Quit Smoking

Kick Your Smoking Habit For Good

The sooner you quit smoking, the better for your health and that of the people around you.

Smoking can affect men’s sperm, reduce fertility and increase the risk of birth defects and miscarriage. Smoking can make it harder for a woman to become pregnant, and can affect her baby’s health both before and after birth. Smokers are at greater risk of diseases that affect the heart and blood vessels. In fact, smoking harms nearly every organ of the body, and overall health.

Yet, smokers still made up over 13 percent of Singapore residents in 2013. According to a fact sheet produced by the Health Promotion Board in May 2015, 18 percent of residents were smokers in 1992. The figure started to fall after that but continued to hover between 13 and 15 percent.

Why do smokers resist quitting? It’s tough to kick the habit — the craving for nicotine has been likened to addiction to hard drugs like heroin and cocaine. Also, many people continue smoking because they have bought into popular myths about the habit.

Myth: Quitting won’t help me because I have smoked for many years.

Fact: The sooner you quit, the sooner your health can improve. Within 20 minutes of your last cigarette, your blood pressure and heartbeat will start to normalise. Within two to five years, your risk of having a stroke could fall to about that of a non-smoker. In 10 years, your risk of lung cancer is cut by half. At the same time, stopping smoking protects the health of your family. Breathing in second-hand smoke increases the risk of lung cancer, heart disease and stroke, as well as respiratory diseases like asthma and bronchitis.

Myth: Smoking a few cigarettes a day is no big deal.

Fact: There is no safe number of cigarettes. Every cigarette contains 4,000 chemicals and poisons, 40 of which cause cancer. Puffing on three to five daily can lead to cardiovascular diseases and trigger sudden heart attacks and death.

Myth: Smoking is relaxing and improves the mood.

Fact: Every cigarette contains one milligram of nicotine. When you smoke a cigarette, nicotine-rich blood reaches the brain in seven to 10 seconds, stimulating the nervous system and hormones (mainly dopamine which produces feelings of pleasure and reward). Smoking also increases the heart rate and causes the arteries to narrow, raising the risk of lung and heart disease.

Myth: “Hand-rolled” cigarettes are safer options.

Fact: Many smokers believe “roll-your-own” cigarettes are less harmful than manufactured ones. However, studies have found the levels of chemicals and toxic molecules in urine samples of smokers of both factory-made and “handmade” cigarettes to be the same.

Myth: If I stop smoking, I will gain weight.

Fact: Some smokers gain about 10 kilograms to 20 kilograms when they quit. After giving up smoking, many people regain their sense of taste and smell, which improves their appetite. Smoking can suppress the appetite, and also speed up metabolism. After quitting, a healthy diet including more vegetables and low-calorie food is important. Regular exercise is also helpful to avoid weight gain.

Myth: “Light” cigarettes are less harmful.

Fact: “Light” cigarettes are as harmful as “regular” ones because these terms have no standard definitions. Some tobacco companies use them to refer to the taste or flavour rather than the nicotine content. As for cigarettes with ventilated filters to help reduce the amount of inhaled tar and nicotine, smokers often unconsciously compensate for the lower levels by inhaling more deeply or by smoking more.

Help is at Hand

Nicotine is highly addictive, and quitting takes strong determination. Few people are able to stop smoking on their own, and a programme that addresses various aspects of the habit is necessary for a smoker to quit successfully.

At Singapore General Hospital (SGH), three pharmacists help run a Smoking Cessation Service for both patients and non-patients. Smokers interested in the quit smoking programme can approach any pharmacist at the SGH Pharmacy (Block 4, Level 1). They can also call the SGH appointments line at 6321 4377 to make an appointment.

The Health Promotion Board and community pharmacies also provide information and help for those who want to stop smoking.

For more information on the Health Promotion Board’s “I Quit” programme, call the QuitLine at 1800 438 2000 or visit www.healthhub.sg/programmes/88/IQuit.

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