to become cancerous.

Every pack of cigarettes has a warning stating that smoking is injurious to your health. Why some even go to the extreme of printing the warning smoking kills. I am sure you haven’t missed that warning. And I am certain you understand each and every word in it. Do you remember the first time you smoked? I remember mine quite distinctly. I coughed, letting out all the smoke from my lungs. You feel the harmful effects every time that you cough or have a sore throat, but this has not stopped you from smoking. Why? Because the reasons for smoking are mostly psychological. People are seduced to try tobacco by the glamorization of smoking in the movies and in advertisements. Addiction to nicotine makes it hard to quit smoking once you have started, but this addiction can be overcome in two weeks once the psychological reasons for smoking are eliminated. It took me six months to quit a six month long habit, and I don’t want you people to take that long.

You need to understand and eliminate the psychological root of the problem. Here is a list of the reasons why people start smoking. Look at them carefully and think about your own experience. Most of these reasons are related to how you perceive yourself in the company of others. You generally start smoking in an attempt to change your self-image and appear more attractive, more manly, more feminine, or more intelligent. Sometimes you start smoking in a misguided attempt to calm your nerves, cope with stress, or lose weight, but smoking does not help to solve the source of your problems or to compensate for poor eating habits.

Reasons why people start to use tobacco:

  • On a dare to show that you are not timid or afraid.
  • To fit with the crowd (all my friends do it)
  • To appear sophisticated or cool
  • To be grown-up
  • To assert your independence
  • As a sign of protest, rebellion, or to defy authority
  • Free samples from friends or advertisers
  • Influences from people you respect and admire
    • Parents or relatives smoked
    • Images of famous actors, movie stars, or role models
      (Humphrey Bogart who eventually developed throat cancer,
      news anchorman Peter Jennings who developed lung cancer)
    • Baseball players who use chewing tobacco
    • Famous scientists
      (Einstein is the prototype of intellectual smokers.
      He looks so proud with a pipe in his mouth.)
  • Portrayals by cigarette advertisements
    • Joe Camel (cartoon character aimed at young people.
      Joe's face has features of a scrotum or other private parts
      and provides subliminal sex appeal)
    • Marlboro man (two of the models who portrayed the rugged
      cowboy eventually died of lung cancer)
    • Kool cigarettes used a cartoon penguin as an advertisement mascot.
    • Virginia slims (thin, sophisticated, and independent woman)
  • To try to lose weight
  • To calm your nerves
  • As a kind of "air freshener" when using the toilet

Tobacco companies have encouraged habitual use of tobacco by including coupons that can be collected and redeemed for merchandise. Although advertising by tobacco companies has been curtailed on television, there is sufficient promotion in other types of media to hook the next generation of users. I would like to recommend the movie “Thank you for smoking” starring Aaron Eckhart to every smoker out there. But I do not want you smoking while watching the movie. Movies like Thank you for smoking and Constantine where the protagonist smokes really increases the urge to smoke. Just make sure you can resist the temptation.

Cigarettes come with deceptive labels like "light", "ultra-light", "low tar", or "mild", don’t fall for them. To perpetuate tobacco addiction, cigarette manufacturers have also boosted the amount of nicotine in tobacco and modified cigarette designs to increase the number of puffs per cigarette. Harvard School of Public Health researchers found that the amount of nicotine that smokers typically consumed per cigarette, regardless of brand, rose by an average of 1.6 percent per year between 1998 and 2005 across all the major cigarette market categories (mentholated, non-mentholated, full-flavor, light, ultralight, etc.). This is an increase of 11 percent in the amount of nicotine per cigarette over a seven-year period. The higher drug levels make it harder for smokers to quit.

Have you ever wondered why you still smoke? You have been smoking for a while and you have matured. Now you know that smoking has not made you smarter, or cooler, or sexier. Smoking has not helped you to achieve your goals. Your accomplishments have been made in spite of smoking, but you are more aware that your health suffers. You can tell by your burning eyes, your hacking cough, and the phlegm in your throat. So, why do you still smoke? Most people continue smoking out of habit. They light a cigarette without even thinking. But sometimes people smoke under specific situations as a kind of ritual. Associating activities with smoking establishes Pavlovian reflexes. Pavlovian reflexes are named after Dr. Ivan Pavlov who was able to make his dogs salivate in the absence of food by just ringing a bell that had been associated with the dog's feeding time. In the same way, activities that you have associated with smoking, such as drinking coffee, will act as triggers. The mere sight of a cup of coffee will cause you to reach for your cigarettes without any conscious thought. Seeing friends smoking cigarettes, watching movies where the actors smoke, or the smell of cigarette smoke may trigger the psychological desire to smoke. Researchers have found that smokers with a damaged insula, a region of the brain linked to emotion and feelings, quit smoking easily and immediately. The study provides direct evidence that addiction to nicotine in tobacco smoke takes control of some of the neural circuits in the brain.

