The Battle to Quit Tobacco, and How Vapes Are Helping Win the Smoking War
We may like to think the war on tobacco is being won, as more people stop smoking and switch to such things as vape kits from an online vape store instead, but more than 1 billion people around the world still smoke. What can we do to roll back the enormous toll this takes on human health?
The growth and harvesting of the tobacco plant and turning it into combustible products for human consumption is one of the most devastating things we have ever done as a species and global society. All the world’s wars have nothing on tobacco and the astounding death toll it exacts on people — not even the Second World War, the deadliest conflict in human history and one that took the lives of over 70 million people. Cigarettes do that every decade.
We now know that tobacco claims the lives of more than 7.1 million people around the world every year — 5.1 million men and 2 million women. These are people who smoked for a large portion of their adult lives, and because of the high and endless level of toxins they were inhaling, their bodies were unable to cope and went on to develop cancers, heart and respiratory diseases, strokes, and other conditions they were unable to recover from. Globally, some 884,000 people who never smoked also die from tobacco-related diseases because they inhaled second-hand smoke — such is the potent toxicity of burning tobacco and the many harmful chemicals it releases.
With this enormous loss of human life on a grand scale around the world every year, it’s no wonder that tobacco is the leading cause of preventable death in most countries. And while many developed Western nations have seen a fall in tobacco use in recent times — as people become more aware of the harms of smoking and want to have healthier lives — they still have large numbers of smokers. In less-developed parts of the world, smoking rates remain stable and in some places are even climbing, and it’s usually down to a combination of lack of education or knowledge about the risks of smoking, and environments in which tobacco companies are allowed to advertise their products wherever they wish — even outside schools, where they try to tempt and lure children and get them hooked for life.
So altogether, more than 1.1 billion people still smoke tobacco products, and this results not only in an enormous health toll but also costs of around $2 trillion a year in healthcare and lost productivity. Imagine if all that money could be put towards education and building up infrastructure and resources, and, above all, if all those lives could be saved. This is the terrible reality of the harmless-looking cigarette that is wiping out people and decimating families everywhere. Is there anything that can be done to help win the battle against tobacco and roll back this astounding loss of life; will people ever be able to finally kick the habit en mass — and is it feasible for countries to go almost entirely smoke-free in the coming years, as some are planning?
Why Do People Start Smoking Cigarettes?
Most people who are regular smokers started when they were in their late teens, either because of “peer pressure”, because their friends were smoking and they didn’t want to be left out or seen as “uncool”, or because their parents smoked or they were enticed by advertising or people smoking in movies. It’s those who start smoking young, and especially in their teen years, who are most likely to become addicted to cigarettes and smoke long term. We know from the 2014 Surgeon General’s Report that almost nine out of 10 adult smokers began smoking before they were aged 18 and nearly all smokers started by the time they were 26 — meaning they were facing an increasingly uphill battle to try to quit.
People, generally, smoke because they like it: they like the pleasant feeling that nicotine gives them as it enters the body and interacts with the brain and central nervous system, as well as the buzz of a slight adrenalin rush as the heart rate and blood pressure rise. This can certainly help someone who is in the midst of a stressful situation, for instance, to feel much calmer and relaxed, and it’s one reason people in high-stress environments often turn to cigarettes. But because the body gets used to nicotine and is able to better tolerate the substance, more is then needed to keep the smoker satiated with the same pleasurable feelings; and so you end up smoking more and more — becoming dependent, and addicted, in the process.
When the body is regularly flooded with nicotine, and levels are maintained at a fairly high level, suddenly going without it becomes problematic for a person — physically and emotionally. If you’re using cigarettes to help manage and overcome difficult and stressful situations, whether in your personal life or at work — stopping smoking can be incredibly difficult and challenging. And this is also the case, as any smoker likely knows all too well, when cigarettes are associated with social activities like drinking and partying. Trying to quit can be so hard that many a smoker decides it’s just not worth the literal headache and starts lighting up again.
World No Tobacco Day 2019: Lung Health Awareness
Every year, the World Health Organization (WHO) organizes World No Tobacco Day, and this year, it’s focused on tobacco and lung health as it urges smokers around the world to go without cigarettes for a day and then try to give up entirely. World No Tobacco Day falls on May 31 this year and it will seek to highlight the hazards to human health caused by tobacco, as well as the real risks of exposure to second-hand smoke.
It will also draw attention to what smoking does to harm the lungs and the amount of respiratory and lung cancer it causes, as well as attempt to raise awareness of what it calls “emerging evidence” of a link between smoking and deaths from tuberculosis. Additionally, the WHO is calling on governments around the world to introduce more effective measures to reduce their populations’ risks of compromised lung health due to tobacco use and exposure.
The most effective measure to improve lung health is to reduce tobacco use and second-hand smoke exposure. But knowledge among large sections of the general public, and particularly among smokers, on the implications for the health of people’s lungs from tobacco smoking and second-hand smoke exposure is low in some countries, says this year’s campaign. Despite strong evidence of the harms of tobacco on lung health, the potential of tobacco control for improving lung health remains underestimated.
How to Beat Cigarettes and Win the Smoking Battle?
Now we come to the hard part: figuring out the best way to give up smoking and then embarking on that difficult journey, and hopefully getting off cigarettes and staying off them. Of course, you can just go cold turkey and see if you can put up with that often torturous process, during which you are likely to have intense cravings for cigarettes and be irritable, as well as feel somewhat depressed and have nausea and an increased appetite — a reason many otherwise slim people fear giving up cigarettes.
Or you can take a far less drastic route in your stop-smoking plan and start vaping instead. This is one that a growing number of governments are recommending that smokers in their countries take as, based on research into vaping and its effects on the body, they stand to get off tobacco and still get the nicotine they want but with almost no health side-effects. The United Kingdom has been urging its smokers for several years now to take up vaping as a sure-fire way to quit, and now, in a new development, the government of New Zealand is about to undertake a similar program of recommendation, and later this year will launch a campaign to promote vaping as a safer alternative to smoking.
Here in the United States, our health authorities have not been as embracing of vaping and are still either largely sitting on the fence or, as some states have been doing, banning e-liquid flavors in case they get into the hands of the youth, if not trying to make vaping illegal altogether. If we look at the UK example of smoking and smokers switching to vaping, we can see a clear shift away from cigarettes as more people start using e-cigarettes instead — there are now more than 3 million adult vapers in the UK, while the number of smokers is on the decline.
Where are they all getting their vaping supplies? There’s a profusion of vape shops in towns and cities all over the UK, but for many people, the more convenient and sometimes more affordable option is to buy them at an online vape store and have them quickly shipped to them, and often for free. Smokers starting out with e-cigarettes usually go for vape kits that have everything they need to get vaping quickly, and products like vape pens have the same tactile feel of a cigarette, which is something smokers struggle with when they give up: what to do with their hands when they used to hold cigarettes in them.
Meanwhile, a new study, by Queen Mary University of London, has found that e-cigarettes are nearly twice as effective as other smoking-cessation methods — like nicotine patches and gums — in helping smokers to quit. The head researcher, Professor Peter Hajek, said the findings would almost certainly result in more health authorities recommending that smokers start vaping. “Although a large number of smokers report that they have quit smoking successfully with the help of e-cigarettes, health professionals have been reluctant to recommend their use because of the lack of clear evidence from randomised controlled trials. This is now likely to change.”
In the war on tobacco, it seems that vaping may be the world’s biggest ally, if not its savior.
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