Is It Time to Stop Smoking?

There are lots of things we do when we're young and invincible and some of them become difficult habits to break as we get older. Even if we work hard, do a little exercise and stick to a reasonably sensible diet, diseases like chronic bronchitis, lung, tongue and throat cancers, heart disease, high blood pressure, strokes and emphysema are smokers' diseases.

Perhaps you're reading this because you're thinking about giving up and need some more pushing in that direction. Perhaps your partner or spouse loathes it and says you smell bad. Or perhaps you want to live long enough and be well enough to keep up with your children or grandchildren. Any reason to stop is a good one.

Smoking affects some more than others.

We all know someone's granny who smoked and drank into her 99th year and died peacefully in her sleep, never a cough or wheeze passing her lips. The reason for this apparent good health comes down, at least in part, to lucky genes. As scientists study health and disease they find that there's a vital balance between our genetics and environments. We may have a genetic likelihood of getting a particular disease if we encounter an environmental trigger that flicks the disease's on-switch.

So smoking is a bit like driving without wearing a safety-belt - you may be fine but it'll be too late by the time you find out that you're not.

Your 'pack year' calculation gives an idea of the severity of your smoking history.

If you smoke 20 cigarettes a day for 1 year, this equals 1 pack year. 40 a day for a year is 2 pack years.

1. So take the average number of cigarettes you've smoked per day (you don't need to be exact, it's a ball-park figure), divide this figure by 20 and write down the answer.
2. Now work out how many years you've been smoking for and use this figure to multiply the answer you wrote down.
3. There's an example here: 40 (cigs per day) divided by 20 X 22 (years of smoking) = 44 pack years.

Anything over 10-15 pack years is considered a 'significant' smoking history and is known to increase your likelihood of smokers' diseases.

Smokers' lung diseases often become apparent after the age of 40, when a cough becomes more persistent and exercise is more difficult. By the time a smoker with lung disease (such as emphysema or chronic bronchitis) goes to the doctor s/he may have lost up to half his lung function.

It's known that people will asthma who smoke are much more likely to go on to get long term lung problems and those with diabetes have many more health problems that non smokers.

Listen up - here's the science.

The lungs are like big elastic sponges that expand and relax as we breathe in and out. The lung damage occurs from the poisons in cigarettes. Nicotine and other tobacco toxins cause the lungs to become stiff and this makes breathing more difficult - a bit like being strangled from the inside. The body tries to trap and get rid of the smoke particles by making extra mucous, which is brushed up the air tubes by tiny hairs and coughed out by reflex. The smoker's cough. However nicotine paralyses the little hairs which is why, when you haven't smoked overnight, they get moving again and you start the day by coughing and clearing your chest.

Don't give up giving up.

How motivated are you to give up smoking? How important is it to you? Would you be prepared to give up in the next 2 weeks? The answers to these questions will tell you what to do next.

Have a clear goal and an achievable plan of how you're going to handle situations where you normally have a cigarette in your hand.

Consider why you smoke at all. Is it a crutch, a habit or a drug for you?

The 'why' will help you consider the practicality of how to give up. If you like something in your hand when you have a drink at a bar, there are 'dummy' cigarettes or inhalators that will act as your cigarette.

Patches, medication from your doctor or gum help if you want to wean yourself off nicotine and all these things work twice as well when you attend a support group that will boost your willpower.

Have confidence in what you're doing, why you're doing it and remember that smokers who tempt or don't support you are jealous of your determination to do something they're too weak to try. They want to see you fail – don’t let them.

More by this Author

fucsia 5 years ago

I am a former smoker and I am agree with you wrote: the important thing is ask ourself the "why". The first and most important step

Temirah 5 years ago Author

'Why' is such a useful question and really gets to the nub of an issue if we use it wisely. Thanks again for your comment.

ebm 4 years ago

"Anything over 10-15 pack years is considered a 'significant' smoking history and is known to increase your likelihood of smokers' diseases."

can i get the source of this information? because ei'm doing evidence base medicine. thank you

Temirah 4 years ago Author

Good texts for info about COPD and smoking include: 'COPD in Primary Care' by David Bellamy and Rachel Booker (Class Heath publications), see page 28 for the info you asked about.

Also 'A Primary Care Guide to COPD' by John Haughney et al (Magister Consulting pubs) and 'Managing COPD' by Peter Barnes (Science Press pubs). These are British publications but most texts will reference the same info.