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May 18, 2021

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there are 1.3 billion tobacco users globally, and the substance kills more than 8 million people each year. More than 7 million of these deaths are the result of direct tobacco use, while around 1.2 million are the result of non-smokers being exposed to second-hand smoke. These statistics are a major driving force behind the observation of World No Tobacco Day on 31 May 2021, and the launch of the WHO’s year-long global campaign – “Commit to Quit” – in December 2020. The campaign will support at least 100 million people as they try to quit tobacco.

All tobacco products are harmful to your health. The smoke and chemicals from the consumption of tobacco products can harm the respiratory lining of the smoker or consumer. This weakens the lungs, exposing smokers to infectious respiratory diseases, such as tuberculosis and COVID-19.

The immediate and long-term benefits of quitting the consumption of tobacco products include:

  • reduced heart rate and blood pressure within 20 minutes.
  • reduced carbon monoxide levels in your blood, dropping to normal levels within 12 hours.
  • improved blood circulation and lung function within 2-12 weeks.
  • decreased coughing and shortness of breath within 1-9 months.
  • about half the risk of coronary heart disease compared to that of a smoker within 1 year, and within 15 years the risk is similar to that of a non-smoker.
  • reduced risk of stroke to that of a non-smoker 5-15 years after quitting.
  • reduced risk of lung cancer, as well as cancer of the mouth, throat, oesophagus, bladder, cervix and pancreas within 10 years.

Here are five tips to help you quit smoking:

  1. Have a plan

Develop a plan and set a date by which you would like to have quit. Your plan could include scheduling a check-up with your doctor to discuss nicotine quitting aids and therapy, deciding how you will quit – “cold turkey” or gradually – deciding on substitutes for cravings (e.g. going for a walk, eating fruit, drinking water), and downloading one of the apps endorsed by the WHO to track your progress.

  1. Ready your support structures

Roping in your family and friends for support will make quitting easier. Spend time with people who want you to succeed, and get tips and advice from friends who have quit. In addition to your direct support network, you can also consult online support. The WHO’s Quitting Toolkit includes nifty resources that can help you become nicotine free.

  1. Take care of yourself

Taking care of your body, especially as you move through early cessation, will help you minimise the discomforts of nicotine withdrawal. Tips to help you fight the urge to light up include eating a balanced diet, getting enough rest, drinking water, exercising daily and taking a daily vitamin. Remember that while nicotine withdrawal may be very uncomfortable, it is temporary.

  1. Avoid smoking triggers

Avoid situations, people and things that tempt you to smoke, and throw away cigarettes, lighters and ashtrays. Some common triggers include stress, alcohol and coffee. Consider postponing events where alcohol will be served. If this is not an option, plan for how you will tackle the event to stay committed to your “smobriety”.

  1. Stay positive about your progress

You are working hard to live healthier by quitting smoking, so give yourself credit for each day you go without smoking. Staying positive will help you face the challenges of this journey and push you ever closer to becoming a non-smoker. Some strategies to stay positive are practicing quit-smoking affirmations, keeping a gratitude journal, being kind to yourself, focusing on positive changes and reframing negative thinking.

Visit one of Bestmed’s network pharmacies for cessation aids, like nicotine patches, nicotine gum and over-the-counter lozenges.

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