We noticed you're blocking ads.

Keep supporting great journalism by turning off your ad blocker.

Questions about why you are seeing this? Contact us

Font Size

- Aa +

Thu 18 Dec 2008 04:00 AM

Font Size

- Aa +

Putting out the fire

Smoking does so much harm to your health, so why not just stop? Read on for tips on how to quit.

Smoking does so much harm to your health, so why not just stop? Read on for tips on how to quit.

By now, even the tobacco companies agree: smoking is bad for your health - very bad, in fact.

All in all, the average non-smoker lives about 14 years longer than the average smoker. And the worldwide burden is truly staggering.

According to the American Cancer Society, smoking will kill about 650 million of the world's 1.3 billion smokers alive today. Smoking is a major cause of cardiovascular disease, including heart attacks, strokes, and peripheral artery disease. So it's no wonder 20% of all cardiac deaths are caused by smoking.

Between 80% and 90% of all patients with emphysema owe their lung disease to smoking. Chronic bronchitis and pneumonia are among the other lung diseases that are increased in smokers.

And there's more. Smoking contributes to many other health problems, ranging from cataracts, sinusitis, and dental disorders to heartburn, diabetes, osteoporosis, bladder cancer and erectile dysfunction.

The more you smoke, the higher your risks, but even a few cigarettes a day will harm your health. "Light" and "low-tar" cigarettes are no safer than high-test brands. The only truly safe dose of tobacco is zero. Fortunately, there are more ways to kick the habit than ever before.

The benefits of quitting

Quitting helps, even if you've smoked for years. Within days, your blood vessels will regain much of the normal function that is damaged by smoking. Within weeks, you'll be able to taste food better, and your sense of smell will recover from tobacco's assault. Within months, symptoms of chronic bronchitis ease up, and lung function improves within a year.

Quitting reduces the risk of heart attack and stroke within two to five years. And the risk of lung cancer begins to drop substantially within five to nine years of quitting. People who kick the habit live longer than those who continue to smoke. How to quit

There are four basic strategies for quitting. Look them over and decide which is best for you. Many smokers need to try several methods and several attempts before they kick the habit. And even after quitting, it's important to keep your guard up. Just one cigarette can reactivate your nicotine craving, even after years of abstinence.

Kicking the habit

Do it yourself

Don't try to cut down. Quitting completely is the way to go, but it takes preparation. And cooperation from family and friends is important. Here are some tips:

• Make a list of reasons to quit and another list of people who have quit smoking. The first list will remind you why quitting is important, and the second will show you that people no smarter than you have succeeded. Keep your lists handy and refer to them whenever you begin to weaken

• Pick a quitting date and stick to it Plan to quit on a special day, such as a birthday

• Try to get other smokers to join you in quitting

• Spring clean As your quit date approaches, throw out your ashtrays, clean your home, car, and clothes, and clean your teeth. Once you do this, you'll see that smoking stinks

• Anticipate withdrawal symptoms such as grumpiness, restlessness, irritability, hunger, headache, anxiety, drowsiness or insomnia. The discomfort usually peaks one to three weeks after you quit, and then gradually diminishes. To get through the rough patches, stock up on low-calorie snacks to keep your mouth busy. Keep your mind and your hands busy

• Find soothing techniques If you feel tense, try meditation, deep breathing, or yoga

• Begin an exercise program It will relieve tension, promote good sleep, and help control weight gain. Walking for 30 minutes a day can really help

• Eat a healthy diet

• Stay away from second-hand smoke Don't even think about smoking "just one" - even a single puff will set you back

• Reward yourself Save up your usual cigarette money and then buy a special treat

• Think positively Take it one day at a time. And if you slip, try again - either on your own or with one or more of the other strategies for quitting.

Behavioural support

Quitting is your responsibility. It may be hard, but it doesn't have to be lonely. Your doctor can refer you to a support group in your area. Hypnosis is another alternative that has helped some smokers break free. Nicotine-replacement therapy

Cigarette smoke contains thousands of harmful chemicals, but nicotine is the most addicting. Like other addicting substances, it acts on receptors in the brain's "reward centre," creating a feeling of pleasure and a craving for more nicotine.

Nicotine-replacement therapy can short-circuit the craving without introducing the other disease-producing chemicals, and it's safe. Plan to start nicotine-replacement therapy on the day you quit smoking.

If you're a heavy smoker, you'll need higher doses. Estimate how much nicotine you need based on an average of 1-2mg of nicotine per cigarette.

Start with the full dose, then gradually cut down over several months. Under-dosing is more common than overdosing, but you shouldn't smoke while using nicotine-replacement therapy.

