Smoking Risks – Protect your Health
Smoking cigarettes is one of the greatest causes of illness and premature death in the civilized world. It can also create health issues for the people around them, who are affected by second hand smoke. Second hand smoke will lead to health problems in adults and can also affect young children and babies, increasing their risk of intense coughing, wheezing and asthmatic symptoms.
Most countries have banned smoking in the workplace and any enclosed public space. These laws were established to introduce smoke-free environments for the benefit and protection of all. With research showing that smoking accounts for more than one third of respiratory deaths and around one quarter of cancer deaths, the aim of these laws is to benefit the both the smoker and their colleagues in the workplace, with the goal of stopping smoking altogether.
It can be difficult to stop smoking, but the benefits are numerous. After one month of giving up your skin will seem clearer, after three to nine months your breathing will have improved and after one year the risk of a heart attack or heart disease will have fallen dramatically.
Many organisations have promoted quit smoking campaigns such as ‘Stoptober’ and ‘Go Smokefree’ to aid smokers in their fight to stop smoking. Other types of therapy, including counselling, have also proven successful when it comes to helping a smoker understand the effects of smoking on themselves, their family and their friends with the ultimate goal of stopping for good. Some international companies have actively gotten involved financially to help promote the goal of “Stop Smoking”
We often associate smoking with the physical side effects, however this overview will also explore the social, financial and emotional effects that it can have.
Facts about smoking
According to statistics Statistics Canada here are some facts about smokers:
- In 2011, one in five, or about 5.8 million Canadians smoked–more males (22.3%) than females (17.5%).
- Fewer people are heavy smokers today compared to a decade ago–and more males (23.5%) than females (14.2%) are heavy smokers.
- The smoking rate fell more rapidly among teens (15 to 19 years) than any other age group.
- One in ten 15 to 17 year olds (about 121,000) smoked in 2011. They were three times more likely to smoke in homes where someone smoked regularly (22.4% versus 7.0%).
- Smoking has a substantial impact on health and life expectancy—smokers could lose about 9 years of life expectancy.
Smoking is the leading cause of premature death in Canada. And while much progress has been made in reducing tobacco use, it remains a serious health problem. Recent studies have estimated that 21% of all deaths over the past decade are due to smoking.1 Most lung cancer patients are current or former smokers, and lung cancer causes more deaths than any other cancer.2 Based on the latest available statistics, there were 19,000 lung cancer deaths in Canada in 2008, accounting for about 27% of all cancer deaths in that year.3
The costs of treating the numerous diseases and conditions caused by smoking are quite substantial. According to estimates, health care spending related to smoking accounts for between 6% and 15% of total annual healthcare costs in high-income countries like Canada.4
This article highlights smoking data from the 2011 Canadian Community Health Survey (CCHS),5 exploring trends and variations by age, sex, and heavy and light smoking. Characteristics of youth smokers and the impact of smoking on life expectancy are also presented.
Why do people smoke?
For quite some time a major effort has been underway to curb the world’s smoking habit. Laws are in place to prohibit smoking in certain areas, taxes on tobacco products continue to skyrocket and research highlighting the link between smoking and serious health issues continues to grow, yet still millions continue to smoke – but why? Below, we explore some of the reasons an individual might pick up their first cigarette:
Boredom can trigger a wide range of behaviours and habits, including smoking. The amount of excitement and novelty we require differs for each individual, which relates to how easily a person becomes bored.
Habits of parents can influence their children. Research suggests a child is three times more likely to take up smoking if both parents smoke.
Smoking can start off as a form of self-expression and then develop into a habit. You might start smoking to stand out from the crowd, but the longer you continue the easier it is to become addicted.
Social acceptance is a key factor why people start smoking from a young age. If you are the only non-smoker among your friends, it can be hard to resist as you feel the pressure to join in.
Most adults quote stress as one of the main reasons they started or continue to smoke.
If you are a smoker, think back to when you first bought a packet of cigarettes. Did you know the effect that smoking addiction could have on you and the people around you? Were you aware that cigarettes could cause addiction?
