I have written about smoking in past posts--about why people still do it even though they know how dangerous it is, how it ages the skin, and so on. It is an important topic that presents many angles to educate people. I am going to keep writing about it and sharing information about it, because you never know when a smoker might read a fact or different perspective that might resonate with them enough to help them build up the courage to quit. Today, guest writer Lucy Farraday presents us with information on the different toxic chemicals in cigarettes (it's way more than just tar and nicotine), and offers some different methods--both holistic and conventional--to help people quit.
Are you aware of the chemical components contained within a cigarette? Did you know that there are over 70 carcinogenic ingredients contained within each one? Most of us just think vaguely of ‘tar’ when asked to think of the ingredients within a cigarette which could have dangerous health implications. We imagine it furring up the lungs and slowing the ability of the delicate filaments within the lungs to function. But unfortunately, the medical implications of smoking are far worse than this. The tar itself is enough to slowly disable your lungs and trigger lung cancer. However the 70+ additional chemicals contained in the cigarette also accumulate inside the body and cause serious, often irreparable damage. It’s more or less a question of waiting to see which one gets you first. Do you really want to play that game? Is it really worth it?
Here is a list of the worst chemicals that a single cigarette contains: arsenic, carbon monoxide, ammonia formaldehyde, cadmium, hydrogen cyanide, and polonium-210. These are the most recognizable, because the health warnings they carry have made the most headlines. You may have a carbon monoxide monitor in your home or office because its deadly potential is so well documented. You may have heard of Polonium-210 because it’s the poison used to kill the dissident Russian, Alexander Litvinenko. And Cadmium? Where have you heard of that before? Your batteries. Arsenic is well known as a poison of course and formaldehyde is that chemical they use to preserve dead animals in laboratories.
Smokers take all these toxins into their bodies every time they smoke. There’s no such thing as a ‘less harmful’ cigarette. There’s no such thing as an “organic”, or low-risk cigarette. They are just incredibly dangerous, and if you have any care for your health you should stop using them.
Cancer and other Health Risks
This toxic mix can cause not only lung cancer, but a host of other cancers in the body. Cancer of the mouth, throat, esophagus, and larynx are common, as they are all directly exposed to the smoke as it travels into the lungs. But less obvious cancers are thought to be caused by cigarette smoke too, such as bladder cancer. Some cancers are thought to be linked to smoking, even if smoking is not a direct cause of them, such as kidney, stomach, and pancreatic cancers. It stands to reason that taking known toxic chemicals into your body on a daily basis will mess with the delicate balance of the body, and harm it.
These cancers are not the only risk associated with smoking. Smoking also causes receding gums, which eventually leave the roots of the teeth exposed and seriously compromise oral health. Many older smokers will eventually need to have teeth removed. It’s a high price to pay.
Smoking has been likened to heroin in the depth and speed at which users become addicted. It takes a huge amount of will power and a good deal of suffering to conquer it. Whilst a smoker knows exactly what the drug is doing to their body, they seemingly don’t care, since their body is simultaneously craving the nicotine and rejecting the chemicals that come with it. Fighting the addiction is tough, and it can also be expensive. Almost as lucrative an industry in fighting nicotine addiction now exists as it does in selling the drug in the first place. And where the West is seeing a trend towards kicking cigarettes, less developed countries are seeing themselves targeted more strongly to make up the subsequent shortfall in cigarette manufacturer’s profits.
The holistic approach to treating nicotine addiction might involve the use of herbs, acupuncture and hypnosis. All of these approaches have shown to have successful outcomes. The herbal approach to addiction will see a herbalist choosing herbs such as passionflower, lobelia, peppermint or ginger root, which mimic the effect that nicotine has on brain chemistry. The aim is to ameliorate the cravings that come with nicotine withdrawal. Ginger root and peppermint are known for their digestion soothing properties, which help with the hunger-like cravings that addicts feel, centered in the stomach area. Combined with one or other natural treatments, herbs can certainly make withdrawal more comfortable.
Hypnosis is an effective treatment, when it is used with an ‘aversion therapy’ approach. The smoker has powerfully negative ideas attached to the action of smoking set up in their subconscious. Just a few sessions can be enough to get a smoker through the weaning off process and to readjust the way they think about smoking. Although it would not be my choice, drug treatments are available. These drugs have become more affordable and available to those who wish to go that route.
What has been recognized is that the more times someone makes a serious attempt to give up smoking, the more likely they are to succeed. So those that fall off the wagon should not despair. Perseverance can see smokers eventually freed from this expensive and very dangerous habit.
You may be aware that I am a former smoker. While I did eventually quit cold turkey with no other aids or intervention, I certainly did have several previous attempts using different methods. For me, cold turkey was the only thing that worked for good--but I echo what Imogen says about the importance of persistence. If something doesn't work, please try something else and trust yourself that you are strong enough to overcome your addiction.