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The harms of smoking – Part 5

Jun 03, 2022

Smoking is More Than Just a Bad Habit

We already discussed and know that smoking:
• causes cancer, lung disease, and heart disease, amongst many others
• can shorten your life by reducing the quality of your life as it severely impacts your health
• can cost a smoker thousands of rand`s a year

So why are people still lighting up? The answer, in a word, is addiction.
Once You Start, It’s Hard to Stop

Smoking is a hard habit to break because tobacco contains the very addictive chemical nicotine. As with heroin or other addictive drugs, the body and mind quickly get used to the nicotine in cigarettes. Soon, a person needs to have it just to feel normal.

People start smoking for different reasons. Some think it looks cool. Others start because their family members or friends smoke. Almost all adult tobacco users started before they were 18 years old. Most never expected to become addicted. That’s why it’s so much easier to not start smoking at all.

Cigarette smoking during childhood and adolescence causes significant health problems among young people, including an increase in the number and severity of respiratory illnesses, decreased physical fitness and potential effects on lung growth and function.

Most importantly, this is when an addiction to smoking takes hold, often lasting into and sometimes throughout adulthood. Among adults who have ever smoked daily, 87% had tried their first cigarette by the time they were 18 years of age, and 95% had by age 21.

Remember, smoking is not simply a bad habit—it’s an addiction. The drug inside tobacco that people are addicted to is called nicotine. Just like with other addictions, people who are addicted to cigarettes have a compulsive need to smoke—their body craves regular doses of nicotine.

When someone smokes, it will often lead to changes in their brain and nervous system. These are real physical differences, and the brain will now be dependent on the nicotine, and has ‘rewired’ itself. When the individual stops smoking for a period of time, it is common for individuals to experience some withdrawal symptoms as the brain and body adjusting to no longer having nicotine in the system.

Withdrawal from smoking and nicotine is often uncomfortable. It has many physical symptoms and some people are not able to handle these feelings. They may also find the cravings for nicotine too hard to resist. This is why some people who try quitting relapse, or slip up.

Because the withdrawal symptoms are real, it’s important to be patient with someone who is trying to quit. It takes time for the brain to adjust itself to not receiving nicotine. It also takes time and will power to break habits and routines built around smoking, and to replace them with new healthier choices. Being supportive is the best thing you can do for a friend or family member who is trying to quit.

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