If you’re currently a smoker, or in the early stages of becoming a non-smoker again, then you’ll be glad to know that you can have both. The new stop smoking campaign shows the “toxic cycle of dirty blood” caused by inhaling cigarette smoke, and the ways in which chemicals in cigarette smoke such as arsenic and cyanide affect the brain.
The effects of smoking on peoples’ lungs and circulation are well known and publicised, and the statistics are stark –
- smoking is the single biggest cause of premature death in the UK
- 50% of all regular cigarette smokers will be killed by their habit
- over 100,000 smokers die every year in the UK from smoking related causes – one every eight minutes
It’s the less well known effects of cigarette smoking on brain function that are being highlighted in the new campaign. The effect of components in cigarette smoke such as cyanide and arsenic is to damage brain cells, increasing not just the likelihood of stroke but also the chance of cognitive decline and dementia.
A study by University College London (UCL) found that cognitive decline in men can be over one third faster in habitual smokers. The advice of Dr Gareth Haager-Johnson from UCL is that all smokers are putting their brain at the risk of “serious long-term harm” and should try to stop smoking.
Smoking is also a major risk factor in the likelihood of having a stroke. With over 150,000 strokes in the UK every year – the equivalent of one every five minutes – they are the third biggest cause of death and the most common cause of disability. However within five years of stopping smoking your risk can be reduced to the same level as a life-time non-smoker.
That’s why it’s never too late to stop smoking – given time your body can recover from effects of cigarette smoking and many of the benefits are much quicker to appear, not least the extra income, with the average cigarette smoker of a premium brand spending £2,900 last year.
In all of the work I do with non-smokers there are two words I never use – “quit” and “ex-smoker”. I don’t say “quit smoking” because subconsciously many people don’t want to be labelled as quitters, and the word doesn’t have the sense of finality or success for a lot of people – for them “quitting smoking” is something that they do in between periods of smoking.
It’s for similar reasons that I don’t use the phrase “ex-smoker” but instead talk about becoming a “non-smoker” again – because not smoking is after all people’s natural state, as all smokers were non-smokers at first. The other reason I don’t talk about becoming an “ex-smoker” is because I can’t think of any reason why you would define yourself by something you no longer do. Just changing the way you describe yourself in this way makes it easier for you to imagine your success – and that’s half the battle.
The other half is taking a realistic look at the benefits that you get from smoking. For some people it’s a reason to take a break at work, or to have some time to themselves or with other people – with some thought you can normally see that you don’t need smoking as reason to do these, and that you won’t necessarily lose them because you’re a non-smoker. Other people realise that the reasons they started – to look older, or because their friends did, simply don’t apply anymore – not only is the last thing that they want to do look older, but they’re on their own outside smoking while their friends carry on enjoying themselves indoors.
The fear that stops a lot of people is that they will put weight on if they stop smoking because of the assumption that smoking suppresses their appetite, and that they will replace their cigarette smoking with eating sweets. That needn’t be the case at all, and in hypnotherapy I’m careful not to replace one habit with another, but instead to leave people free to enjoy their freedom to choose, and their willpower.
If you’ve become a non-smoker this new year, or are inspired to become one again, then drop me a line, and I’ll happily send you a quick set of tips on how to get over any pangs in the first few days as you stop smoking. And if you would like to discuss or know any more about help with stopping smoking, please feel free to contact me for a no-obligation chat.