For years, smoking has been linked to an array of health problems. It not only reduces the life expectancy but also damages almost every organ of the human body. But that is not all. A recent study has left all fathers in a pit, as the study states that men quite fond of smoking actually go on to pass damaged DNA to their children.
Though the health issues have been a known fact for years, does it leave a strong impact on our lives, to take the decision of quitting the habit for our children and future?
Studies have found that smoking reduces the life expectancy by seven to eight years. It kills 9 Lakh people every year in India. According to the latest findings, tobacco use is estimated to have caused nearly 1,20,000 cancer deaths across India in 2010.
In urban area, emerging corporate culture has a huge impact on the habit of smoking. People rely on tobacco products like cigarettes to get out work pressure and stress. These days, the growing number of smokers among the young generation has also emerged as a major concern in India.
“A study emphasizes that smoking harms the father’s DNA, and these damaged genes can be inherited by his children. This raises the risk of youngsters developing childhood cancers, particularly Leukemia. Because a fertile sperm cell takes three months to fully develop, fathers should kick the habit 12 weeks ahead of conceiving to avoid the risk. Tobacco consumption leads to increased impotence (Erectile Dysfunction) due to blockage of vessels supplying blood to the male reproductive organs,” said Dr. Mudit Agarwal, Consultant – Surgical Oncology, Dharamshila Narayana Superspeciality Hospital & Research Centre.
What are the harmful effects of smoking?
Cigarette smoke contains about 4,000 different harmful chemicals including nicotine, tar, arsenic, benzene, cadmium and formaldehyde and poisons such as cyanide, carbon monoxide and ammonia. Cigarettes sold in India have a greater content of tar and often do not have filters, thereby increasing the vulnerability to tobacco related diseases. There are 45 known cancer-causing substances in cigarette smoke.
Nicotine reaches the brain within 10 seconds after smoke is inhaled. It has been found in every part of the body and even in breast milk. Carbon monoxide binds to Hemoglobin in Red Blood Cells, preventing affected cells from carrying a full load of oxygen. The mixture of nicotine and carbon monoxide contained in smoke may temporarily increases the rate of heart beat and blood pressure which leaves heart and blood vessels under strain. Cancer-causing agents (carcinogens) in tobacco smoke damage important genes that control the growth of cells, causing them to grow abnormally or to reproduce too rapidly. The carcinogen Benzo(a)pyrene binds to cells in the airways and major organs of smokers.
Smoking also affects the function of the immune system and may increase the risk for respiratory and other infections.
Smoking is associated with higher levels of chronic inflammation which leads to oxidative stress. This oxidative stress mutates DNA, promotes atherosclerosis (blocking of arteries), and leads to chronic lung injury. Also, it is the general mechanism behind the aging process, contributing to the development of cancer, cardiovascular disease, and COPD.
Smokers have lower levels of antioxidants, a substance which helps to repair damaged cells, in their blood than do nonsmokers.
What are the different diseases caused by smoking?
“Smoking is a known cause of approximately 25 diseases. It is a major risk factor for heart attacks, strokes, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Diseases (like Chronic Bronchitis, Emphysema), and cancers particularly Lung Cancer, Laryngeal Cancer, Oral Cancer, Stomach Cancer, Oesophageal Cancer, Bladder Cancer and Pancreatic Cancer Dr. Mudit Agarwal, Consultant – Surgical Oncology, Dharamshila Narayana Superspeciality Hospital & Research Centre.
. Smoking also causes Hypertension and Peripheral Vascular Diseases,” Dr. Mudit Agarwal, Consultant – Surgical Oncology, Dharamshila Narayana Superspeciality Hospital & Research Centre.
It is a myth that smoking helps to relieve tension. Just as the risk of getting illnesses related to smoking increases with duration and number of cigarettes smoked, if someone stops smoking the risk gradually decreases as the damage done is repaired.
There is no one right way to quit but some basic principles need to be looked at. Some slight changes in the lifestyle and understanding of the current addiction status could be beneficial in quitting smoking. The decision to quit smoking is one that only you can make. Others may want you to quit, but the real commitment must come from you.
Dealing with withdrawal: One should also consider the reason behind quitting. It could be your worry about smoking-related diseases or your belief that the benefits of quitting outweigh the benefits of continuing to smoke. Withdrawal from nicotine has 2 parts — the physical and the mental. Nicotine replacement and other medicines can help reduce many of these symptoms. Most smokers find that the bigger challenge is the mental part of quitting.
If you have been smoking for any length of time, smoking has become linked with a lot of the things you do — waking up in the morning, eating, reading, watching TV, drinking coffee, etc. It will take time to “de-link” smoking from these activities. This is why, even if you are using a nicotine replacement, you may still have strong urges to smoke. It is also advisable to stay away from people and places that tempt you to smoke. Later on you will be able to handle these with more confidence.
Take medical assistance: If you are planning to use a prescription drug, you will need to talk with your doctor about how to use the medicine and find out what side effects to watch for and report. Medical treatments like Nicotine Replacement Therapies are also good option as allow one to withdraw from nicotine by gradually reducing the amount of it in each dose. Tobacco substitutes such as patch, nicotine gum, nicotine aerosol and inhaler can help to quit smoking entirely, while giving you the nicotine your body craves without the accompanying toxins. Similarly Acupuncture (a Chinese medical treatment which uses needles to treat pain or disease) can be used to treat addiction to nicotine.
Change your habits: Switch to juices or water instead of alcohol or coffee. Choose foods that don’t make you want to smoke. Take a different route to work. Take a brisk walk instead of a coffee break. Use substitutes you can put in your mouth such as sugarless gum or hard candy and raw vegetables such as carrot sticks or sunflower seeds. Remind yourself of your reasons for quitting and the benefits you’ll gain as an ex-smoker.
Even then, the most important fact of quitting is your own strong will the “I can do it and I will do it” attitude. Spending more time with family and friends will be best option. It will help to reduce your stress as well as will keep you engaged.