Smoking is a disease of the brain that causes its victim to inhale thousands of toxic chemicals over 200 times daily and find it to be a pleasurable experience. The cigarette before combustion has about 600 chemicals. However, when lit, over 7300 chemicals emerge. It is the only legal product that kills more than 50% of its customers when used as directed.
It causes two kinds of diseases:
- Addiction to nicotine
- Toxicity assault of the other chemicals on each organ of the body
There are 69 chemicals known to cause cancer. And others cause COPD and heart disease.
When a person inhales cigarette smoke, its effect reaches the brain in 7 seconds. That is an immediate reward! Nicotine is a very strong addiction that changes the way the brain thinks. It takes over the habit area of the brain, bypassing the judgment area of the frontal brain. Going without a cigarette for more than 2 hours causes uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms – a feeling that is relieved in a matter of seconds by smoking a cigarette. So, it is easy to smoke and difficult to quit. The tobacco industry seems to have carte blanche in adding and subtracting chemicals designed to maximize the addictive force of nicotine and further harm their victims/customers.
Because your brain craves nicotine, it will figure all kinds of ways to maintain smoking. You rationalize; You procrastinate efforts to quit for another day, or week, or year. You tell yourself: “It’s just a habit.” “I can quit any time.” “I enjoy smoking.” “If I quit smoking, I will irritate my family by being difficult to live with.” There are many cues to smoke, like your morning cup of coffee; after a meal; with alcohol; after sex; being around people who are smoking; on and on. Your brain ties these cues to taking a cigarette. You do it without thinking – automatically.
Quitting smoking is the very best gift you can give yourself – especially if you have lung disease, heart disease, or cancer. Don’t wait! Seek professional help! We now have medications to help people to quit by reducing withdrawal. Chantix is very effective, and so is nicotine replacement therapy. You can quit “cold turkey.” However, the success rate for each trial is about 5%. With the medication it can be up to 25%, and with medication, plus behavioral support, your chances of quitting can be as high as 35% for each trial. While these numbers vary, an important thing to keep in mind is that you may make many attempts before achieving full success. So, there is no such thing as failure. Each unsuccessful attempt will bring you one step closer to reaching your goal of finally quitting. There are many resources to help, such as the Lung Association, Heart Association, Centers for Disease Control, American Cancer Society, your hospital, 1-800-quitnow and www.smokefree.gov. You can download an App for your phone. The key to success is to keep trying and reach out for help. Some organizations give out free patches. It is important to know that you will need the most effective dose of patches as well as rapid help from gum or lozenges. Generally, if you smoke 1 pack per day, a 21 mg patch will be a good starting dose. It is not generally known, but you can smoke with a patch on. This will allow you to comfortably taper off cigarettes. So, even if you are not completely ready to quit, go ahead and put on a patch and see if you smoke less. That may be a good strategy to perhaps save your life and feel better in the process. You can and will eventually do it. It is best to start right now. You deserve it!
Good Luck and Good Life!
Brian Tiep, MD