In the past 50 years we have reduced the percentage of Americans that smoke cigarettes from 50% to 19%. While the percentage drop is positive, 19% means roughly 44 million Americans are still smoking with 15.5 million of those smokers between 18 and 25 years old. For those of us that live in cities and states with rigid smoking laws, we forget that this unhealthy habit is still the leading cause of preventable deaths in the US today killing more people that substance abuse, firearms, and traffic accidents.
A new study was recently released proving that smoking is worse than we previously thought. The study followed just under 500,000 smokers for 10 years and monitored their health along the way. We already knew that smoking causes things like heart attack, cancer, stroke, and lung disease, but now they have proven that it also causes inflammatory diseases, increased risk of infection along with kidney and intestinal diseases. The study shows that smokers’ death rates are 2 to 3 times higher than non-smokers and on average they die 10 years before their non-smoking counterparts.
Why are people still smoking in the face of alarming statistics proving it’s detrimental affects? First, the tobacco companies are pumping massive amounts of money into advertising, and it works. Even with tough laws restricting their ability to advertise openly, they still managed to spend $8.37 billion dollars in advertising in 2011. Couple that with the extremely addictive nature of the compounds in cigarettes, and we have a clear understanding as to why the 19% number is not declining.
Smokers also get used to the ritual of smoking, which we now understand to be an important component of addiction. Not only is the smoker getting the nicotine and all the chemical compounds, but they are also getting the ritual. Maybe it’s the only time during the day they get up and leave their office and go outside.
For other smokers, the cigarette break is the only time they are alone throughout the day. A deeper understanding of the human brain shows us that these habits that go along with smoking make quitting very difficult, and some say that quitting the habit of smoking is tougher for some people than hard drugs like cocaine.
The good news is that while no one should tell you it’s easy, there are still thousands of people that are able to quit each month. The nicotine in cigarettes gives smokers a tiny boost of energy combined with relaxation. What they don’t realize is the energy that they are craving from the cigarette is the very thing stealing their life force in the first place.
When someone stops smoking, it takes about 4 days for the worst nicotine withdrawals to subside, and a month before they are gone completely.
On the other hand, the emotional attachment, and the root of why the person smoked in the first place can last months or even years.
As a licensed Acupuncturist, what I tell my patients that are trying to quit is that they will need full support from the people around them in addition to a strong and structured quitting plan. Sometimes therapy or a stop smoking support group can be useful in determining the deeper emotional attachments to smoking.
Acupuncture is no magic bullet, but it has proven helpful for people leaving the smoking habit behind as well as other addictions, and it can be a great adjunct to a quitting strategy. Regardless of how you go about quitting, know that there is plenty of help out there, and that there have been many that have come before you and succeeded.
(Christian Cristiano is an acupuncturist, TV host of Wellness for Realists and writes on wellness regularly for CityWatch. Christian can be reached at 323.935.3420)
Vol 13 Issue 13
Pub: Feb 13, 2015