Dear Dr. Dave and Dr Dee,
My husband tried to quit smoking, but has now started again. Would smoking light cigarettes be healthier for him and help wean him off regular cigarettes? My husband thinks since he's been smoking for so long (his teens), that it probably doesn't matter if he stops, and that the damage is done so to speak. Any suggestions on how I can get him to quit?
Dear Bad Addiction,
Light cigarettes also known as low-tar, mild, or ultra-light would not be healthier than regular cigarettes and will not help wean your husband off cigarettes.
According to the National Cancer Institute (NCI at www.cancer.gov), light cigarettes do not provide any benefit to smoker's health and there is no evidence that switching to light or ultra-light cigarettes helps smokers quit. People who switch to light cigarettes will probably inhale the same amount of hazardous chemicals and still have a high risk of developing smoking-related cancers (i.e. lung, mouth, throat, esophagus, kidney, stomach, some leukemias) and other diseases such as emphysema and chronic bronchitis
Smoking is highly addictive and on average, may take many tries to quit. Health Canada's website at www.hc-sc.gc.ca states that tobacco can be harder to quit than heroin or cocaine.
Tobacco use is the single largest cause of cancer and heart disease and world-wide kills 5 million people each year (World Health Organization, WHO, at www.who.org). WHO predicts that of the 650 million people who smoke today, about half will eventually be killed by tobacco.
A study published in the British Medical Journal (www.bmj.com), reported that one cigarette reduces your life by 11 minutes (Shaw, et. al, 2000).
HEALTH BENEFITS OF QUITTING
It's never too late to quit and the sooner the better. The American Heart Association (AHA at www.americanheart.org) points out that no matter how long someone has smoked, when smoking is stopped, the risk of heart disease and stroke starts to drop, and in time, the risk will be about the same as if one had never smoked. Specific timelines are provided by the American Cancer Society (www.cancer.org):
When Smokers Quit - The Health Benefits Over Time
1. 20 minutes after quitting: Your blood pressure drops to a level close to that before the last cigarette. The temperature of your hands and feet increases to normal.
2. 8 hours after quitting: The carbon monoxide level in your blood drops to normal.
3. 24 hours after quitting: Your chance of a heart attack decreases.
4. 2 weeks to 3 months after quitting: Your circulation improves and your lung function increases up to 30%.
5. 1 to 9 months after quitting: Coughing, sinus congestion, fatigue, and shortness of breath decrease; cilia (tiny hair like structures that move mucus out of the lungs) regain normal function in the lungs, increasing the ability to handle mucus, clean the lungs, and reduce infection.
6. 1 year after quitting: The excess risk of coronary heart disease is half that of a smoker's.
7. 5 years after quitting: Your stroke risk is reduced to that of a nonsmoker 5-15 years after quitting.
8. 10 years after quitting: The lung cancer death rate is about half that of a continuing smoker's. The risk of cancer of the mouth, throat, esophagus, bladder, kidney, and pancreas decrease.
9. 15 years after quitting: The risk of coronary heart disease is that of a nonsmoker's.
STOP SMOKING METHODS
Vaccines to help stop smoking are being developed and tested, but have not been FDA approved ( U.S. Food and Drug Administration). There are many methods for giving up smoking, and different methods work for different people. It's important that your husband wants to quit or no method will be effective.
The website, How To Give Up Smoking, has a list from A-Z on giving up smoking methods and is presented in brief below (http://www.howtogiveupsmoking.co.uk/).
A-Z Methods of Giving up Smoking from Acupuncture to Zyban
Acupuncture involves needles being inserted into key pressure points on various parts of the body.
2. Cold turkey
Stopping without any kind of aid is the most common method. Although physical symptoms can be more extreme in the early few days, they fade away within the first two or three weeks.
3. Email motivator
For support, sign up for regular email messages tailored to specific points in your recovery.
Although nicotine is a physically addictive drug, smoking also has many psychological associations. Hypnotherapy tries to alter the subconscious mind's dependence on smoking as a habit.
5. Laser treatment
Uses a painless, low-powered laser to stimulate energy points on the body. These in turn stimulate production of endorphins - the body's natural pain relief chemicals - and, theoretically, relieve nicotine cravings.
6. NHS Smoking Helpline [in United Kingdom]
The NHS Smoking Helpline is an excellent source of practical advice and support on smoking and giving up. Friendly helpline advisers can also provide details of your local NHS Stop Smoking Service, and information packs. Call 0800 169 0 169 (for deaf and hard of hearing people, please use textphone 0800 169 0 171).
Alternatively, if you would like specialist advice relating to smoking and pregnancy, call the NHS Pregnancy Smoking Helpline on 0800 169 9 169.
7. NHS Stop Smoking Services [in United Kingdom]
Local NHS Stop Smoking Services offer free, specialist advice tailored to your individual needs. Most services offer both group sessions and one-to-one support, and can help you get nicotine gum and patches on prescription.
Call 0800 169 0 169 or text GIVE UP with your full postcode to 88088, or go to www.nhs.uk
In the USA: see www.cancer.org
8. Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT)
Now available on prescription, NRT is clinically proven to be twice as effective as the cold turkey method. NRT eases withdrawal symptoms while the smoker gets used to not smoking and the dose is gradually reduced.
a. Patches: discreet and easy to use, patches work by releasing a steady dose of nicotine into the blood stream, via the skin.
b. Gum: gum allows you to control your nicotine dose. The idea is to chew gently until you get the flavour and then park the gum in your cheek so that nicotine is absorbed through the lining of the mouth.
c. Nasal spray: this is the strongest form of NRT and is a small bottle of nicotine solution, which is sprayed directly into the nose. Absorbed faster than any other kind of NRT.
d. Microtab: the microtab is a small white tablet which you put underneath your tongue.
e. Lozenge: is like a sweet that you suck slowly. It gives you nicotine in a similar way to the microtab.
f. Inhalator: is a plastic device shaped like a cigarette with a nicotine cartridge fitted into it. Sucking on the mouthpiece releases nicotine vapour, which gets absorbed through your mouth and throat.
NRT is generally safe for everyone to use and certainly much safer than smoking. However, if you are pregnant or suffering from a heart condition, you should consult your GP first. For more information about NRT products, see the following product manufacturers' sites:
A range of self-help materials are available that provide information and advice on stopping smoking - from the physical side-effects to details about health problems and smoking related disease.
10. Zyban (buproprion)
Zyban is one of the newest drugs to the market and is available on prescription. It works by suppressing the part of the brain that gives the smoker a nicotine buzz when smoking a cigarette.
For more information, see (http://www.howtogiveupsmoking.co.uk/)