For new smokers, information on the effects of smoking is easily available with smoking cessation services and therapy being more accessible than ever before.
Effects of smoking
According to NHS Choices, smoking increases the chance of you developing more than 50 health conditions. Here are a number of serious health conditions that can develop as a result of smoking:
Around one in six people develop heart disease due to smoking. It’s the biggest killer in the UK, causing approximately 120,000 deaths each year.
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
Approximately 25,000 people in the UK die each year from COPD. Around eight in 10 of these deaths are linked to smoking. This disease causes people to be extremely ill for several years before they pass away.
In the UK, around 30,000 people die from lung cancer every year. Smoking causes eight out of 10 of these deaths.
Smokers also develop other cancers including cancer of the throat, mouth, larynx, nose, oesophagus, kidney, blood (leukaemia), and bladder.
Smoking can lead to impotency and other sexual problems in middle life.
Long-term smoking harms fertility in both males and females.
Smoking increases the risk of hardening of the arteries, which is also known as atheroma. Atheroma is one of the primary causes of strokes and heart disease.
Smoking causes around one in five cases of rheumatoid arthritis, which causes inflammation of the joints.
Smokers often develop more lines on their face at an early age, which can make them appear older than they actually are.
Women who smoke start the menopause an average of two years before a non-smoker.
Smoking can worsen the symptoms of the following conditions: asthma, chest infections, tuberculosis, chronic rhinitis, diabetic retinopathy, Crohn’s disease and multiple sclerosis. It also increases the risk of developing a number other conditions including: osteoporosis, dementia, pulmonary fibrosis, optic neuropathy, psoriasis, gum disease and tooth loss.
Why should you stop smoking?
Stopping smoking can make a big difference to your overall health. The sooner you give up, the better you will feel.
If you have been smoking since you were a young adult and stop before the age of 35, your life expectancy is only marginally less than a non-smoker. If you were to stop before you hit 50, the chance of you developing a smoking-related disease is halved.
Reduced risk of heart attacks and lung cancer
After one year being smoke free, the risk of having a heart attack decreases to half that of a smoker. After 10 years, the risk of lung cancer also decreases to half that of a smoker. After 15 years, the risk of having a heart attack falls to the same level as a non-smoker.
Helps to stop premature ageing
When you stop smoking, your facial ageing slows which delays the development of wrinkles. Ex-smokers also benefit from fresher breath, whiter teeth and are less likely to develop gum disease and lose their teeth prematurely.
Increased lung capacity
Within nine months of stopping smoking, you gain 10% of your lung capacity back. This may not necessarily be noticeable until you take part in an intensive sport or you go for a run.
Reduced stress levels
There is a common misconception that smoking decreases stress. The truth is, it only decreases stress when smoking the cigarette and for a short time afterwards. Between cigarettes, stress can actually be heightened due to cravings for the next fix. Removing this craving from your daily life helps to reduce stress, as you will no longer need to rely on smoking for instant relief.
Improved taste and smell
Another change many smokers will notice when they quit is a heightened sense of taste and smell. Around 4,000 chemical compounds in cigarettes dull your sense of taste, which will gradually return when you give up.
Stronger defence against cold and flu
After two weeks you will feel more energised as your circulation improves. It will be easier to fight off colds and flu, you will feel less tired and will even be less likely to suffer from headaches.
Improving the lives of others
As well as improving your own life, smoking cessation improves the lives of the people you live with. Children who live with smokers are three times more likely to develop lung cancer later in life, in comparison to children who live with non-smokers. So when you stop, the chances of the people you live with getting lung cancer and other smoking-related diseases dramatically drops.
The financial impact
If you smoke 20 cigarettes a day, you could save in excess of £2,000 a year when you give up.
The emotional impact
The emotional impact of smoking is often overlooked. There is always that constant nagging feeling that you need to stop, either from within or from increasing pressure from society.
A non-smoker may think that it’s an easy habit to kick. The reality however is very different and many smokers find it incredibly difficult and often need support.