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It’s a long time since smoking was proven to be very, very bad for us. In fact, a link between cigarettes and cancer was identified over 60 years ago – before most of us were even born. So why do so many of us still do it?
People take up smoking for all sorts of reasons. For many, it’s about childhood peer pressure and wanting to look cool in front of our friends. Some people start early and quit just as quickly, but others find it much more difficult to shake the habit. E-cigarettes are helping millions of Brits to quit, but the long-term health impact of these is unknown.
The good news is that if you quit in middle age, most of the risk associated with smoking can be undone. And millions of us have quit: the smoking rate is down from 46% of British adults in 1974, to around 19% today. But that still means millions of us light up on a regular basis.
We all have our reasons
Only a smoker or ex-smoker can testify to just how addictive smoking is. The nicotine in tobacco is, like alcohol and cocaine, a drug that can be enormously addictive, and withdrawal causes intense cravings. For the vast majority of smokers, this alone is the reason they haven’t given up yet.
Many smokers say they turn to smoking at times of stress or anxiety. Nipping out of the office for a smoke is an excuse to leave your desk and escape the pressures of work, even just for a few minutes.
Lots of smokers try to quit and quit successfully, but relapsing is common, with many returning to smoking around times of sadness or distress. Even if you now consider yourself an ex-smoker, you may want to consider cognitive behaviour therapy (‘CBT’), which can help you to develop coping strategies that can prevent a relapse. Counselling is also available to help you deal with issues like grief and relationship breakdown, without turning to smoking.
The shocking figures
Current statistics indicate that smoking-related illnesses cause or contribute towards the deaths of around 100,000 Brits every year. And it’s not just lung cancer
that it’s thought to cause – it’s a major contributing factor in lots of different types of cancer, cardiovascular disease (which causes heart attacks and strokes), and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (‘COPD’).
COPD is an unpleasant condition that can be diagnosed with the help of an exercise test; if you become unusually breathless after even light exercise, this may be an indicator that you’re affected. Various treatments for respiratory conditions can ease the symptoms, but the most effective thing you can do is quit smoking.
If you’re a long-term smoker, there’s a one in two chance you’ll die from a smoking-related illness, and your chances of living beyond the age of 70 drop from around 80% to about 50%1.
Get help quitting
There are all sorts of ways to quit, and different things work for different people. You might find you’re one of the lucky few who can happily go cold turkey, but most people need help. You could try nicotine patches and lozenges, or you may want to try hypnotherapy to change your behaviour. We’ve also put together 10 practical tips to help you quit, and a breakdown of how your body reacts when you stop smoking.
To find out more call us on 0808 101 0337
or make an online enquiry.