These are some of the reasons why people smoke:

  • No particular reason, but the cigarettes are handy
  • To reduce a feeling of anxiety or nervousness
  • To calm down when upset or angry
  • To socialize with other smokers
  • When feeling restless
  • As relaxation
  • To take a break from work
  • While having coffee or tea
  • When having a drink with friends
  • To satisfy an urge to smoke
  • After a meal
  • After sex
  • To pass the time while waiting for someone.
  • When driving in the car
  • When feeling depressed
  • When drinking beer, wine, or liquor
  • To celebrate something
  • To think about a difficult problem

Review this list and think about what you would do under each of these circumstances if you did not smoke. You need to start thinking about how you are going to cope in these situations without using tobacco.

Many smokers feel that they don't smoke enough to be harmful, but this kind of thinking is only self-delusion that justifies a bad habit. You need to understand your degree of dependence on tobacco to be able to quit successfully.

There is also the monetary factor kicked in. Some of you may not be bothered about it, but think about it, if you find some money while strolling in a deserted park, in a envelope with your name on it, would you refuse to accept it? I know I wouldn’t. So pick up that calculator and calculate how much you are going to save. For these of you with dyscalculia (a math disorder) you can do so by the formula (no of cigarettes per pack/no of cigarettes smoked per day)*cost of pack*365

In addition, each time that you stop to smoke, you are wasting approximately 4 minutes per cigarette.

Do you want to improve your life and you know that tobacco has robbed you of your stamina? Quitting smoking can give you new energy and a more positive attitude toward life. Your greatest accomplishment will be to take control your own destiny and not let yourself be influenced by tobacco advertisements and addictive drugs.

These are some things to consider as reasons for quitting smoking:

  • Health issues
    • Smoking is extremely dangerous to my health or is ruining my health
    • I have lost my sense of smell
    • It bothers me to be dependent on cigarettes
    • Smoking gives me very bad breath
    • I frequently have a sore throat from smoking
    • I would have more energy if I did not smoke
    • I fear that quitting smoking will make me gain weight.
      Quitting smoking does not make you gain weight. You gain weight by over-eating. The people who gain weight when they quit smoking are those who keep putting food in their mouth instead of cigarettes.
  • Cosmetic issues
    • My cigarette smoke leaves an unpleasant smell
    • I have nicotine stains on my fingers.
    • I am getting wrinkles from smoking.
    • My teeth are discolored from smoking.
  • Social issues
    • I am losing contact with my non-smoking friends
    • My second-hand smoke is dangerous to those around me
    • My cigarette smoke bothers other people
    • Sometimes I litter when I discard cigarette butts
  • Financial issues
    • I spend too much money on cigarettes
    • My life insurance premiums have increased
    • I burned holes in my clothing
    • My courtains need to be replaced because they have turned yellow

Strategies for Quitting
To quit smoking, you have to solve two problems:

1) you have to find out the psychological reasons why you smoke, and develop methods for dealing with all the aspects of your life so that you are not dependent on tobacco, and

2) you have to conquer your physical addiction to nicotine.

Your main strategy for quitting smoking will be to figure out what to do in all those situations where you smoke now. What are you going to do when you drink a cup of coffee? Just drink coffee. How about after meals or when you feel restless? If you don't have answers to these questions it will be a lot harder to quit smoking. Here are some techniques that will help:

  • Replace the pack of cigarettes with a talisman (e.g., a photo of a loved one) or a souvenir that reminds you of what you want to accomplish.
  • Don't carry matches or a lighter.
  • Avoid situations that you associate with smoking.
  • Keep busy to overcome the urge to smoke
  • Sit in the "no smoking" sections of public places
  • Remember the health risks of smoking
  • Focus on what you expect to gain by quitting.
  • Breathe deeply to fight off the desire to smoke
  • Drink plenty of water to remain hydrated.
  • Stay away from places where people smoke to avoid temptation.
  • Tell others about your effort to quit smoking
  • Ask friends and family for support to help you quit smoking. There are also Internet chat rooms that can provide you with support and ideas for remaining smoke-free.

