Smoking, Nicotine and Health

The use of tobacco and its resulting nicotine addiction is responsible for killing more than 430,000 people each year in the United States, more people than die from car accidents, homicide, suicide, fire, alcohol, cocaine, heroin, and AIDS combined. Tobacco use in some form accounts for around one in three of all deaths from cancer in the United States. Smoking is responsible for 83% of all lung cancer deaths. Smoking also causes cancers of the mouth, larynx, pharynx, esophagus, kidney, bladder, pancreas, uterus, cervix, and some leukemia. Cigarette smoking also can cause lung diseases that can be just as serious as lung cancer. Smokers may develop chronic bronchitis, with their airways blocked up with mucous, forcing them to cough frequently; and, of course, smoking can lead to emphysema, making it difficult for the lungs to perform their function of supplying adequate oxygen to the body. People with these problems tend to tire more easily and this influences them to avoid getting the exercise they need to promote their health. Cigarette smoking is responsible for more than 65,000 deaths from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which includes chronic bronchitis and emphysema.
Your heart is at risk. Smoking doubles the risk of heart attacks, and, in addition, is a major risk factor for peripheral vascular disease, which is the narrowing of the blood vessels that carry blood to the leg and arm muscles.
Cigarette smokers die much younger than nonsmokers. Based on data collected from 1995 to 1999, the Centers for Disease Control estimated that adult male smokers lost an average of 13.2 years of life and female smokers lost 14.5 years of life because of smoking. For smokers between the ages of 35 and 70 the death rate is three times higher than those who have never smoked.
Tobacco smoke is a major source of indoor pollution. Secondhand smoke causes about 3,000 lung cancer deaths every year among those who do not smoke, and also is a factor in up to 40,000 deaths related to cardiovascular disease for nonsmokers too. Exposure to tobacco smoke in the home increases the severity of asthma for children and is a risk factor for new cases of childhood asthma.
Tobacco is very bad for the reproductive health of a woman, leading to a reduction in fertility and an increased risk of having a miscarriage. If a woman who smokes conceives a child, she may face the possibility of having an early delivery or even a stillbirth. And women who smoke increase the chance that their baby will have a low birth weight.
See the future if you continue this path. If you would take a moment to think of yourself as getting any of the diseases promoted by a smoking and nicotine habit sometime in the future, note how painful it would be for you, both physically and psychologically. Think, for a moment, of how much unhappiness it would create for you and your loved ones, and how it would keep you from enjoying the more healthy life that is yours after you have become a permanent nonsmoker. It is important to fully understand and feel, both consciously and subconsciously, just how negative a nicotine habit is to your overall enjoyment in life so that your mind, both conscious and subconscious, knows, without any delusion, just how much intense suffering will come to you unless you change your course in life.
Now make that picture dimmer and less bright and move it away from you, and watch as it grows darker and smaller. Take a moment to see yourself free of your nicotine addiction in the future. Look at how much healthier you look and feel. You can breathe freely and enjoy the fresh air entering your lungs. Your skin is healthier and you look younger at an older age, while your clothes smell fresher and cleaner. You are totally free of all the physical problems smoking would have caused you. When thought about in this way, it is more pleasurable to not smoke. You’ve found other healthier ways to get pleasure and reward yourself. In fact, cigarettes are now truly disgusting to you. As you see yourself a tobacco-free person, notice, now, that you’re feeling fine, you’re so relieved, you’re so much more at peace, you’re so much happier, so much healthier, and now you’re freer to be who you really want to be. Notice how much more personally self-confident and filled with personal self-esteem you now look and feel.
You may not fully know this, but the positive changes that result from becoming a permanent nonsmoker come sooner and are more pervasive than you ever imagined, making smoking cessation more immediately rewarding for you. Twenty minutes after you have quit, your blood pressure drops back down to the level just before your last cigarette and the temperature of your hands and feet increase toward a more normal level. Eight hours after you have quit the carbon monoxide level in your blood will have returned to a normal level. Just 24 hours after you have stopped smoking, your chance of a heart attack will already be decreasing. In the following weeks your circulation will be improved and the functioning of your lungs, even as soon as several weeks to 3 months’ time, will have improved by 30%. In subsequent weeks you will be able to look forward to other significant health improvements. Sinus congestion, shortness of breath, and coughing will have decreased. The cilia function within your lungs will return to normal, enabling you to deal with mucous and clean the lungs, and thus reduce any infection. One year after quitting, your extra risk of heart disease will be half that of someone who has continued to be smoker. After 5 years the risk of a stroke can be reduced to that of a nonsmoker. Ten years after quitting smoking your lung cancer rate will be half of that of someone who has continued to smoke, and your risk of cancers of the mouth, throat, esophagus, pancreas, kidney, and bladder will all have decreased. Fifteen years after you have quit and become a permanent nonsmoker your risk of coronary heart disease will have fallen to that of someone who does not smoke. A 35-year-old man who becomes a permanent nonsmoker will, on average, increase his life expectancy by 5.1 years. And, of course, the quality of his life will be greatly increased during all his years, no matter how long he lives. Even smokers who quit after age 50 substantially reduce their risk of dying early. The argument that it is too late to quit smoking because the damage is already done is just not true.
It is important for people to know that nicotine is as addictive as cocaine and heroin. As matter of fact, it works to create and maintain an addiction in a way that is similar to those drugs. The addictive nature of nicotine is created by its ability to release dopamine in the brain, a chemical that creates feelings of pleasure. This is similar to the physiological and psychological effects of both cocaine and heroin. Recent research has shown that there is also some chemical in cigarette smoke that reduces the level of monoamineoxidase (MOA), which plays a role in breaking down dopamine. This helps create an overall increase in dopamine and thus contributes to the desire to keep taking more nicotine.
