Today is World No Tobacco Day. But, in addition to not lighting up on this day, the Mumbai Mix Team gives you the impetus you have been looking for to quit for good
Tobacco is mentioned as a “natural accompaniment of the creeping neurasthenia of urban existence” in William F. Donnelly’s book American Economic Growth: The Historic Challenge. A habit that became widespread during the American Civil War still finds its way into our lives, every day!
World No Tobacco Day was created to spread awareness of the harms of tobacco use, but it has ballooned into something much bigger. Now, it also intends to encourage people to give up the bad habit, starting with a 24-hour abstinence from tobacco. So if you’ve been planning to quit the habit, we have everything you might want to know. Here, we tell you about the cravings when you give up, whether you should go cold turkey, and also give you alternatives to smoking. Read on to know more about quitting and a recent change of rules in Europe.
THE CRAVING CYCLE
If you’re planning on quitting, you should know what comes with it. You may have heard about withdrawal, and you may even have even experienced it. And, since nicotine works in complex ways, you need to know more about it so you can gain a strong foothold when you’re trying to quit.
Euphoria and addiction
One of the active ingredients in the tobacco leaf is nicotine, which reaches your brain within ten seconds of entering your body — now, that’s fast! Once it reaches your brain, the cold dull science is this: the nicotine molecule mimics a neurotransmitter, acetylcholine, and blocks certain receptors. This causes your brain to release more acetylcholine, which stimulates the release of the neurotransmitter dopamine. Now, dopamine affects the brain pathways that control reward and pleasure, so it feels good and this makes you seek out more nicotine. Nicotine also stimulates your brain to produce more endorphins, which act as the body’s natural painkillers and can give you a feeling of a euphoric high.
Although the high feels good, it is the withdrawal that keeps nicotine users addicted. Symptoms of withdrawal usually start to appear just two hours after your last dose of nicotine, and in some cases, this manifests as a physical response, which could include an intense craving for nicotine, anxiety, depression, having trouble sleeping, feeling restless or frustrated and headaches.
GOING COLD TURKEY
There is a bit of a debate related to quitting. Some believe that gradually reducing the number of cigarettes you smoke is the way to go while others believe in stopping abruptly.
Pros and cons
The biggest negative to going cold turkey is withdrawal. You are going to experience symptoms that you will have to fight through. On the upside, if you go cold turkey you’ll be healthier from the instant you decide to quit. The nicotine level in your body will drop to zero within three days and you will have moved beyond peak withdrawal. Within two to three weeks’ time, all physical withdrawal symptoms will cease and the occasional cravings you may experience will be due to past psychological conditioning and not because of physical dependence.
Have a plan
If you’re going to quit cigarettes abruptly, you should have a plan. Many people go into it without a definite plan in mind. We suggest you set a date and get rid of anything that reminds you of smoking.
Dr. Meghal Sanghavi, consultant and onco-surgeon at Wockhardt Hospitals, Mumbai Central, tells us, “It doesn’t matter which way you use — going cold turkey or gradually reducing your nicotine intake. The bigger issue is that even after quitting successfully, many people tend to fall back and relapse. If you want to stop abruptly, by all means go ahead, but make sure that you have an extremely busy day filled with work, chores and a positive environment. Once you realise that the addiction is a psychological problem, the process gets easier.”
Although they’ve been around for quite some time, e-cigarettes or vaporisers are the newest rage in India. The device looks like something out of a science fiction movie. The process with a vapouriser may be different, but it gives the smoker their nicotine hit. To create the liquid used in an e-cigarette cartridge, nicotine is extracted from tobacco and mixed with a liquid base. The liquid may also include flavouring, colouring and other chemicals.
So, would you say it is a safer bet than a normal cigarette? A 2014 study conducted by Dr. Tianrong Cheng at the Center for Tobacco Products, Food and Drug Administration, found that the aerosol from e-cigarettes that run at a higher voltage level contains more formaldehyde, a known carcinogen. And, a study conducted by Ilona Jaspers of the University of North Carolina, which looked at 594 genes associated with the body’s ability to fight infections, found that 53 genes were substantially diminished in smokers, but 358 genes were affected by those who used e-cigarettes.
However, in contrast, Public Health England (PHE) has said in the first official recognition that e-cigarettes are less damaging to health than smoking tobacco.
