What does smoking do to my lungs?
1. Damage the airways
2. Worsen quality of life
Coughing: After being a smoker for a while, you will begin to experience smokers cough, because your body uses this as a way to try and get rid of the toxins you inhale while smoking.
3. Cause death
Nonsmokers who are exposed to secondhand smoke are inhaling many of the same cancer-causing substances and poisons as smokers. Non-smokers are at very low risk of developing lung cancer, but exposure to second hand smoke increases the risk by 20-30%.
Why is nicotine so addictive?
1. Sends nicotine to your brain within 10 seconds.
2. Makes you feel secure, more calm and alert.
3. You enjoy the feeling so you continue to smoke.
1. The chemical structure of your brain changes - it wants more nicotine to have the same effect.
2. You become addicted - you associate your daily routine with cravings to make sure you get a steady flow of nicotine.
3. The role of cigarettes becomes important in your life as the brain consistently looks for a nicotine fix and for all the behavioural and social component associated with smoking.
How will my lungs benefit if I stop smoking? How soon will I notice these benefits?
There are many health benefits to stopping smoking and not just to your lungs.
Levels of toxic substances that are carried to your lungs in cigarette smoke will drop to those of a non-smoker within a few days, which means: Your lungs will be able to take in more oxygen, which will make it easier for you to breathe and you will feel more energetic.
Benefits after a few weeks
Your airways will become less inflamed, which means you will:
Long-term damage to your lungs will stop the moment you give up. Severely damaged lungs cannot return to normal, but by quitting before serious damage is done, you can prevent diseases such as COPD and/or asthma getting worse.
If you remain cigarette-free for long enough you will: Reduce your risk of being severely breathless and disabled or dying from COPD.
Reduce your chance of developing lung cancer.
After 15–20 years, the risk of lung cancer is reduced by 90% compared with people who continue to smoke.
How can I tackle the habit?
No-one pretends giving up smoking is easy, but if you have made up your mind to quit YOU CAN SUCCEED. Set a ‘quit date’. Use simple tricks to reduce your urge to smoke and help you quit. Look for triggers and plan to avoid them. Find new ways of thinking, behaving and feeling.
Remind yourself why you gave up smoking in the first place.
• Move away to another place where people aren’t smoking.
• Keep busy to distract your mind: daily exercise is a good ‘distraction’ to promote continued abstinence, while counteracting weight gain.
• Drink plenty of water.
• Take deep breaths.
Beware: Some triggers for smoking only reveal themselves after you try to live without cigarettes.
Method: Tricks that work for some people may not work for others, so quitting can involve trial and error. Ask for help: Ask your doctor, pharmacist, clinical pyschologist, or nurse for help. Contact a telephone or internet helpline.
Keep going: The most important thing is to be determined and to persist.
The number of years added to life when quitting at different ages
No matter how old you are, you can still extend your life by giving up smoking. However, the younger you are when you give up, the more years you can add on to your life.
See graph in pdf for more details.
If at first you don’t succeed, try again…
Nicotine addiction is very powerful and so only 5–10% of ‘quit attempts’ are successful. Withdrawal symptoms, such as craving, anxiety, irritability, lack of concentration, inability to sleep, mood swings, hunger and headache, that occur when the brain is looking for a new fi x of nicotine, are a common reason for relapsing and treatment can help this.
Nicotine replacement products such as gum or patches can help relieve withdrawal symptoms by delivering small, measured doses of nicotine into your body. Strong evidence shows that anti –smoking medications can double or even triple your chances of being able to quit.
An alternative treatment which doctors recommend for heavy smokers are non-nicotine drugs, such as buproprion SR (Zyban) and varenicline tartrate (Chantix). They are also effective in relieving the cravings and withdrawal symptoms. Nortryptiline is a cheap, generic drug that works as well as bupropion. The idea of taking a drug to kick a drug habit can make people nervous. Some fear unpleasant side effects, while others fear that one addiction will replace another. But smoking is so dangerous for your health that, if you weigh up the options, (i.e. taking medication or continuing to smoke), using drugs to help you give up smoking will almost always be safer.
Don’t feel bad if it takes you more than one attempt
There is no ‘cure’ for smoking; it’s more like managing a chronic disease. Most people go through cycles of stopping and re-starting the habit, which reflects the strength of your addiction. It is not failure. The good news is that:
All of our factsheets have been reviewed by members of the European Respiratory Society (ERS) who are experts in the field. These are freely available to download in a range of European languages.
2. Tobacco Free Initiative (TFI)
This information was compiled by ERS expert, Prof. Riccardo Polosa.