Published: Sunday June 3, 2012 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Updated: Monday July 29, 2013 MYT 6:16:04 PM

Smoke gets into everything

Tobacco use is the single most preventable cause of disease, disability, and death around the world. The power to prevent this from occurring is in your hands.

TOBACCO use kills. The World Health Organization (WHO) has estimated the death toll for this year to be almost six million people, up by almost a million people from last year’s death toll; it takes more lives than HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria combined.

If this trend continues, tobacco use could kill more than eight million people per year by 2030, and up to one billion people in total in the 21st century.

Despite such alarming facts and figures at hand, the trend of smoking continues to rise. Smokers continue to pollute their bodies with a potent cocktail of over 4,000 toxic chemicals, NONE of which are beneficial to their bodies. In fact, hundreds of these chemicals are toxic, and around 70 are known to cause cancer.

Your smoking habits will probably not kill you today or tomorrow, but how long can you dodge the bullets before one of them finds the mark?

Homegrown habits

In Malaysia, the trend of smoking continues to grow, thus adding to both national and global statistics. Although male smokers have attained the highest percentage on the “smoking prevalence” charts, the number of women who smoke, both young and old, is also climbing steadily.

Various efforts by the Health Ministry, NGOs, and private and public sectors, as well as the printing of disturbing images on cigarette boxes, and even, the ban on smoking in air-conditioned and certain public areas, have still failed to address the problem.

Thus, the question remains: who is to be blamed?

Male and female smokers commonly justify their smoking habit with the excuse that it purportedly acts as a stress reliever; they claim to need it to deal with the stress and pressures of modern living. Many people perceive the habit to be relaxing, and an enjoyable activity.

Another reason can be attributed to social and psychological factors. Most smokers start smoking during their adolescent or early adulthood years due to peer pressure. Some may smoke because of the “rebellion” factor. With the many warning signs of the dangers of smoking advertised everywhere, smokers have rebelled against this by ignoring the warnings and increasing their nicotine intake.

Some smokers have even convinced themselves that “if it makes you happy, then it can’t be that bad; after all, we are all going to die one day.”

More harmful to women

Women who smoke face higher risks compared to men. This is because of a woman’s genetic make-up and her body’s intolerance to drugs in general.

A woman’s body cannot handle the same quantity of cigarettes smoked by a man. In addition to all the complications of smoking-related diseases, women who smoke are 12 times more likely to develop lung cancer than non-smokers, and those who smoke more than two packs a day have a 74% greater chance of dying from breast cancer.

Older women who have gone through menopause also face a higher risk of hip fracture as a result of smoking when compared to non-smokers. One in eight hip fractures in women are linked to smoking.

The sad fact is that smoking takes a greater toll on women than it does men.

First-hand knowledge

Whether you are a man or woman, think twice before picking up smoking. You may be willing to put your own life and health at risk, but are you also willing to burden your loved ones with the same risks?

Exposure to second-hand smoke can cause respiratory and cardiovascular diseases, disability, and death. It poses just as much risk as direct smoking.

Adults who inhale second-hand smoke face the risk of developing lung diseases, heart diseases and cancers. There are also effects of second-hand smoke on children, which include various infections, low birth weight, and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.

Problems such as chronic coughing, wheezing, as well as eye and nose irritation can occur in adults and children alike.

Third-hand smoke is defined as the residue from second-hand smoke. The particles from this residue can penetrate into the deepest part of the lungs and contribute to asthma, other respiratory diseases, and even cancer. It is just as harmful as second-hand smoke.

The disease magnet

Smoking and tobacco use harms nearly every organ in the body, and can lead to serious chronic diseases. Statistically, lung cancer remains the main cause of death from smoking, with heart disease coming in second.

The most common diseases from smoking are respiratory diseases, because when you smoke, it goes through your whole respiratory system; there is no escape from the effects. Common respiratory complications include bronchitis, pneumonia, asthma, lung cancer and emphysema (a type of lung disease which makes it hard for a person to breathe). It also leads to cancer of the throat, bladder, kidneys, cervix, pancreas, and stomach.

A smoker may also suffer cardiovascular diseases such as ischaemic heart disease, where there is a reduced supply of blood to the heart muscle, or suffer a stroke.

Be healthy, quit today

Stopping the habit can reduce mortality by as much as 36%, especially among those with coronary artery disease. There are tremendous benefits if you quit smoking. For starters, you will first be adding more days to every year of your life, and the health benefits of quitting starts immediately.

Within 20 minutes of smoking your last cigarette, your body starts its internal healing process, with your heart rate slowing down. The carbon monoxide levels in your blood will return to normal in 12 hours. Within two weeks to three months, your risk of heart attacks begins to drop and your lung function improves.

All these benefits will continue into the months and years ahead. After 15 years, your risk for coronary heart diseases becomes the same as a non-smoker.

The benefits of quitting smoking are many, and there are a multitude of resources out there to help you in your efforts to break this habit.

Treating the habit

Breaking the habit of smoking may be difficult, but it is possible. Most smokers continue to smoke because of their addiction or dependence on nicotine. The psychological and physical dependence on nicotine is the main cause of failure to quit. Most smokers make five to seven attempts before they finally succeed.

Half the battle in quitting lies in actually knowing that you need to quit. This will help you in dealing with the symptoms of withdrawal that can occur, such as bad moods and the craving to smoke.

There are currently two treatment approaches to help you in your attempt to quit smoking and stay tobacco-free.

The first is pharmacologic therapy, while the second is non-pharmacologic treatments.

Pharmacologic therapy, in simple terms, is the use of drugs to treat a certain condition. This treatment method is used to alleviate the withdrawal symptoms from smoking cessation, and helps a smoker abstain from smoking.

Non-pharmacologic treatments include counselling, health education, hypnosis, and acupuncture.

Hypnosis can, in certain cases, be very successful in convincing a smoker to develop and strengthen the desire not to smoke.

Acupuncture is useful in alleviating smoking jitters, irritability, cravings and restlessness.

If you stop smoking now, after 10 years of abstinence, the risk of developing any smoking-associated diseases drops to a level that is one-third to one-half of the risk for people who continue to smoke.






5. Kah Lin, Khoo, “Smoking is the biggest killer in heart disease – This is how to prevent it”, Berita Yayasan Jantung Malaysia, Vol 29, 1st Issue, 2011.

Tags / Keywords: Health, Lifestyle, smoking, smoking cessation


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