The nicotine patch
Nicotine patches can be used as a replacement for the cigarette. The patch releases nicotine, which is absorbed through your skin, and can also help reduce withdrawal symptoms after you quit smoking. However, you should not use the patch if you are pregnant, breastfeeding or planning to get pregnant, or if you suffer from irregular heartbeat and are prone to heart attacks. Nicotine patches should also be avoided if you develop a skin irritation or if you are on medication for depression or asthma.
Reducing the appeal of smoking
The WHO and the Secretariat of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control are asking countries around the world to adopt plain packaging on tobacco products. It is said that the attractiveness of the box causes people to reach out for cigarettes without even realising the long-term ill-effects. This move will limit misleading packaging and restrict its use as an advertisement, thus increasing the effectiveness of the health warnings displayed on the boxes. There will be no brand logos or promotional information displayed on the packs — only the brand name and the name of the product will be permitted. This EU directive came just this month and rules for standardised cigarette packaging, with packs having the same colour, opening and font.
Case for the cold turkey
If you’re still on the fence, here’s a recent study you should know about. While it isn’t the be-all and end-all of quitting smoking, the study sheds some light on the difficult process. Published in March 2016 in the Annals of Internal Medicine, it compared the two methods and found that the success rate of quitting smoking by abrupt cessation was higher than those by a gradual reduction — 22% vs 15.5%, over a period of six months.
Did you know that certain foods can help you kick the butt cold turkey, while others make you want to reach out for a cigarette? For instance, glucose stimulates the pleasure areas of your brain, thus increasing your cravings. So, keep away from the sweet stuff! Also, alcohol consumption increases your need for a puff. So, it’s important to avoid these triggers. There are some foods that make cigarettes taste good (coffee and red meat) and some have a reverse effect. Here are some that will help you stay smoke-free for good:
- Salty snacks
- Sugar-free gum/ mints
- Celery, zucchini, cucumber and eggplant
Fertility and smoking
We spoke to Dr. Duru Shah, Scientific Director of Gynaecworld Mumbai, to find out about the connection between smoking and fertility. Here’s what she had to say:
“Where fertility is concerned, tobacco reduces blood flow to a woman’s ovaries, causing quality of the ovum to be affected, which leads to an increased risk of miscarriage, severe ovarian damage and premature ovarian failure. It can also cause damage to egg DNA, leading to increased chances of abnormal pregnancies. In men, it affects the development, quantity and quality of sperm, which can also lead to impotency. In women, complications during pregnancy include fetal distress. The toxic substances in cigarettes increase the chances of miscarriages and intrauterine growth that leads to restriction complications such as growth retardation and sometimes even the death of the baby in the womb,” she tells us.
When it comes to developing foetuses, Dr. Duru Shah says, “Unborn babies suffer from respiratory and cardiovascular disorders and are at risk of having cleft lip and cleft palate.”
QUIT like a winner
We’ve brought you a few innovative tips to help you stay off the stimulant for good.
If you can’t turn to fancy nicotine patches or an e-cigarettes, we have a few a ways to help you quit your habit.
- Pin your hopes on herbs While herbs aren’t addictive like nicotine, they have a similar effect on your brain. Lobelia, known as Indian tobacco, can help when you’re trying to quit. It’s a relaxant, so don’t take too much of it or you might end up sick. Other herbs such as passion flower, valerian, kava, chamomile, lavender and peppermint can help you relax as well. If you feel nauseated, try some ginger root.
- Play hide and seek Have a box of cigarettes reserved at home? Put it in a place that it is difficult to find. Bury it in a hole in your backyard, store it in a suitcase at the bottom of your wardrobe or keep it a steel tin among a dozen other steel tins. Many find that their cravings reduce when getting their hands on a cigarette becomes difficult.
- Try tai chi Researchers at the University of Miami found that those who took an hour-long tai chi class three times a week were able to quit smoking faster. Surprisingly, within 12 weeks, 60% of the class had given up smoking!
- Take a timeout Have you often felt like it’s been over an hour since your last cigarette when it’s actually only been five minutes? That’s because nicotine cessation causes smokers to lose their sense of time when it comes to smoking. Setting a timer will help you know how long it’s been since your last cigarette.
- A is for aromatherapy Many say that to quit smoking, you have to replace your smoking habit with something else, and naturally many turn to food. But, we don’t think snacking on cupcakes every time you want to smoke is healthy either, so shop for your favourite fragrances in candles, bath salts and lotions. You can also keep some lavender with you and sniff it when you feel a craving coming on.