Did you know that smoking just one cigarette releases more than 7,000 chemicals into the body? While 70 of these are known carcinogens (cancer-causing), many other chemicals in cigarettes have also been found to be extremely toxic and addictive in nature. Despite such facts, tobacco remains one of the most commonly abused substances in India and is incredibly addictive in nature. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), India is home to 12% of the world's smokers. More than 10 million people die each year due to tobacco use in India. Quitting smoking can be extremely difficult, however with the right approach it can be achieved.
Quitting tobacco is a journey which doesn’t happen overnight. By making the choice to quit tobacco, you are improving your overall quality of life. The journey is certainly not easy. Now, there are two methods of quitting tobacco. One is the age-old way of quitting cold turkey – which basically means to quit smoking abruptly without any ‘quit smoking’ products or professional support.
The second method involves gradually reducing cigarette intake day-by-day till the decided date is reached when it is reduced to zero. Neither of the two methods are easy, but success rates are higher when you seek professional help along with strong self-motivation. The choice, however, depends on the individual’s preference and lifestyle.
Effective coping mechanisms include changes in diet and lifestyle and managing mood-swings and nicotine withdrawal symptoms. Exercise can also help to combat the cravings.
Smoking tobacco vs smokeless tobacco
While tobacco can be used in smoking and smokeless ways, the harm that they bring to our bodies is immense. Smokeless tobacco, in fact, contains a higher concentration of nicotine, making it harder to quit. But, irrespective of the type of tobacco being consumed, it’s physically, mentally and emotionally addictive in nature.
Now, the harmful effects of tobacco can range from cosmetic changes to serious health complications. While cosmetic changes such as yellow teeth, gum problems, bad breath, and wrinkly skin are quicker to get noticed, the debilitating health effects -- like lung cancer, heart attacks, stroke/paralysis, fertility problems might not be immediately apparent.
How to go about planning your quit day
Remaining busy and vigilant on your quit day will help you divert your mind off tobacco. You can tell your friends and family about this day to seek their support and encouragement. Make sure you have some oral substitutes such as chewing gums, lozenges, toothpicks etc. You can also ask your friends not to smoke or chew tobacco around you.
• Nicotine replacement therapies (NRTs):
Today you have a wide of range of NRTs available such as nicotine patches, nicotine gum, and other therapies. Since nicotine dependence is a strong force, using patches or nicotine gum can help with cravings and stop you from relapsing into old habits.
• Non-Nicotine Pharmacotherapy:
Certain medications have proven very effective in smoking de-addiction. It would be best to consult with a doctor regarding this, as they will be able to craft a customised plan of action based on your medical history and lifestyle.
• Behavioural support:
Behavioural support is incredibly important as tobacco forms a physical and emotional dependency. Counselling, speaking to family & friends or joining a support group can be very effective forms of behavioural support that will keep you motivated to stay tobacco-free. It has been observed that behavioural support combined with NRTs under the care of your doctor can increase the chances of quitting smoking successfully by 25%.
Quite often, finding a powerful personal reason for quitting tobacco acts as a perfect motivator. Having said that, it is equally important for you to keep reminding yourself about its dangers and the immense health benefits that you are going to experience upon quitting. Always remember that trying out something that will help you beat the urge is always better than doing nothing. Each time you resist a tobacco craving, you're one step closer to being totally tobacco-free.
Dr. Chaitanya Sravanthi is currently practicing as an associate consultant at Fortis Hospital and mfine.