“Good Bad & Ugly” of SMOking


     Never say I will quit smoking, unless you are sure why you want to quit and a strategic plan to quit.  When you really quit, there shouldn’t be any effects or side-effects on the body.  

” Its easy to quit smoking.  I’ve done it hundreds of times.”  –  Mark Twain

     Before getting into the strategies of quit-smoking let us first know “why you have to quit it” by knowing its ingredients, how it’s affecting you, your loved ones and people around you.

     Tobacco is a plant grown for its leaves, from which products are made, which can be smoked, chewed, or snuffed for a variety of effects.  Use of Tobacco was started way back in 15th century.  Previously it was “Strong Medication Offered to King, which later became SMO-king”.  Today smoking has become fashion & addiction and is considered one of the biggest public health threats the world is facing with presently more than a billion smokers around the world.

     Cigarettes contains addictive psychoactive chemical called nicotine along with arsenic, formaldehyde, lead, hydrogen cyanide, nitrogen oxide, carbon monoxide, ammonia + more than 50 dangerous carcinogens.  According to an International Study, cigarettes are also “widely contaminated” with bacteria, some known to cause various diseases in people.  The list of bacteria’s of medical significance to humans identified in all of the tested cigarettes includes Acinetobacter (associated with lung and blood infections), Bacillus (some varieties associated with food-borne illnesses and anthrax), Burkholderia (some forms responsible for respiratory infections), Clostridium (associated with food-borne illnesses and lung infections), Klebsiella (associated with a variety of lung, blood and other infections) and Pseudomonas aeruginosa (an organism that causes 10 percent of all hospital-acquired infections).

     When a non-smoker is exposed to tobacco smoke, it is called as passive smoking or involuntary smoking.  When tobacco smoke is puffed off, be it a smoker or a non-smoker; the internal environment of the individuals as well as the external environment gets equally spoilt by the tobacco smoke.

     Smokers family will also be exposed to the toxins from your cigarettes directly or indirectly.  While we are already being bombarded with toxins every day, the more you do to lower your exposure – the better.

“People always come up to me and say that my smoking is bothering them … Well, its’s killing me!” – Wendy Liebman

     A cigarette burns at 700°C at the tip and around 60°C in the core.  This heat breaks down the tobacco to produce more than 6000 chemical compounds and at least 500 toxic substances.  A list of few chemicals found in tobacco smoke and other places where they are found abundantly are:

  • Acetone – found in nail polish remover
  • Acetic Acid – an ingredient in hair dye
  • Ammonia – a common household cleaner
  • Arsenic – used in rat poison
  • Benzene – found in rubber cement
  • Butane – used in lighter fluid
  • Cadmium – active component in battery acid
  • Carbon Monoxide – released in car exhaust fumes
  • Formaldehyde – embalming fluid
  • Hexamine – found in barbecue lighter fluid
  • Lead – used in batteries
  • Naphthalene – an ingredient in moth balls
  • Methanol – a main component in rocket fuel
  • Nicotine – used as insecticide
  • Tar – material for paving roads
  • Toluene – used to manufacture paint

     Smoking tobacco is both a psychological habit and a physical addiction.  The act of smoking is ingrained as a daily ritual and, at the same time, the nicotine from cigarettes provides a temporary, and addictive, high.  Eliminating that regular fix of nicotine will cause your body to experience physical withdrawal symptoms and cravings.  To successfully quit smoking, you have to address both the habit and the addiction by changing your behavior and dealing with nicotine withdrawal symptoms as well.

“Smoking is just like farting with the poisonous elements.” – Skai Chan, founder of SmokeForWhat.com

     When tailoring a personal game plan to quit for your specific needs and desires you must know the positive and negative sides of Quitting.  Some of them are listed below.

Positive Side of Quitting

     Here are some of the positive aspects of quitting, which range from immediate to long-term effects on the body.

  • The heightened blood pressure levels will resume to the normal level, in about 20 minutes.
  • The level of carbon monoxide in the blood stream will gradually reduce to let the oxygen levels become normal, in about 8 hours.
  • All the nicotine accumulation through the body would have nearly left the system, and the perception of taste and smell would have returned to normal, in 2 days.
  • In 4 days, the bronchial tubes of the body would have relaxed and your energy levels will increase.
  • In 2 weeks, the circulation will get better and will continue to improve for the next 10 weeks.
  • In 9 months, all respiratory troubles would have ceased and the lung capacity will increase by 10%.
  • In 5 years, the heart and lung would be functioning like that of a non-smoker, with reduced risks of heart attacks and lung cancer.

