Leaf it out: Dump cigarette addiction today


Taseer Ahmed

SMOKING cigarettes takes over 0.16m lives in Pakistan every year! The prevalence of smoking alone is 36% for males and 9% for females in Pakistan. This has led to a considerable spike in smoking-attributable diseases and cancers including cardiovascular diseases, respiratory diseases, 12 types of cancers, and maternity health risks for women.
There are innumerable benefits of quitting smoking that could serve as motivation in itself to start today. Did you know that within 12 hours of quitting the blood pressure and heart rate drop, and the level of carbon monoxide in the blood goes back to normal? In the next 2-12 weeks, blood circulation and lung performance improve drastically. In 1-9 months, the coughing and shortness of breath improve, and the risk of coronary heart disease drops by 50%.
Most ex-smokers also vouch for the psychological benefits of quitting. Breaking the vicious cycle of dependence leads to better relationships, improved social lives, and a higher likeability factor due to a decrease in mood swings. Quitting, however, is not as easy as it seems as many smokers often face “slips” or relapse triggered by nicotine withdrawal, stressful situations, weight gain, mood swings, and of course the habit in itself. Puffing out clouds of smoke to relieve stress may look poetic, but your body has a different story to tell.
Combustion or burning is a chemical reaction that uses heat and oxygen to produce smoke. When you smoke a cigarette, the toxicants emitted during combustion form liquid and solid particles that, combined with the rest of the emissions, result in smoke that is harmful to health if inhaled.
The good news is that several smoke-free alternatives deliver nicotine without combustion. Smokers can now turn to relatively less harmful products such as e-cigarettes, nicotine replacement therapy (NRT), and heated tobacco products (HTPs) for reduced risk to health. Countries such as the UK and Japan have claimed success in bringing down smoking prevalence in their countries due to regulating the use of alternative tobacco and nicotine products. Research from these countries shows not only has smokers switched to these alternatives but many have actually successfully quit smoking altogether.
Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) releases nicotine usually in the form of patches, sprays, gum, lozenges, and inhalers without the combustion and harmful chemicals in cigarettes. According to studies, while going cold turkey has a success rate of 3% with a high chance of relapse, NRT increases the success rate of quitting somewhere between 6-15%.
On the other hand, heated tobacco products (HTPs), also known as “heat-not-burn” products, heat tobacco via a battery-powered heating system. HTPs are different from your average e-cigarettes. Where e-cigarettes heat liquids that contain nicotine, HTPs heat the actual tobacco leaves at a lower temperature. It’s all good science if you think about it. Nicotine in cigarettes is released from the tobacco at around 247°C which is far below the burning point of tobacco at around 400°C. Meaning it’s possible to heat tobacco enough to release nicotine without burning it and producing smoke.
With the World Health Organization actively working on Tobacco Harm Reduction campaigns and easy access to science-backed alternatives, smokers now have more power than ever to make better health choices. However, even with these less harmful alternatives available in the market, nothing beats the good old route of going cold turkey and quitting altogether. It’s never too late to make the best decision of your life!
—The writer is freelancer.

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