For health’s sake

Quitting smoking offers immediate and long-term health benefits

For health’s sake


uitting smoking brings immediate relief for most smokers. This is a fact every smoker should know and understand. A dependence on tobacco can lead to severe diseases and prove fatal. It is important to remember that no matter how long one has smoked cigarettes, quitting has benefits.

In Pakistan, smokers, more than ever, need to know and understand that quitting smoking brings health benefits. Yet, , less than three per cent of adult smokers successfully quit smoking in a year. This is mainly because of limited smoking cessation support.

The major benefits of quitting include improved health and increased life expectancy, along with a lower risk of 12 types of cancers. Additionally, when one stops smoking, there is a lower risk of cardiovascular disease.

It also lowers the risk of some reproductive health outcomes. Most importantly, quitting helps people who have been diagnosed with coronary heart disease or COPD.

It is critical to remember that cigarette smoke has more than 7,000 chemicals. According to the US CDC, 69 of these chemicals can cause cancer.

As smoking weakens the immune system of the body, it becomes difficult for the body to kill cancer cells. As a result, cells grow and spread. Smoking can also damage or change a cell’s DNA. CDC maintains that when “DNA is damaged, a cell can begin growing out of control and create a cancer tumour.”

But the most important question, especially for adult smokers, is how to quit smoking. Peer pressure and friendship are major barriers to smoking cessation in Pakistan. Additionally, lack of knowledge seems to be a major reason for not seeking medical assistance for quitting smoking.

The first step in quitting smoking is seeking counselling. Apart from preparing a plan to quit, counselling is critical in terms of coping with stress and the urge to smoke, a normal condition after quitting.

Though Pakistan has a national quit line, it is not as active as it should be. This leaves the adult smokers, who want to quit, literally helpless.

Counselling backed by medication, according to the CDC, helps “manage withdrawal symptoms and cravings….” The medication can include nicotine replacement therapy, which includes over-the-counter forms such as patches, gums, lozenges, inhalers and nasal sprays. It is important to remember that they provide nicotine—the addictive component found in cigarettes and tobacco—without some of the other harmful chemicals. They can help alleviate the withdrawal symptoms associated with quitting smoking.

A nicotine patch gradually releases nicotine into your system to maintain a steady level. Fast-acting products like sprays, inhalers, or gum provide quick relief for immediate craving.

It is important to consult a doctor before using a pill prescription medication – varenicline or bupropion. CDC recommends using “a long-acting form of NRT (nicotine patch) together with a short-acting form (such as nicotine gum or lozenge). Compared to using one form of NRT, this combination can increase your chances of quitting.”

This combination of counselling and medications gives “the best chance of quitting for good.”

Of late, vapes have been presented as cessation tools. Experts acknowledge that vapes are not without risks, however most of them agree that these risks are significantly lower compared to those associated with smoking cigarettes.

According to the UK’s NHS, “switching to vaping significantly reduces your exposure to toxins that can cause cancer, lung disease and diseases of the heart and circulation like heart attack and stroke. These diseases are not caused by nicotine. However, vaping is not risk-free. Non-smokers and young people under 18 should not take up vaping.” It adds that “the healthiest option is not to smoke or vape. So, if you are vaping to quit smoking, you should aim to eventually stop vaping too.”

Pakistan has more than 31 million tobacco users currently. Of them, 17 million are smokers. Currently, adult smokers in Pakistan are on their own if they decide to quit. To reduce the smoking prevalence, it is important to give adult smokers widely accessible cessation services.

The writer is based in Islamabad and works for Ending Combustible Smoking

For health’s sake