Negative Side of Quitting

     Listed below are some negative aspects of quitting, mainly resulting due to the body trying to adapt to sudden change.  – Remember: These symptoms tend to dissipate in short time

  • Respiratory Changes: Because the body is no longer being polluted by harmful tar, the respiratory system will be on a regenerative mode.  This may lead to sinus congestion, cold, throat clearing and hoarseness of voice.
  • Digestive Changes: Quitting smoking can lead to acidity, indigestion and heartburn as immediate effects along with chances of flatulence and border-line diarrhea, constipation and nausea.
  • Circulatory Changes: With the heart no longer pumping furiously to maintain the high blood pressure, the balanced circulation could have some temporary side effects like tingling fingers, dizziness, muscle stiffness and fluid retention in the body.
  • Psychological and Mental Changes: Nicotine has vascular-constricting properties and makes the heart weaker by forcing it to function much faster than its capacity.  With the heart now attaining normalcy, fatigue and drowsiness could be temporary side effects.
  • Sleep patterns changes is also witnessed with alterations as you will go into the REM (Repeated Eye Movement) or the light-sleep mode, with frequent vivid nightmares.  Since smoking suppresses modes of normal mental expression, dreaming becomes the only way of dealing with the daytime stresses and problems.

     Second hand smoking too contains several known carcinogens, and there may be no safe level of exposure.  The risks are high to an adult as well as children.   It has been proved that children who grow up with smokers in their homes are three times more likely to develop lung cancer in their later years than those children who come from non-smoking homes.  Children who breathe second-hand smoke are more likely to suffer from lack of immunity, recurring common cold, pneumonia, bronchitis and other lung related diseases, while those who have asthma and who breathe second-hand smoke have more asthma attacks.  Second-hand smoke also accounts for as many as one-quarter of cases of lung cancer in non-smokers.

     As nicotine can reach the brain within 10 seconds after smoke is inhaled, it has been found in every part of the body and in breast milk too.

Intelligently Kicking-Off the Smoking Habit

     After knowing the stated factors if you are willing to quit smoking, I say, at the end of the day, your decision is a “BREATHER not only for any living entities around you but also for our Mother Earth”.  Once you decide to quit smoking, stick on to the decision, you may falter; you may make mistakes but never let loose the decision.

The gem cannot be polished without friction, nor man perfected without trials – Chinese proverb

     While the body takes time to adapt to a non-smoking lifestyle, the occurrence of certain side effects is inevitable.  However, with healthy lifestyle alternatives one can stay true to their decision and enjoy a smoke-free life.

     So quitting smoking is certainly a wise choice.  But there are a couple of important points you should know finally before you jump to action.  Inform your family members, friends and colleagues about your quitting, + you need to give equal importance to;

    First, during the initial days of quitting, please do not make the mistake of resorting to pharmaceutical “quit-smoking drugs” of any type.  These drugs in particular carry much higher risks of depression, violence, suicidal tendencies and other side effects.  These are more dangerous than smoking itself.

      Second, do not resort to any other addictions to give up cigarettes.

    Finally, get your Exercise, Nutritional and Meditational Program (or any stress relieving program) on track.

(Exercise plan helps to increase the intake capacity of oxygen which indirectly resolves shallow breathing.  Yoga / Qigong exercises are also good during this period.  Because the immune systems of smokers has to work harder every day than non-smokers, a smokers’ blood will contain less antioxidants, a good nutritional program is necessarily needed during this period.  Increase your daily water consumption initially or follow water therapy.  It is found that smoking increases with stress, so dealing it with any stress relieving program like meditation always helps the person quit the habit successfully with no strain on the body or mind).

“The key is focusing on the positive. Build up the good things in your life and the smoking will go away by itself.” – Anonymous

Smoking and its treatment according to TCM (Traditional Chinese medicine)

     According to Chinese medicine, tobacco is drying; it dries up Fluids and the Jing (Kidney essence).  Therefore Chinese medicine considers it as a depleted Jing (kidney) while the western medicine focuses on the effects of tobacco on the lungs.

     Different acupuncturists have different protocols for Smoking Cessation, some treat unilaterally and some treat bilaterally based on the composition and strength of Qi present in the person or based on the excesses or deficiencies found by different diagnosis (like pulse diagnosis, tongue diagnosis etc).

     Body acupuncture along with Ear acupuncture can be performed by trained acupuncturists, specifically to use it as an adjunctive therapy for people trying to stop smoking successfully or to avoid the side effects of quitting tobacco.  Auricular points like shenmen, Kidney, Endocrine point, Master Point Zero, Lung 1 or 2, Hunger point along with body points like Lieque, Li-4, tim-mee etc., are used.  Many addiction based treatments use protocols which may or may not be used in conjunction with other points to help balance the person’s overall pattern.

     Smoking Cessation can help successfully end the craving of cigarette smoking, rolling tobacco smoking or tobacco pipe smoking.

“The best way to stop smoking is to just stop – no iffs, ands or butts.”

 – Edith Zittler

Material References

1.  Web sites like Wikipedia, yinyanghouse, auricular acupuncture, WHO etc.
2.  Wen, H.L. 1975. Role of acupuncture in narcotic withdrawal. Medical Progress. 2, pp15-16.
3.  Smith, M.O. 1988. An acupuncture programme for the treatment of drug addicted persons. Bulletin on Narcotics. XL (1), pp.35-41.

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