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Kicking Cigarettes in the Butt and Breaking the Habit of Smoking

First of all, I am not a smoker, but I can’t say I haven’t smoked a cigarette in my life. It was way back when I was a kid sitting in the back seat of the car one day, and my dad was putting out a cigarette that he had smoked. I became curious about the allure of smoking, so I waited for the moment my dad turned his head away from the center console before swiping the cigarette from the ashtray. “Oh yeah,” I thought. It was still partially lit, but it will do. I took one giant puff and then “⏤cough” before finishing what I started. I remembered that experience burned and stung the back of my throat so bad that I have never smoked again ever since!

One could say that smoking is not for kids, and a person who is a smoker would make the same argument. But if smoking could irritate a kid’s throat, couldn’t that also do the same to an adult but to a lesser extent? Even children passively exposed to tobacco smoke are likely to have sore throats and respiratory tract infections [1]. Moreover, adults who smoke are susceptible to carry Haemophilus influenzae (a bacteria and not the virus causing the flu) due to disruption of the “normal flora” – the good bacteria – that lives in the throat [1].

This finding shows that both children and adults are affected by cigarette smoke through the same biological mechanism. First, persisting smoke acts as an irritant that strips away the protective barrier covering the throat and windpipe with mucous. Second, invading smoke could reduce the effectiveness and efficiency of cellular structures responsible for sweeping micro debris out of the lungs. With chronic exposure to toxins inherent in cigarettes, a smoker’s cough could develop, or worse, the upper and lower respiratory tract becomes damaged, and the issue progresses into a chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Because tobacco products contain harmful chemicals, smokers are at high risk of lung cancer.

With all the whats and about on the impact of smoking on respiratory health discussed, let’s talk about preventive measures and plan of actions to kick the smoking habit.

For starters, nicotine replacement therapy in the form of gum or patches can help reduce cravings. Stop by a local pharmacy and talk to your local pharmacist about a good starting dose of nicotine-containing products like Nicoderm or generic alternatives. Those smoking more than ten cigarettes a day start with a higher dose of nicotine compared to those who smoke less [2].

Another preventive measure against smoking may prove to be difficult but doable, and that is getting into the mindset of quitting. It involves avoiding things that drive you to light up a cigarette, whether it be stress or being in a bar, and delaying instant gratification by waiting and distracting yourself before caving in [3]. If stress and social gatherings are part of the smoking problem, then finding a way to de-stress will be critical towards making progress. Examples of ways to wind down include going for a walk, pursuing hobbies, getting things done in your personal life.

The idea of kicking the smoking habit to the curb is a decision for you to make. If you have fallen off the wagon, don’t beat yourself up. Hold yourself accountable, and try again. Recruiting a support group will also be helpful. Find a family member or a friend cheer you on in your journey to quit smoking. Make them a source of encouragement. Seek for online support groups, and helpful resources (Here’s one you can try: https://smokefree.gov/tools-tips/text-programs/quit-for-good/smokefreetxt?s_cid=OSH_tips_D9402).

You do not have to go at it alone.

References

[1] Murthy, P., & Laing, M. R. (1995). Cigarette smoking and sore throats in adults. Postgraduate medical journal71(838), 510. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2398196/

[2] Mayo Clinic. (2015). Mayo Clinic NDC Tobacco Dependence Treatment Medication Summary. Retrieved from https://www.mayo.edu/research/documents/medication-handout-2015-02-pdf/doc-20140182

[3] Mayo Clinic. (2020). Quitting smoking: 10 ways to resist tobacco cravings. Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/quit-smoking/in-depth/nicotine-craving/art-20045454

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