Nicotine is as addictive as many illegal drugs. If you are a heavy smoker or a heavy user of chewing tobacco, quitting suddenly will be very uncomfortable because of the withdrawal symptoms. You will be irritable, you will have headaches, insomnia, chills, and you may feel shaky or nervous. You may also have a dry mouth, feel your heart racing, or break out in a sweat.

Methods to stop smoking:

  • All at once ("cold turkey")

Cold turkey is a food that requires little preparation, so to quit like "cold turkey" means to quit suddenly and without preparation. This method is most effective if you are not a heavy smoker. You can make a resolution to quit smoking when you go on vacation, for example. It will be easier to forget about smoking when you are in a new setting without the usual routine. Just make sure that before you go on vacation you discard all your tobacco, so that when you come back you will not be tempted to re-start. You can also choose the birthday of a loved one as a date to quit. This makes a very nice birthday present for someone who cares about you.

  • Gradually

You can stretch the time of misery but reduce the degree of suffering by quitting gradually. Set a two-week time frame during which you will reduce tobacco use in half every two days. If you smoke 10 cigarettes per day, smoke only 5 cigarettes for 2 days, then 3 for 2 days, then 2 for 2 days, then 1 for 2 days, and congratulations! You have quit. During the time that you are reducing tobacco use make sure that you are busy and have things to keep you occupied to take your mind away from smoking. Once you have smoked your last cigarette, throw away your cigarettes and replace your pack with your special talisman to remind you of why you stopped smoking. Every time that you subconsciously reach for your cigarettes, you will remember your special reason for quitting.

Some additional things that may help you reduce your smoking are:

    • Wait as long as you can before lighting your first cigarette of the day
    • Try to spend a whole evening without smoking
    • After meals, keep yourself busy rather than smoke
    • Keep a written log of your progress. Once you stop smoking, keep a tally of how many cigarettes you have not smoked and how much money you have saved.

  • Using nicotine patches, gums, or lozenges.

Some people prefer to quit by using transdermal or oral nicotine products that reduce the cravings for tobacco. The patches work slowly over many hours, whereas gum and lozenges act immediately and enable you to control the dosage, as needed. These products have the advantage of immediately eliminating the harmful smoke from tobacco, but they do not get rid of your addiction to nicotine unless you reduce their use over time. Instead of cigarettes, now you carry a pack of gum or lozenges. At some point you must wean yourself of this chemical dependency using the principles discussed above. The cost of these products is equivalent to a few cartons of cigarettes, but it is certainly worth it if you cannot quit by willpower alone. You can find these products at your local pharmacy, or you can order online.

By procrastinating in choosing one of the above methods to quit smoking, you are basically choosing the ultimate alternative — to smoke until you die. Death is a 100% effective way to stop smoking. You may not necessarily die of cancer or emphysema if you smoke, but the statistics are not in your favor for living a long, healthy life.

When you have smoked your last cigarette, throw out all your tobacco products in the trash or burn them in a bonfire. Do not give them to another smoker, and least of all to a friend. Discarding your tobacco is a ceremony similar to a funeral that says goodbye to an old way of life and starts you onto a new path. The hardest adjustment will be learning how to handle your relationships with family members and friends who still smoke. By quitting, you will be breaking a bond that you had with them. They will need to learn to respect your need for a smoke-free environment, and this is not easy if you share living accommodations or meet in areas that allow smoking. But let me tell you one thing, it can be done.

2 comments: said...

Nice long post! :D And not preachy.

Two things you got wrong though:

1. The movie's called 'Thank You For Smoking' not 'do' smoking :D

2. Dyslexia ( is in fact, a reading disorder and not a math one!

I've subscribed to your blog's feed; waiting for more...

Wolfestine said...

Thank you for taking such interest in my blog. Also i'd like to thank you for correcting me. I really appreciate it.

The name of a movie was an honest mistake... and it was wrong twice because of the excess use of ctrl C n ctrl V... while the dyslexia was actually supposed to be dyscalculia... Sorry about that. I have edited the post now.

I will keep posting more posts, but i think it will be a while before i belt out another such meaningful blog. It was just that quite a few of my friends smoke, and since i quit smoking, i thought i'd write something that'd help them quit too. :)