According to Ahmed Magazachi, Store Manager of Life Home Healthcare, and Latheesh Chakkadath of Bin Sina Pharmacy, both at Dubai Healthcare City, three types of nicotine replacement are available in the UAE. Here are their recommended dosages for these products:

• Nicotine patches (Nicotinell, Nicorette)

Nicotinell patches come in three strengths: 21mg, 14mg, and 7mg. If you smoke 20 or more cigarettes a day, start with the Nicotinell TTS 30 (21mg) patch. If you smoke less than 20 cigarettes a day start with Nicotinell TTS 20 (14mg).

You can reduce the dose every month as your nicotine addiction resolves. Place a new patch on clean, unbroken, hairless skin each day and leave it there all day and night. If you find that you experience bad dreams while wearing the patch at night, you can switch to a 16-hour Nicorette patch that you remove at bedtime. Nicorette patches offer much smaller doses of nicotine in three steps: step 1 (15mg), step 2 (10mg) and step 3 (5mg).

Apply on waking to dry, hairless skin on your hip, chest or upper arms, removing the patch after about 16 hours, before bed. Start taking the 15mg patch for 16 hours daily for 8 weeks. Then, if you have managed to stop smoking, take the 10mg patch for 16 hours daily for 2 weeks

Lastly, take the 5mg patch for 16 hours for 2 weeks. Review the treatment if you haven't managed to quit within 3 months. Mild skin irritation is the most common side effect. Store and discard your patches with care to keep them away from children.

• Nicotine gum (Nicorette, Nicotinell)

If you smoke more than 20 cigarettes a day, you should use gum that provides 4mg of nicotine per piece. If you smoke less, use the 2mg dose. Chew the gum whenever the smoking urge surges - up to 15 pieces a day. Aim to wean yourself off the gum in about three months if possible. Chewing replaces the oral stimulation of smoking, but some people find the taste unpleasant, and some develop hiccups or indigestion. Coffee, tea, beer, and soft drinks may interfere with nicotine absorption

• Nicotine tablets (Nicorette)

If you usually light up within 30 minutes of waking, you should use the 4mg strength, while more moderate smokers can use the 2mg tablets. A typical schedule calls for one tablet every 1-2 hours for six weeks, then every 2-4 hours for two weeks, and then every 4-8 hours for the final two weeks. Don't eat or drink while using a tablet, and avoid acidic beverages for at least 15 minutes before use.

Nicotine tablets are safe for use with dentures. Side effects may include an unpleasant taste, nausea, indigestion, or mouth tingling. You may prefer one form of nicotine replacement to the others. Try various types and remember that they work best when combined with behavioural support.

Prescription drugs

• Bupropion (Zyban) does not contain nicotine and can be used in combination with nicotine-replacement therapy. You can start taking bupropion 1-2 weeks before your quit date. The usual dose is 150mg once a day for the first 3 days, then 150mg twice a day for 8 to 12 weeks, or longer if needed. Bupropion can reduce weight gain after quitting. Possible side effects may include dry mouth and insomnia. Seizures are very rare.

• Varenicline (Champix) is the newest drug approved for smoking cessation. It blocks nicotine receptors in the brain while also partially stimulating these receptors to reduce nicotine withdrawal symptoms. The usual dose is 0.5mg once a day for the first three days, then 0.5mg twice a day for 4 days, followed by the full dose of 1mg twice a day for 12 weeks or longer.

The dose should be lowered in patients with severe kidney disease. Nausea is common, and bad dreams may occur. Mood disturbances and behavioural problems have developed, particularly in smokers with psychiatric problems, but it's not clear that these are caused by the medication. Reports of accidents and visual abnormalities are also being investigated by the FDA. More research is needed.

If you smoke, quitting should be your top priority. It will take willpower and hard work, but lots of help is available. You may have to try several times before you finally succeed, but don't be discouraged. Millions of people have quit, and you can too.

Resources:Latheesh ChakkadathBin Sina Pharmacy l Dubai Healthcare City l Tel : +971 4 429 8242 Ahmed Magazachi

Life Home Healthcare Pharmacy l Dubai Healthcare City l Tel: +971 4 362 4802

Arabian Business: why we're going behind a paywall

For all the latest health tips & news from the UAE and Gulf countries, follow us on Twitter and Linkedin, like us on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube page, which is updated daily.
Real news, real analysis and real insight have real value – especially at a time like this. Unlimited access ArabianBusiness.com can be unlocked for as little as $4.75 per month. Click here for more details.