Whether you are currently a smoker, an ex-smoker, a relapsed smoker, somebody wanting to quit or least thinking about it, this site is for you! There is no way around it; smoking is bad for your health.
Australian adult smoking rates
Smoking rates among adults in Victoria and Australia have declined over the past two to three decades. In the latest Australian survey, younger age groups (18-29 year olds) have the highest rates of smoking. A higher percentage of men compared to women smoke across all age groups. (Quit 2007).
Smoking-related diseases kill more Australians each year than alcohol, drugs, murder, suicide, motor vehicle accidents, poisoning, drowning, fires, falls, electrocution, snake and shark bites. Smoking is a costly and harmful addiction.
What do cigarettes contain?
- Tar contains many cancer-causing substances and causes the yellow staining of fingers and teeth.
- Nicotine is an extremely toxic chemical which is responsible for an individual's physiological addiction to smoking. It increases blood pressure and heart rate and contributes to blood vessel narrowing.
- Metallic substances in cigarettes are many and varied including nickel and arsenic and some carcinogenic radioactive compounds.
- Carbon monoxide is a poisonous gas which lowers the oxygen-carrying capacity of the blood. Together carbon monoxide and nicotine are thought to be responsible for heart disease.
- Agricultural additives / chemicals including herbicides and insecticides are also present. One cigarette contains over 4,000 chemicals and more than 43 cancer-causing agents.
Effects of smoking
Every cigarette smoked has both a short-term and long-term effect on the body. It is estimated that a 20-a-day smoker inhales up to one full cup of tar per year.
Short-term effects of smoking include:
- Decreased lung capacity: carbon monoxide literally takes over from the oxygen in an individual's bloodstream, thus reducing the amount of oxygen available to each body cell. The heart must work harder during exercise and perception and coordination may be affected.
- Muscle tremor: muscle fibres contract and tense up, resulting in decreased fine motor coordination.
- Heart rate and blood pressure increases, blood circulation decreases. The blood vessels constrict, resulting in a lowering or decrease of skin temperature.
Long-term effects of smoking include:
- Heart disease including angina, heart attack, stroke and vascular disease (leg vein blockages). Smoking makes the arteries narrow and hard which increases the likelihood of them blocking or 'blowing out'. In addition, blood pressure elevates and the heart must work harder. Smoking increases your risk of developing heart disease two to four plus fold.
- Cancer in various parts of the body, most commonly lung (most people who develop lung cancer are smokers and lung cancer is often fatal). Other areas affected include mouth, lip, throat, kidney / bladder, cervix, stomach and pancreas. Smoking causes approximately 1/3 of all cancer deaths in Australia.
- Lung disease: smoking significantly affects the ability of the airways and lungs to perform their normal functions of filtering and humidifying air and exchanging oxygen and carbon dioxide. Smoking causes increased mucus production and coughing and can lead to a debilitating disease called emphysema which makes the small air sacs where gas exchange occurs rigid and unable to work resulting in extreme difficulty breathing.
- Other effects include: increased risk with surgery, suppression of the immune system, loss of taste and smell, diminished fitness levels, more frequent respiratory illness (colds / flu / asthma), in the case of females decreased fertility and underweight babies, wrinkled skin, smelly breath, stained fingers, teeth and, in men, potential impotence (due to decreased blood flow and blood vessel damage to the penis).
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Smoking is addictive
Smoking is addictive in three ways:
- Physical addiction to nicotine .
- Habitual addiction (creates needs/cravings such as I need/feel like a cigarette after eating, when I'm driving, drinking alcohol or coffee).
- Feelings addiction (I smoke when I feel stressed, upset, angry, sad or happy).
Quitting smoking can be difficult and may take more than one attempt to permanently stop. Understanding why you smoke and the process of addiction can give invaluable insight into a your smoking and equip you with the information and strategies to quit and stay that way for good.
How do I quit?
Make the decision to quit smoking and remember it is never too late to quit.
- A great starting point is to order a free QUIT pack from QUIT Victoria or join the QUIT coach!
- Have a one to one information and advice session with a qualified health professional. Some Deakin Medical Centre staff are qualified QUIT educators.
- Understand and learn about the sort of smoker you are and why you smoke.
- Explore the different methods of quitting: cold turkey, nicotine patches / gum / inhaler, QUIT fresh start course, hypnosis, acupuncture, cutting down or postponing.
- Be aware of the symptoms of withdrawal (such as cravings, headaches, nausea, restlessness, tingling arms / legs, coughing, irritability, insomnia, dry mouth, changed appetite, difficulty concentrating, fatigue, shakes, sweating or feeling dizzy) and learn how to handle them. Be reassured they do pass fairly quickly (one to two weeks), if you experience them at all, and are good signs your body is healing itself.
- Once you have quit learn relapse prevention techniques including:
- physical exercise
- stress management
- distraction: exercise, a drink of water, leaving the room, reading, calling a friend, gardening or taking up a hobby
- use the Quitline counselling service 131 848
- remind yourself why you stopped (make a list)
- prepare for situations that may put you at risk for smoking again and bring back feelings that lead you to smoke, e.g. drinking, fishing trips, parties
- If you fall off the wagon that's OK, it happens. Follow the valuable tips from QUIT Victoria to get you back on track.
Taking it further
Please note: Whilst care has been taken to ensure that external web sites are credible sources of information, no responsibility can be taken for their content. Web-based health information does not replace the need to see an appropriate health care professional.
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