Cigar smokers who inhale absorb nicotine as rapidly as a cigarette smoker, while those who choose not to inhale absorb a significant amount of nicotine through the lining of their mouth, as do those who use smokeless tobacco. Even though these smokeless users do not hurt their lungs because they do not inhale tobacco smoke, the nicotine from their habit is still very highly addictive and causes the heart to beat faster and their blood pressure to go up. Chewing tobacco hurts a person’s ability to taste and smell, often causes damage to gum tissue, and can even result in the loss of teeth. More seriously, chewing tobacco is full of cancer causing chemicals that can give people cancers of the mouth, pharynx, larynx, and esophagus. Many people who get these particular cancers were users of chewing tobacco. So powerful are the cancer-causing chemicals in chewing tobacco that even very young users get
these cancers.
Nicotine’s effects are short-lived within the body, leading people to continually give themselves more during the day. Eventually, the continued use of nicotine leads to what is referred to as tolerance. The drug is no longer as effective as it was, and people need higher and higher amounts of it just to get the same physiological and psychological effects that they experienced earlier. That is why people tend to increase their usage of nicotine-delivering substances the more they have been using them.
There are even short-term effects related to tolerance. Nicotine disappears from the body in a few hours and some tolerance is lost overnight. Smokers often report that the first cigarettes of the day, newly introducing nicotine to the body after several hours of forced abstinence during sleep, have the strongest effect and are enjoyed the best. As the day goes on, and they smoke more and more cigarettes, tolerance is created, and each cigarette has less effect.
Nicotine also suppresses the production of insulin by the pancreas, which acts to raise blood sugar and causes the liver to release glycogen into the blood. In addition, cigarettes themselves are actually between 8% and 18% sugar, so smokers who puff a cigarette frequently during the day are actually given themselves blood sugar-raising hits throughout the day. All this contributes to smokers experiencing a slight sugar high from increased blood glucose. As a result of all of this many smokers also experience a lessening of appetite. This may explain why people gain weight after stopping smoking. They are trying to maintain their prior elevated glucose level, which was found to be pleasurable. Any craving that a new nonsmoker might experience is most noticeable in the morning and mid-afternoon, when low blood sugar is no longer blocked by smoking.
Nicotine is biphasic in nature. It can both stimulate and relax a person, depending on how they smoke. Nicotine doesn’t work in the body the same way alcohol does, but they both exhibit biphasic activity. People often become uninhibited and more excitable after drinking, while at other times they may become sedated and eventually fall asleep.
Cessation of nicotine intake results in withdrawal symptoms that strongly influence anyone trying to end their tobacco use to start consuming it again. These symptoms can include headache, irritability, restlessness, tiredness, feelings of depression, poor concentration, and anger and frustration. While the most powerful influence on withdrawal is the pharmacological effects of nicotine, many behavioral aspects affect the nature of the withdrawal symptoms. For many smokers, the sight, feel, and smell of a cigarette and the rituals involved in obtaining, handling, lighting, and smoking the cigarette are all strongly associated with the pleasure of smoking and when absent can contribute to psychological feelings of withdrawal. While nicotine gum and patches can act to alleviate the pharmacological aspects of withdrawal, some cravings may persist because of these missed behavioral aspects of smoking. This is a problem in quitting smoking that can be easily dealt with and greatly minimized through the use of hypnosis.
One of the clearest indicators of the power of the effects of nicotine is that while over two-thirds of all tobacco users want to stop using it only a small number are able to do so permanently. Each year, nearly 35 million people make a concerted effort to quit smoking. Only 20% of those trying succeed in abstaining for as long as a year and only a small percent of these are able to do so by using willpower alone. Less than 7% succeed in abstaining for more than a year. Most of those trying to stop start smoking again within days.
Over 90% of smokers who try to quit without seeking treatment fail, with most relapsing within a week. Most smokers take several attempts to quit before they finally succeed.
To reduce the risk of lung cancer and other related cancers that are caused by smoking, smokers need to stop smoking completely. It has been found that the amount of carcinogens inhaled remains high even as they cut back on the number of cigarettes they use. Research has shown that this even applies when smokers are supplementing their intake of nicotine with the use of patches. The reason this is true is believed to be that the smokers inhale more deeply on the fewer cigarettes they do smoke to feed their addiction and the nicotine patches made little difference in how long and deeply the users inhaled the smoke from their cigarettes. Thus, the patches made little difference in the overall amount of carcinogens introduced into their bodies by their smoking habit. The conclusion is that patches do not significantly decrease a smoker’s risk of cancer. Possible theories as to why this is so is that patches fail to provide the high that the smokers desire, nor do they provide a substitute for the enjoyment that people get from the act of physically enjoying a cigarette. Another reason may be addictive compounds found in cigarette smoke that aren’t in the patches.
Sometimes in life failure is not necessarily an indicator of the difficulty or even the impossibility of accomplishing something. It just tells you what doesn’t work. Fortunately, seeing a qualified certified hypnotist is effective for changing a smoker into a nonsmoker for life. Not only do they become nonsmokers, but they do so more easily and comfortably then they ever expected. With the new cooperation of their subconscious they are able to lose their desire to smoke cigarettes and cigars. There is some physiological discomfort during the withdrawal period following the cessation of tobacco use, but with hypnosis these effects can be mitigated and the period of discomfort shortened. Hypnosis is also able to greatly reduce and even eliminate any tendency to gain weight after smoking cessation. In my clinical practice, I typically see clients only once for complete and permanent smoking cessation.