People start smoking for different reasons. Many people take up the habit as teenagers because they think it makes them look sophisticated, or because their friends and family members smoke. In any case, most people never anticipate becoming addicted and unable to stop. Unfortunately, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that approximately 1,000 people under the age of 18 become regular smokers every day, even though research proves that smoking shortens lifespan. Proof comes via international research in several disciplines, including oncology, cardiology, genetics and biochemistry.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that one in five deaths in the U.S. each year, or 443,000 deaths annually, are directly attributed to smoking. Of these, approximately 49,000 deaths are due to exposure to secondhand smoke. On a global scale, smoking results in five million premature deaths every year. In addition, a long-term smoker can expect his lifespan to decrease by an average of 13 to 14 years.
According to the Southwest Foundation for Biomedical Research, or SFBR, cigarette smoke alters gene expression, which can have a significant impact on cell metabolism and increase the risk of disease. Lead study author, Jac Charlesworth, Ph.D., reported in the July 15, 2010, issue of” BMC Medical Genomics” that smoking-related changes in more than 300 individual genes within the white blood cells of more than 1,200 study subjects were observed. However, even though changes were found in many unique genes, changes were also detected among entire networks of related genes, which the research team says may significantly increase the risk of developing a variety of cancers.
According to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, chemicals found in cigarette smoke contribute to a variety of risk factors for heart attack and stroke, including high blood pressure, atherosclerosis, coronary artery disease and peripheral arterial disease. Specifically, smoking causes the walls of blood vessels to lose elasticity and blood vessels to constrict, which means less blood and oxygen are delivered to the organs. In addition, the buildup of arterial plaque further restricts blood flow.
Researchers from the University of Bristol in the United Kingdom have determined that a smoker’s lifespan is shortened with each cigarette smoked. Using data compiled and published over a 40-year period by 34,000 physicians, the researchers found a difference in the average life expectancy between smokers and nonsmokers of 6.5 years. The researchers then calculated that an adult smoking an average of 5,772 cigarettes per year from age 17 until death at age 61 would consume an average total of 311,688 cigarettes. Given the decrease in life expectancy in smokers by 6.5 years compared to nonsmokers, the cost of each cigarette in terms of time lost is 11 minutes.
How to Quit Smoking When You Don’t Want to:
To protect your health, use strategies to force yourself to quit smoking, whether you like it or not.
Give yourself a reason to quit that you believe in, advises the NYU Langone Medical Center. Whether it’s for your family, for yourself or to save money for a vacation, believing in the reason makes it easier.
Consider taking a doctor-prescribed regimen of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) antidepressant medication in the weeks before you stop smoking, notes Mark Ketterer, Ph.D, professor of psychiatry and neuroscience at Detroit, Michigan’s Henry Ford Hospital. “It makes people calmer, it helps them sleep, and studies have shown that antidepressants decrease the possibility of a relapse by about 30 percent,” he says.
Figure out how many packs of cigarettes you smoke in a week, then multiply this by four to figure your monthly cost. Multiply your monthly cost by 12 to calculate your yearly cost. Most likely, you’re unaware of exactly how much you spend on cigarettes, says Barbara Miller in the book “How to Quit Smoking Even If You Don’t Want To.” Keep this figure in your mind as you work on quitting.
Assess the environments that trigger your urge to smoke, and make changes in your routine to avoid these triggers, advises Ketterer. If you like to smoke after meals, get up immediately after eating and work on the dishes. If you like to smoke while drinking, try going to bars that outlaw smoking.
Drink eight 8-oz. glasses of water per day to help flush the nicotine out of your body, suggests the NYU Langone Medical Center. When you feel a cigarette craving coming on, breathe deeply while counting to 10.
Try nicotine replacement therapy, such as a nicotine patch or gum, suggests Auburn, New York family physician Dr. Davidd Levy.
Talk to your doctor about other medication to help you quit. The antidepressant Wellbutrin gives cigarette smokers a 40 percent chance of success, says Levy. The NYU Langone Medical Center also suggests talking to your doctor about the drug varenicline, also called Chantix, which blocks nicotine receptors in your brain.
Frequently reported side effects when taking the drug Chantix include headaches, nausea, bad dreams, insomnia and changes in the way food tastes, according to the NYU Langone Medical Center.
Consult a doctor before taking any kind of nicotine replacement therapy to guard against adverse health effects.
Be patient, and persevere. “The thing to keep in mind is that almost everyone who quits has to try more than once,” says Dr. Anne Davis, past president of the American Lung Association. “You shouldn’t be discouraged. It’s more rare to quit on the first try than on the fifth.”
Financial Burden of Smoking
Smoking can also have a serious effect on your financial circumstances. In 2014, the average cost of a pack of cigarettes in the United States is $5.51. In some states, cigarettes can cost as much as nine dollars per pack. For a smoker who only smokes a single pack a day, the habit could cost as much as $2,011 a year, and that’s on the low end of the spectrum. Other financial impacts include the loss in value of cars and homes that have been smoked in, as well as any health or insurance bills associated with smoking.
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