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To Smoke or not to Smoke, that is the Question!

28 May 2014, 15:12
My friend has just undergone chemotherapy and radiation therapy for lung cancer. Incredibly, he still smokes. My ex-wife died of lung cancer, and yet she continued smoking until near the end. Why is it so difficult to give up in the face of overwhelming evidence that smoking kills?

The smokers will tell you that many people get lung cancer and have never smoked in their lives and their spouses never smoked, so you can't blame passive smoking. This is of course the addiction talking. Smokers will usually find an excuse to continue smoking.

There is ample evidence that smoking not only causes lung cancer, but also a number of other life-threatening diseases:
 "Experts agree that smoking is the single biggest cause of cancer in the world. Smoking causes over a quarter of cancer deaths in developed countries and nearly one in five cancer cases. Around half of current smokers will be killed by their habit if they continue to smoke. And 25-40% of smokers will die in middle age. Smoking causes even
more deaths from other respiratory diseases and heart conditions than from cancer. If current trends continue, scientists estimate that tobacco will kill about one billion people in the twenty-first century. A 2011 study found that more than four in five lung cancers are caused by smoking. In 2002, lung cancer killed around 33,600 people - about one person every 15 minutes." (Here is the link if you want to read more and to see references to papers on each statement):

I, thankfully, gave up in 1972. But before that I could relate to Mark Twain. He said:"Giving up smoking is the easiest thing in the world. I've given it up a thousand times!" Like so many smokers, after a month or two of not smoking, I would say to myself: "Look, you enjoy it so much, you're still young, why give up now?" Or I would be offered a cigarette by my friends, and unthinking and to be sociable, I would take it. And of course, I would start again.

The wake-up call came when a lecturer I knew in medical school who was a very heavy smoker decided to have an x-ray done of his lungs to show his students what a 'normal' lung looks like. He noticed that there were some strange-looking spots on the radiograph, so he decided to ask a radiologist friend of his to look at it, pretending that the radiograph was of a 'friends' lungs. The radiogist studied the prints and said:"Well my friend, you'd better tell your friend that he has about six months to live!"

This made a huge impression on me, but still I kept on smoking. Shortly after that, I was going to take part in a
production where I had to sing three solos every night for a week. I was petrified of having a 'frog' in my throat or a coughing fit during my performance, so I decided to give up "just for the duration of the show." Half-way through the run of the show, with the lecturer's fate still fresh in my mind, I suddenly decided that this was it. Why start again?

From past attempts, I knew that it was not going to be easy, so I analysed what exactly made me start again on all those previous occasions. I came to the following conclusions. (This does not apply to everybody, but it was true for me):

1. I enjoyed the tranquil feeling of sucking on a cigarette. I decided that this was due to my dummy-sucking days as a child. Subconsciously I remembered the soothing feeling I got when I sucked on my dummy or the real thing. So I started sucking on my empty pipe every time I felt like a cigarette (Which was still quite often).

2. My biggest problem in the past had been that I found it very difficult to say "no thanks" when somebody offered me a cigarette. I solved that problem in two ways. a) nobody offered me a cigarette when I was sucking on my empty pipe. b) I convinced myself (and this was literally true) that if I took that particular cigarette, that was the one that would evetually and inevitably kill me! To this day I cannot accept a cigarette from anybody.

That method was successful for me. But there are many different methods that work for different folks. My lovely wife Rose was a smoker when I met her in 1985. Whem her brother, who was a heavy smoker, died suddenly of a heart attack at a very young age, the doctors attributed it partly to his smoking. She then decided to give up smoking. She went for hypnosis and afterwards cut drinking straws into cigarette-size lengths and sucked on those for a while. Thankfully she doesn't smoke anymore.

As I said, there are many different methods of giving up, and any one method might not work for you, but here are some of the methods that may work in your case.

1. The most important thing is to want to give up. If you are half-hearted about this, don't even try to give up. All the methods will fail.

2. Try to find out what it is that keeps you smoking.

a) The most common cause is nicotine addiction.

"Cigarettes are deliberately designed to give you a fast nicotine hit. It takes just 10 seconds for the drug to reach your brain from inhaled cigarette smoke. Nicotine causes addiction in much the same way as heroin or cocaine. It is just as addictive as these ‘harder’ drugs. Nicotine is a stimulant that increases your heart rate and affects many different parts of your brain and body. Smokers get a high because nicotine triggers the release of dopamine in the brain - a chemical linked to feelings of pleasure. This also means that smokers start to make a mental link between the act of smoking and feeling good. Because of this, smokers can also become addicted to abstract things like the taste of cigarettes or the feeling of smoking, as well as the nicotine itself".

"Nicotine Replacement Therapy can help you by reducing your nicotine cravings. NRT has been shown to double your chances of successfully quitting. It is also less addictive than smoking and doesn't cause cancer. NRT is available on prescription or over the counter as gum, patches, tablets, lozenges, nasal spray or inhalers. You usually take a 10-12 week course." Ibid.
Be careful though, you may swop one form of nicotine addiction with another.

"Zyban and Champix are other medicines that can help you give up smoking. They don't contain nicotine. Instead, they work by reducing your desire to smoke and relieving withdrawal symptoms. Zyban and Champix are only available on prescription and are not suitable for everyone. So talk to your doctor if you want to find out more." Ibid.

b) You enjoy the feeling that sucking a cigarette produces, and it gives you something to do with your hands.

Do what Rose and I did. For a while suck on something!

c) You find it difficult to say "no thanks" when somebody offers you a cigarette.

Use  my strategy of imagining that that particular cigarette is going to kill you, or simply learn to say automatically, "Sorry, no thanks I don't smoke!"

3. You are scared of putting on weight.

This is true for some people because nicotine suppresses your appetite and makes your body burn calories faster. Smoking affects your taste and smell, so food may be much tastier when you quit. Some people replace cigarettes with snacks and sweets when they give up.
"Try to eat a balanced diet. (I would strongly recommend Banting:
"Get regular moderate physical activity. Give yourself rewards that don't involve food or drink. Remember that once you’ve given up it will be much easier to stay active, helping you to lose any weight you do put on." Ibid.

Nobody is saying that giving up is easy. It is probably one of the greatest challenges you will ever have to face. But by using the strategies I have outlined above and a strong determination to succeed because your life depends upon it, you may just succeed. Many thousands have done it, so can you!

Disclaimer: All articles and letters published on MyNews24 have been independently written by members of News24's community. The views of users published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24. News24 editors also reserve the right to edit or delete any and all comments received. publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

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