Lifestyle

Smoking is a slow killer

“I have time to quit.”

“Cancer doesn’t run in my family.”

“Bad things happen to other people.”

“I can quit any time I want to.”

These are some of the things people say to put up the mental wall of denial between their smoking habit and the harsh reality that is being inflicted with every puff of cigarette smoke. And, because smoking is typically a slow killer, the framework of the wall of denial gets supported for years and years. It is only when people start to understand that cigarettes are not our buddies but horrific killers that the wall of denial starts to crumble and smoking becomes a fearful, anxious activity. This is when most smokers will start to think seriously about finding a way to quit smoking for good.

Quitting is not easy. Nicotine, present in the tobacco leaf, is one of the main ingredients in tobacco. It is a central nervous system stimulant, causing chemical and biological changes in the brain. Although it is less “dramatic” than heroin or cocaine, the strength of the addiction is just as powerful. It is a "reinforcing" drug, which means that users desire the drug – often in increasingly greater amounts.

So, when many smokers try to quit, they can experience symptoms of nicotine withdrawal like irritability, frustration, anger, anxiety, restlessness, and an increased appetite. These symptoms are worst for the first few days after stopping smoking. This is when smokers are most likely to start smoking again. Therefore, it is important for smokers to find positive ways to get through this short period of time. Smokers who do will have a much better chance of quitting smoking for good.

To help you quit smoking, there are many valuable resources you can access. One of these is QuitNow.ca. It is a free, online, quit-smoking program available around the clock to any B.C. resident. Highlights of the website include expert counsellors to provide you a personalized plan, tools to track your progress, statistics, quitting tips, a journal to record your progress, support from others sharing their stories, and a directory of other local and provincial quit smoking resources.

QuitNow also provides a confidential, free phone helpline. Like the online service, it is also available around the clock and staffed by specially trained counsellors who are there to listen and to provide support and guidance. The toll free phone number is 1-877-455-2233. In addition to counselling, a personalized program will be developed based on your needs. Assistance is provided in more than 130 languages and there is a TTY service for the deaf and hearing impaired.

In the Agassiz area, the medical professionals in the Agassiz Community Health Centre are available to provide one-to-one help for you. An appointment may be made by telephoning 604-703-2030.

Unless they quit, up to half of all smokers will die from their smoking – most of them before their 70th birthday. Many others will suffer the consequences of more than two dozen debilitating and potentially life-threatening smoking related diseases and conditions.

But, by quitting now, your health will start to improve immediately. After 20 minutes, your blood pressure and pulse rate decrease. After eight hours, carbon  monoxide levels drop and the oxygen level in your blood increases to normal. After only one day, the likelihood of a heart attack decreases. After two weeks, circulation and lung function improve. And, after one year, your risk of smoking-related heart attack is cut in half. Within 10-15 years, your chances of dying from lung cancer or heart attack decrease significantly.

The message is clear. Time is not on your side but it could be. Now is the time to quit.

Local help available

If you are a person who has made a resolution to stop smoking, you have taken a significant step to prolong your life. Your community health professionals are available to provide the needed supports to help you make the transition to a smoke-free life. On Thursday, January 19, there will be an Agassiz Community Lung Health Day at the Cheam Village from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Professionals will be on site to provide information about smoking cessation as well as information about other lung diseases. Also available will be printed information for you to take home.

Submitted by Agassiz Community Health

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