World No-Tobacco Day 2020: The adverse health effects of smoking – more lifestyle

‘Smoking’ is synonymous with harm, disease and death. The Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS) 2016-17 has revealed that 28.6%, i.e., 266.8 million of all adults use tobacco in some form in India. Around 10.7%, or 99.5 million, of the adult population in the country smokes tobacco, according to the GATS data. Additionally, 38.7% of the adults are exposed to secondhand smoke at home. It is interesting to note that 55.4% of current smokers intended to quit smoking and 49.6% of smokeless tobacco users were thinking of quitting the habit. It is also noteworthy that according to the survey, 92.4% of the adults believed that smoking is injurious to health and causes serious illness. And yet, we have a large population of smokers in our country.

Most people start smoking early, with the mean age at initiation of daily smoking being 18.7 years.

Smoking exerts its adverse effects on nearly every organ of the body, causing several diseases, and harms the over all health of smokers in general. It is the leading cause of premature, preventable deaths. The most common cause of death from tobacco use is cardiovascular disease (CVD; 48%).

Smoking affects the heart and lungs and is known to cause coronary heart disease, stroke and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). While smoking can worsen your asthma, it may also heighten your odds of developing pneumonia and tuberculosis.

Smoking damages the blood vessels causing them to thicken and narrow down thus obstructing blood flow to all the vital organs. The blood pressure may rise leading to hypertension and clots formation which may in turn cause a stroke or heart disease.

However, the harm doesn’t stop here. Smoking is also linked with diabetes, osteoporosis, arthritis, and cataracts. Cancers of various organs including the lungs, esophagus, larynx, kidney, bladder, pancreas, stomach, liver, cervix, colon, rectum, and also blood are seen to more common in smokers.

Another very important adverse effect of smoking is on the reproductive system and fertility. Besides making conception difficult, smoking increases the risk of miscarriage, having an ectopic pregnancy (implantation of fertilized egg outside the uterus), early delivery, having a baby with low birth weight, and having a baby born with other abnormalities. The men’s sperm count is also affected making it difficult for conception to occur.

It is seen that longer the duration of smoking, greater the odds of experiencing harm, which includes premature death.

Secondhand smoke is equally harmful exposure to which damages the airways and affects the heart and blood vessels. It could increase your risk of heart disease by 25 to 30% and stroke risk by 20 to 30% and is also responsible for premature death.

Keeping all these harmful effects in mind it would be prudent to quit smoking at the earliest. Here are Some tips to help you in the process :

Plan how you want to quit smoking. Make a promise to yourself, fix a date and stick to the plan.

Make a list of your reasons for quitting. This list will help you overcome any urges and ill emotions.

You will feel the urge, but this lasts for only 5 minutes. So to conquer that craving, make a list of five-minute strategies to avoid the urge.

Exercise. Take a five-minute walk, go for a jog or stretch. Physical exercise can help cut the cravings.

At a social gathering, stay around non-smokers.

Seek support. There is nothing wrong in seeking help. If you are in distress, call a friend to distract yourself from any thoughts of smoking.

Quitting smoking is an uphill task but once you start on the journey with conviction and self belief you would be able to win the battle.

A quitter is a winner!

Dr Veena Aggarwal, Medical Advisor, Member Governing Body FICCI Ladies Organization (FLO )

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