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Monday, July 12, 2010

Cigarette smoking: Killing a killer-habit

-Yetunde Akintola

Habits are behaviours people develop over a period of time. Some habits are almost totally harmless, others are so dangerous that they could actually kill the person. Smoking cigarretes, however, has the tendency to kill even a non-smoker. Yetunde Akintola reports on why smokers should quit and how.

JUNE 26 every year is the United Nations’ International Day Against Drug and Illicit Trafficking. The day is set aside to enlighten the public on the dangers of doing drugs like Indian hemp, cocaine, cannabis, cigarette, etc.

While all the other drugs are more dangerous and banned by the government, cigarette is, however, legal, and can be smoked in public. It is with this impression that smokers feel that cigarette is less dangerous to the health.

However, smoking cigarette can be as dangerous as smoking Indian hemp, or taking other hard drugs, the only difference is just that the effect takes a while to manifest. This is probably why cigarette smokers feel it is safe. Often times, you even hear smokers say that they have been at it for several years and nothing has happened to them.

Now that there is a sustained campaign against those into hard drugs, special focus must be given to those who are already smoking cigarettes. The reason for this is that, it is generally believed that most of those who go into hard drugs started from cigarette.

Somebody who had never smoked before, is most unlikely to pick up a wrap of Indian hemp and light it. The genesis of most drug adicts starts with smoking cigarette.

This is why it is important to find ways towards discouraging those who are into smoking cigarette to put a stop to it before they graduate into taking harder substances.

Justifying this line of thought, a private medical practitioner based in Ibadan, Dr. Olukayode Samuel, agreed that most people who do drugs start with cigarette, before graduating into harder substances.

Dr. Samuel said that, after a smoker had smoked cigarette for a while, he would be tempted, mostly by fellow smokers, to try Indian hemp or cannabis and other forms of hard drugs.

He, therefore, suggested that, “it is important that tougher sanctions be given to those who smoke cigarettes like other hard drugs.”

But since that is not likely to happen anytime soon, the medical doctor then gave a piece of advice to smokers, saying, “before you stick another cigarette into your mouth, take a look at the effects of smoking, and then decide if you want to go ahead.”

In the society today, smoking is considered a status symbol, especially among the youth. However, many people are not paying much attention to the effects of smoking, which can result in deadly diseases like cancer. The damage smoking causes is not suffered only by the smoker, but the environment also gets its share of the damage as the smoke released into the air is dangerous. Those that also hang around smokers are at risk, they are refered to as passive smokers. According to a scientific study, those who inhale the smoke from a cigarette, are at an equal risk with the real smoker.

It is even more dangerous for those that have certain health conditions to smoke or stay around smokers as this could cause complicatons. An asthmatic patient, for instance, might have an attack or crisis if exposed to cigarrete smoke.

Smoking harms nearly every organ in the body, causing lung and throat cancer, as well as chronic heart diseases, and so on. It also gives rise to sicknesses like Conductive Heart Failure (CHF), also known as heart attack, hypertension and so on.

Before looking at how to get people to stop smoking, we must first look at how many started in the first place.

According to Mr. Ademola Ogundele, an official of a non-governmental organisation, Creative Actors Initiative for Development (CRAID), some people start smoking just because they are curious, while others start because of peer-pressure or they feel it is a way to act or look like an adult.

While advising those who smoke to put an end to the habit, Mr. Ogundele said, “why do tobacco producers include it on the pack that smoking is injurious to health? This is a clear and unambigous way of telling smokers that they are killing themselves.”

The disadvantages of smoking are so much, among which is the fact that smoking cigarette stains the teeth, as well as have effect on the breath. It also affects the immunity level in the body, making it prone to contracting diseases.

However, quiting smoking is not so easy because of the nicotine in the cigarette. Nicotine makes smokers addicted, thereby making it difficult to stop.However, smokers who decide to quit must realise they can, provided they have firm determination, which is what determines whether they will be able to witstand the withdrawal symptoms.

According to Dr. Bashiru Akande Lasisi, Executive Director, CRAID, withdrawal symptoms are symptoms one gets when one wants to stop something, like drugs. Once in a while, or even frequently, the person who has stopped taking cigarettes, or other drugs, will experience headaches, body aches, dizziness, etc, due to what the body had been conditioned to, but which the person had stopped doing.

Dr. Lasisi, however, advised smokers who are planning to quit, to visit doctors, or even the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), on the rehabilitation towards overcoming withdrawal symptoms.

Some people may, however, have justifiable reasons to engage in smoking cigarretes. Those living in colder regions of the earth, the in Europe, definitely need to keep warm. But, it could still be argued that, there are others who live in these places, yet they do not smoke. Those that have no excuse, whatsoever, are those who live in temperate regions like Nigeria.

Although it is an inevitable fact that death must eventually come to everyone, but, should a person hasten up the process through an habit that is in one’s power to control? Smoking is killing one’s self, one stick at a time.