What is smoking?
Smoking is a chronic, addictive and relapsing disease – it tends to recur. In fact, the World Health Organization classifies it as a mental and behavioral disorder, thus highlighting the most current idea of conceiving smoking as a disease and not simply as a bad habit.
Who is affected?
According to data from the World Health Organization (2021), tobacco kills more than 8 million people worldwide each year.
In Spain, it is the second most widespread psychoactive substance in the population, as stated in the report ” Tobacco and Cancer in Spain” of the Cancer Observatory of the Spanish Association Against Cancer (AECC), causing more than 50,000 deaths per year.
The highest number of new smokers is in the youngest age range, between 15 and 24 years old, although, fortunately, the number of smokers in Spain has been decreasing over the years.
What are the causes of smoking?
The reasons that lead people to smoke and to maintain this behavior are diverse and related to different natures:
- Learned behavior : especially in its early stages, where multiple factors of a social, genetic, environmental and personal nature converge in unison, all interacting with each other and facilitating the beginning of consumption.
- Social behavior: by means of automatisms and conditioning linked to the environment, it is mechanically consolidated and integrated into our most daily activities.
- Powerful physical and psychological addiction : above all, nicotine is the main psychoactive component responsible for the appearance of dependence on tobacco and the first responsible for its perpetuation. This explains the real difficulties many smokers have in successfully quitting.
What symptoms do smokers present?
The absence of symptoms in the early stages of tobacco use can erroneously transmit to the smoker a false sense of security but, as consumption progresses, respiratory symptoms related to the irritant effect of tobacco smoke and more than 4,000 substances will appear. identified in it. These symptoms will depend, in their forms and intensity, on the time and amount of consumption that each smoker shows.
In general, the main respiratory symptoms present in smokers are:
- Pharyngeal irritation.
- Progressive shortness of breath (in more advanced stages).
- Lack of tolerance to exercise (in more advanced stages).
What is the most indicated treatment to deal with smoking?
Quitting smoking is, without a doubt, the personal decision that achieves the greatest beneficial impact on a person’s present and future health. Furthermore, any attempt to address smoking should be planned bearing in mind that it is a chronic addictive disease. From this point of view, the best treatment is one that combines the pharmacological aspect with cognitive-behavioral psychological support.
In this sense, drug treatment should be offered to any smoker who wants to make a serious attempt to stop smoking, except in cases where medical contraindications coexist or situations where there is no solid evidence on their safety or efficacy (pregnancy, children and adolescents and smokers of less than 10 cigarettes a day).
Currently, the following are recognized as first-line drugs in the treatment of smoking:
- Nicotine replacement therapy in all its forms : patches, gum, sucking candy, nasal spray and mouth inhaler.
- Bupropion: drug with psychostimulant properties indicated for smoking cessation, as it reduces anxiety and nicotine withdrawal symptoms.
- Varenicline: A drug that works by reducing the effect of nicotine on the brain and reducing the anxiety caused by withdrawal symptoms.
- Other alternative therapies, such as hypnosis, acupuncture or the use of electronic cigarettes, do not have consistent evidence on their effectiveness in smoking cessation, which does not allow to issue recommendations on their use.
What are the health consequences of smoking?
Tobacco kills one person every 6 seconds in the world and, in Spain, is the first isolated cause of preventable disease, disability and premature death, being present as a risk factor in 6 of the 8 main causes of death. One in three of these deaths are premature deaths that occur in young people in the prime of their lives.
Likewise, smoking is the recognized cause of:
- 29 diseases of various kinds.
- More than 85% of cases of chronic bronchitis.
- 95% of lung cancer cases.
- 30% of all coronary heart disease.
In pregnant women, smoking causes:
- An increase in spontaneous abortions.
- Low-weight newborns.
- Increased number of complications during pregnancy and childbirth.
How can addiction to tobacco be prevented?
For the prevention of tobacco addiction in society, the necessary strategies and knowledge about the dangers and consequences of tobacco use must be offered. It is important to remember that initiation to tobacco use in our sociocultural context takes place at school age, to the point that half (48%) of young people between 14 and 18 years old have ever tried tobacco, guided by the transgression of the norm, experimentation and integration in the group.
10 Basic Tips to Quit Smoking
• 1. Do not think that you will have to be without smoking your whole life.
Just worry about the present, be clear about why you want to give up tobacco and overcome the desire to smoke every day.
• 2. Change certain lifestyle habits.
Modifying certain routines will help you forget the moments you used to smoke and make abstinence easier.
• 3. Avoid temptations.
Keep lighters, matches and ashtrays away from your presence and refuse to be with smokers as much as possible.
• 4. Always have something ready to snack or chew.
Fresh fruit, sugar-free gum or even a vegetable like carrots. Anything but cigarettes.
• 5. Bet on doing activities that distract you.
Spend your free time doing what you like; This will keep your mind busy and you will feel better.
• 6. Live a healthy life.
A balanced diet, taking relaxing breaths, and exercising are habits that will help alleviate your urge to smoke.
• 7. Make a list of reasons not to smoke and remind yourself of it periodically.
The benefits, both for your health and for your pocket, are more than evident.
• 8. Don’t give up.
Not even for a single cigarette, as nicotine has a strong addictive power and will probably lead to your relapse.
• 9. Seek support from family and friends.
It is important that you share your desire to quit smoking with your closest environment, they can make it easier to quit smoking.
• 10. Consult your healthcare professional.
It will assess your health and determine, if necessary, the best treatment to stop smoking.