Even though it is universally acknowledged that smoking is detrimental to your short and long term health, and is expensive and illegal in many social spaces, many people still smoke cigarettes.
In fact, Health Hub by Singapore’s Ministry of Health states that: “According to a fact sheet produced by the Health Promotion Board in May 2015, 18 per cent of residents were smokers in 1992. The figure started to fall after that but continued to hover between 13 and 15 per cent.”
Whilst the figure is slowly declining, the fact remains many people worldwide still choose to smoke, even though it:
- Affects men’s sperm and reduces fertility
- Increases the risk of birth defects and miscarriage
- Causes diseases that affect the heart and blood vessels such as heart disease, blood clots and strokes
- Causes type 2 diabetes mellitus
- Causes types of cancer anywhere in the body, including lungs and throat
- Causes gum disease and tooth loss
- Affects your mood and mental wellbeing (due to adrenaline release in reaction to toxins in the cigarette)
In fact smoking harms nearly every organ of the body, and overall health, including your outward appearance — ageing your skin and causing premature wrinkles. Let’s not forget to mention the impact second hand smoke has on your family members too.
Not only is smoking bad for your health, it is also polluting the environment. Cigarette butts are the biggest contamination factor of our oceans, with the NGO Ocean Conservancy collecting over 60 million cigarette butts from beaches since 1986. Once in the ocean, butts slowly dissolve and release the pollutants they absorbed from the tobacco — such as nicotine, arsenic and lead.
The good news to counteract all of the above negativity, is that once smokers quit, things start to repair, quickly. Below is the body healing timeline once you stub out your last cigarette:
- 20 minutes: your blood pressure and heartbeat will start to normalise.
- 12 hours: the body cleanses itself of the excess carbon monoxide from the cigarettes.
- 24 hours: the risk of heart attack begins to decrease.
- 2 days: heightened sense of smell and more vivid tastes as these nerves heal.
- 3 days: the nicotine levels in a person’s body are depleted.
- 1 month: a person’s lung function begins to improve.
- 9 months: the lungs have significantly healed themselves.
- 1 year: risk for coronary heart disease decreases by half.
- 2-5 years: risk of having a stroke falls to about that of a non-smoker.
- 10 years: risk of lung cancer is cut by half.
- 15 years: the likelihood of coronary heart disease is the equivalent of a non-smoker.
- 20 years +: the risk of death from smoking-related causes, including both lung disease and cancer, drops to the level of a person who has never smoked in their life
How to quit
The timeline above really puts it into perspective and thus, would be a good starting point for anyone trying to quit. Here’s how you can break your nicotine addiction and kick the cigarette habit for good.
1. Print the timeline above and keep it on your fridge / in your diary or wherever you’ll constantly see it, as a reminder of how beneficial going smoke-free can really be.
2. Write down your triggers to light up. Is it stressful situations? Morning coffee? Is it only when you drink alcohol? Is it driving? Whatever makes you and keeps you smoking, write them all down clearly so you can then work to change your habits that lead to smoking.
3. Write down all your reasons to quit. Money? Nicer home environment? Future health? Partner hates it? Whatever they are, and there could be many, write down all your reasons to quit and keep this with your timeline and triggers list.
4. Dispose of all smoking accessories in your home and any ‘spare’ packets you have kept, just in case. Do not allow even the smallest of temptations to linger.
5. Communicate clearly to your friends and family that you have quit smoking. This is very important because 1) others can hold you accountable more than you can hold yourself 2) by using past tense of ‘quit’ rather than quitting, you have established yourself already as an ex-smoker.
6. Replace your smoking time with a new habit — from something as simple as chewing a mint to going out for a morning walk instead of your time on the balcony. Whatever it is, try replacing your current smoking habit with a new, healthier habit instead.
7. Take each day as it comes. You are bound for nicotine withdrawals and therefore must accept these will come. Take every day that you’re smoke-free as a real achievement and tell people you’ve achieved this too. Whilst it’s good to hold yourself accountable, it’s also good to praise yourself too.
8. Temporarily avoid any key triggers that make you smoke. If you always smoke at bars, then decline your friends’ invites for a few weeks and explain your reason. Or swap your coffee for tea if you find you smoke when you have a coffee break. If you always smoke to get away from the desk, then change the habit by going to the canteen to buy some fruit for your office break instead.
9. Write down the amount of money saved, per day or per week, that hasn’t been spent on smoking. When you reach the month goal, why not use this sum of money to treat yourself as a reward? It should also make it startlingly obvious how much you have wasted on cigarettes and spur you on to continue to not smoke.
10. With every ‘need’ for a cigarette, tell yourself over and over that it is temporary, and refer back to your timeline of your improved health.
11. Find a new focus. This is the perfect time to throw yourself into a new hobby or sport. If you have a new focus and your attention is switched to that, you’ll soon discover smoking has become a thing of the past for you.
12. And finally, never give up. If you give in to your cravings, accept it is just a lapse and carry on with your original task. Don’t decide because you had one cigarette that you might as well start again. Always keep at it and ensure quitting for good is your final destination, however you get there.
Along with the above tips, there are various organisations and support groups that can help you achieve your smoke-free goal, faster. The Health Promotion Board even has an IQUIT programme you can join, that pushes you to reach a 28 day smoke-free deadline as this often means you’re five times more likely to quit for good. You can sign up to the online registration here: https://www.healthhub.sg/programmes/88/IQuit.
Here’s to going tobacco-free for good.