Quit smoking for good

Above: Warning Signs of smoking.

New Year and a fresh start and what better way to kick it all off than to cut out the destructive effects smoking cigarettes have on your health.

I have been struggling most of my adult life to give up these sticks of no sustenance for good. It wasn’t until recently that a bad dose of tonsillitis made me realise that for my own well-being and my future on this planet, the immediate necessity to stop smoking must now be as important as my next meal.

In reality, it seems my battle is against my basic needs for satisfaction and stimulation. Nicotine, the addictive compound of tobacco, interacts with the epinephrine and dopamine receptors in the brain. These receptors make up part of the brain’s pleasure and reward system.

The initial increase in dopamine activity gives the user pleasant feelings, but when the dopamine begins to run out it leaves the smoker craving for more and it’s because of this that I can see why e-cigarettes have become so popular.

For those who prefer to use the less harmful delivery of nicotine to your body, there are many options out there: nicotine patches, gum and e-cigarettes. The e-cigarette was designed by a Chinese pharmacist, Hon Lik, in early 2000, to deliver nicotine to the brain when its substance, propylene glycol, is vaporised and inhaled by the user.

There are as of yet no comprehensive studies on the long-term effects these vaporizers have on our bodies. However, due to the cost effectiveness of e-cigarettes as a means for the public to quit smoking, the Health and Information Quality Authority are currently having a public consultation on promoting its use as an intervention. The World Health Organization has funded studies on these products.

In 2014, they found that the levels of nicotine given up for inhalation by the device varied in its potency, and sometimes required up to 30 puffs just to make up the one milligram of nicotine normally given up by smoking one cigarette. The worrying results of this case were that the flavours that accompany the nicotine delivery, when tested on specific cell types proved to be toxic to those cells. However, our toxicity threshold for these potential toxicants has yet to be established.

In May 2016, Minister for Health Simon Harris signed the EU Tobacco Products Directive into Irish Law. This law replaces a previous EU Directive and comes with new regulations concerning e-cigarettes and states “E-cigarette ingredients must be of high purity and e-cigarettes should deliver the same amount of nicotine for puffs of the same strength and duration”.

The HSE currently have a Tobacco Control Framework setup and its objectives include raising the taxes on tobacco, banning advertising, protecting people from secondhand smoke and also warning people on the dangers of tobacco. The list of chemicals present in cigarettes listed by the HSE is quite alarming, with ingredients like rat poison, cyanide and carbon monoxide to name but a few.

There are some important timeframes to consider if you think it’s too late to quit. For example, the HSE state that if you quit smoking before the age of 35 your life expectancy is only slightly less than a non-smoker and that if you stop smoking before 50 you decrease the risk of dying from smoke-related diseases by 50%.

St Vincent’s Hospital has been running a free stop-smoking course for at least 10 years now. The course is run five times a year and the classes are once a week in the evening. The Health Promotion department in the hospital state: “This six-week stop-smoking course is facilitated by experts in smoking cessation. The course is delivered in a group format where people share their experience of smoking in a friendly and safe environment. We value the views of everyone and confidentiality is respected at all times. We understand the difficulties people who smoke face in their efforts to stop smoking and aim to help them to overcome these.”

Boots Ireland offers a free 12 week ‘Stop for Good’ service. Susan O’Dwyer of Boots Ireland states “The Boots Ireland ‘Stop for Good’ service provides confidential support and advice from trained advisors in pharmacies across the country. We know quitting isn’t easy, but we are here at every step of the way to help smokers break the habit and be healthier in 2017”.

For more information on the course with Boots they advise you to speak to your Boots Ireland pharmacist in store or visit Boots.ie. If you’re interested in signing up for St Vincent’s course (see below) contact them on 01 2214958.

By Paul Carton