By Salma Awwad
It only takes three days to clear your body of nicotine.
Traditional methods of scaring smokers into relinquishing their hard-wired “habit” are no longer effective. Images of tarred lungs, wilted cigarettes and overflowing ashtrays are simply dismissed no matter how bold the font or creative the campaign is.
We know that smoking causes lung cancer, heart and respiratory diseases, but when we get that urge, these facts don’t seem to matter all that much as we rationalise them away. More tangible and immediate effects of smoking might be able to do the trick, however. So to help you get on the band wagon, here is a list of 10 overlooked side-effects of smoking that can be rectified today.
But before we get started, the good news is that it only takes three days to clear your body of nicotine. Twenty minutes after you put out your last cigarette, your body starts to heal and 72 hours later you’re completely in the clear.
Damage to the nervous system: Once the nicotine is in the brain, it affects the nervous system. Depending on a person's mood, the effects of smoking may be relaxing or stimulating, but the neurological reactions are the same.
An increase in blood pressure and heart rate,
faster respiration and constriction of the arteries may translate to alertness
in the short-term. But repeated exposure will leave you feeling anxious and
distracted. As nicotine leaves your body this feeling is heightened and your
brain signals for another cigarette. This cycle only gets exaggerated over time
and the need for nicotine becomes more frequent.
In reality, it only takes three days for your body
to completely cleanse itself of nicotine once you quit and in turn break this
nervous cycle forever.
Sun spots, age spots and crow’s feet: Smoking
accelerates the process of aging in several ways. The repetitive motion of
squinting while we smoke creates crow’s feet around our eyes and damage to the
skin promotes age and liver spots.
Cellulite and varicose veins: Smoking causes
collagen in your body to break down. Collagen is a major component that keeps
the skin firm and structured. Therefore decreased amounts of collagen will
weaken the dermis of the skin allowing fat cells to protrude to the surface
giving the cellulite appearance. In addition, the toxic chemicals in
cigarettes can do serious damage to the veins and arteries in your body
and the high blood pressure associated with smoking also helps cause
Grey undertone to your complexion: Smoking causes
the blood vessels in the top layers of the skin to narrow, which reduces the
blood supply and amount of oxygen available to the skin. Waste products and
dead cells accumulate, which prevents Vitamin A from bonding with skin cells to
repair them from damage. This leads to the grayish or bluish cast and leathery
texture of the skin. Smoking also restricts circulation, taking away the rosy
blush of young skin and darkens the area around the eyes and lips.
Stained nails and teeth: Brown stains on the
fingers and fingernails of a cigarette smoker are due to tar and nicotine
build-up from tobacco. Yellow teeth are one of the most notorious effects of
long-term smoking, but smokers also develop gum disease, persistent bad breath,
plaque and tartar buildup and are twice as likely to lose teeth as nonsmokers.
Mental degeneration and foggy memory: The act of
smoking is not only detrimental to your physical health, but it also takes a
heavy toll on your mental health. Scientists have found that smoking kills
brain cells and stops the production of new brain cells. Researchers also found
that nicotine impairs the protein PSA-NCAM, which plays a vital role in the
adaptability of the brain and its ability to learn and memorise.
The report published in The Journal of Neuroscience
said: "These results raise an important additional concern for the health
consequences of nicotine abuse and open new insight on the possible neural
mechanisms of tobacco addiction."
Lethargy and depression: Nicotine interferes with
the blood sugar levels in the body, so even normally healthy people may
experience chronic fatigue from using tobacco products. The way smoking affects
the brain and controls the chemicals that regulate the body can slide smokers
into depression. Researchers from the University of Otago in New Zealand
investigated the link of smoking to depression further, and have found a clear
causal relationship. It is true that smokers often feel emotionally uplifted
following a cigarette, but that is only because they are satisfying their
nicotine dependency, and it’s an effect that is extremely short lived.
Sagging skin: Not only does smoking contribute to
premature facial wrinkles but also loose skin in other areas such as the inner
arm. When you smoke cigarettes you inhale an abundance of toxins and free
radicals. Vitamin C is one of our strongest defense mechanisms against free
radicals and smokers have to use the vitamin C they consume in their diets to
fight the free radicals they take into their bodies with each puff. This leaves
little vitamin C left over for the formation of collagen and leaves you
susceptible to colds and flues.
Hair loss: Collagen is not only found in our skin,
it is also in our bones, blood vessels, corneas and hair. Smoking negatively
affects your circulation in general which means impaired blood flow to your
hair follicles and development of collagen. This disrupts the normal hair
growth/loss cycle which occurs on a daily basis and results in hair thinning
and eventual loss.
Not having to step outside in Augusts’ intense
humid weather: In Dubai, stepping outdoors in August for even a single minute
leaves you feeling bewildered and shell shocked. Seeing smokers sweat their way
through a cigarette leaves you wondering what joy they gain out of this
experience. Facing the scorching sun and the humidity is only justified by one
reason: to satisfy an addiction.
Freeing yourself of that addiction requires going
through a withdrawal period which all smokers dread.
It is not an easy process and, at first, you may
feel worse instead of better. But as nicotine leaves your body and the
miraculous process of healing begins, you’ll break all the above viscous cycles
and realise that being dependant on a poison for the rest of your life is simply
not the way you want to live.