Younger adult smokers are the only source of replacement smokers… If younger adults turn away from smoking, the industry must decline, just as a population which does not give birth will eventually dwindle”… RJ Reynolds (1984)
Almost everyone knows that smoking causes cancer, emphysema and heart disease; that it can shorten your life by many years; and that the habit can cost a smoker thousands of euros a year. So how come people are still lighting up? The answer, in a word, is addiction.
Smoking’s a hard habit to break because tobacco contains nicotine, which is highly addictive. Like heroin or other addictive drugs, your body and mind quickly become so used to the nicotine in cigarettes that you need to have it just to feel normal.
Almost all smokers start as teenagers. Statistics show that about eight out of 10 smokers start before they’re 18 years old. Some young people who smoke say they start because they think it helps them look older (it does – if yellow teeth and wrinkles are the look you want). Others smoke because they think it helps them relax (it doesn’t – your heart actually beats faster while you’re smoking). Some light up as a way to feel rebellious or to set themselves apart (which works if you want your non-smoking friends to move away while you puff). Some start because their friends smoke - or just because it gives them something to do.
Some people, especially girls, start smoking because they think it may help keep their weight down. The illnesses that smoking can cause, like lung diseases or cancer, do cause weight loss – but that’s not a very good way to fit into your clothes!
Another reason people start smoking is because others in their family do. Most people who started smoking in their teens never expected to become addicted. That’s why people say it’s so much easier to not start smoking at all.
The only thing that really helps you avoid the problems of smoking is staying smoke-free. This isn’t always easy, especially if everyone around you is smoking and offering you cigarettes. It may help to have your reasons for not smoking ready for times you feel the pressure, such as “I just don’t like it” or “I want to stay in shape for football” (or Gaelic, soccer, rugby, basketball or other sport) or “I’m saving the cash to get a car” (or bike, or holiday).
If you do smoke and want to give up, there’s more information and support out there than ever. Different approaches work for different people – for some, going cold turkey is best, whereas others find that a slower approach is the way to go. Some people find that it helps to talk to an expert about giving up smoking. You can ring the the HSE Quit Team on Freephone 1800 201 203 or FREETEXT QUIT to 50100 and an advisor will call you back. They can also give you details of a quit smoking service in your area.
The internet also offers a number of good resources, you can make your own quit plan on this site. SpunOut.ie have load of info on a wide range of health information on a number of topics including smoking.
When you quit, it can help to know that the first few days are the hardest, and it’s normal to have a few relapses before you manage to stop for good.
Staying smoke-free will give you a whole lot more of everything – more energy, better performance, better looks, more money in your pocket and, in the long run, more life to live!