4 Doctors Tell You Why You Should Quit Smoking & Chewing Tobacco
Every year 31st May is dedicated to World No Tobacco Day. And in 2019, the theme is to create awareness about “Tobacco and Lung Health“. At Breath and Beats, we decided to host an experts’ panel where four doctors have brought their knowledge and medical expertise to the table. If you’ve been smoking or chewing tobacco, or know a loved one or family member who does, this one’s a must read!
What Makes Smoking or Chewing Tobacco Unhealthy?
“Tobacco consumption in chewable or smoking form, is the most common preventable cause of disease and death in the world. In India, especially in rural areas, bidis are more common. Bidis are more damaging to health than traditional cigarettes. They contain three to five times the amount of nicotine as traditional cigarettes, and also have more tar and carbon monoxide,” says Dr Ashwin Rajagopal, Consultant Surgical Oncologist, Manipal Hospitals.
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This doesn’t mean cigarettes are any less harmful. “They have the same highly damaging components including tar, carbon monoxide, oxidising chemicals and metals, all of which are extremely injurious to health,” explains Dr Ranjan Das, Department of Respiratory Medicine of Calcutta Medical Research Institute.
How Does Smoking Or Chewing Tobacco Affect Lung Health?
Dr Ranjan Das: “The short term affect which a smoker usually suffers from is acute bronchitis. In the long-term, they may experience more severe illnesses and diseases like chronic bronchitis, emphysema and chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases (COPD). Smokers are more susceptible to lung cancer too. In fact, it comes as no surprise that 90% of lung cancer patients are or used to be smokers. Even passive smoking causes smoke-related diseases among people who don’t smoke but live with a smoker.”
And, the effects go much farther than the lungs. “Smoking and chewing tobacco also increases your risk of heart attacks and cancers of the mouth, throat, and gastrointestinal and bladder cancers,” says Dr Ashwin Rajagopal.
It comes as no surprise that 90% of lung cancer patients are, or used to be smokers. Even passive smoking causes smoke-related diseases among people who don’t smoke but live with a smoker.“– Dr Ranjan Das, Department of Respiratory Medicine of Calcutta Medical Research Institute
What are Some Early Signs of Tobacco Abuse in the Body?
“Many years of smoking gives rise to increase in cough and sputum production. A person may also notice yellowing of teeth, gum diseases and poor dental health in general,” says Dr Shalini Joshi, Consultant, Internal Medicine, Fortis Hospitals.
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“Other signs include acidity symptoms like a burning sensation and bloating in the upper abdomen. Smokers also tend to have an increased risk of several types of infection, including tuberculosis, pneumococcal pneumonia, legionnaires disease, meningococcal disease, influenza, and the common cold.”
What are some Early Signs of Lung Cancer?
Dr Ashwin Rajagopal warns, “Unfortunately, early stage lung cancer has no symptoms. Any long-standing cough that hasn’t been responding to medications, repeated chest infections, persistent breathlessness or blood in sputum are a cause of concern. The individual needs to meet an oncologist immediately.”
Long-standing cough that hasn’t been responding to medications, repeated chest infections, persistent breathlessness or blood in sputum can be early signs of lung cancer.” – Dr Ashwin Rajagopal, Consultant Surgical Oncologist, Manipal Hospitals
A person shouldn’t ignore or brush off these seemingly regular instances. “It sometimes starts with what seems like an expected smoker’s cough. But, if you pay attention, there is a visible change in the nature of cough. If a patient is aware about it then they can come for early detection, which surely can save his/her life. At times, blood comes out with the cough. This is known as hemoptysis. It is the first serious and obvious sign,” says Dr Ranjan Das.
Unfortunately, lung cancer is detected late due to lack of awareness which needs to change so that more lives can be saved on time.
How does Smoking Or Chewing Tobacco Affect The Rest Of Your Body?
The effects go much farther than the lungs. “Smoking and chewing tobacco increases your risk of heart attacks and cancers of the mouth, throat, and gastrointestinal and bladder cancers,” says Dr Ashwin Rajagopal.
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It affects every organ and increases risk of many illnesses and diseases substantially. Dr Shalini Joshi points out, “Smoking is associated with cardiovascular fatalities including heart attacks (myocardial infarction), sudden cardiac death, and stroke. It is even linked with many types of cancers like head and neck, colorectal, lungs, liver and kidney, to name a few.”
Dr Deepak Verma, Consultant Internal Medicine, Columbia Asia Hospital sums it up: “Increased risk of various cancers, heart disease and respiratory conditions are all better known. But consuming tobacco in any form may also up the risk of high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, loss of vision. It may even result in orthopaedic issues such as osteoporosis and arthritis.”
How Can Someone Quit Smoking Or Chewing Tobacco?
“There’s no harm in seeking medical or professional help if you’re not being able to quit. Typically a comprehensive team of psychologist, dietician, physiotherapist along with a doctor who has experience in this field can help you finally stop chewing tobacco or quit smoking,” says Dr Shalini Joshi.
She adds, “The doctor might also prescribe nicotine replacement therapy in the form of chewing gums or patches, or more effective medication for quitting. Regular exercise, walking, and a well-balanced diet is essential in order to get good results.”
A comprehensive team of psychologist, dietician, physiotherapist along with a doctor who has experience in this field can help you finally stop chewing tobacco or quit smoking.”– Dr Shalini Joshi, Consultant, Internal Medicine, Fortis Hospitals
How Does Smoking or Chewing Tobacco Affect Women?
“In women, tobacco is associated with premature and/or low-weight babies. Smoking and other forms of nicotine intake has also been associated infertility, neurological disorders and insomnia” says Dr Deepak Verma.
Pregnant women who are exposed to second-hand smoke may give birth to children with reduced lung growth and function.” – Dr Deepak Verma, Consultant Internal Medicine, Columbia Asia Hospital
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What’s more, second hand smoke is very harmful for women too. “It has been seen that pregnant women who are exposed to second-hand smoking give birth to children with reduced lung growth and function. These children are at risk of the onset and aggravation of asthma, pneumonia and bronchitis, and are more prone to frequent lower respiratory infections,” says Dr Verma.
How Can One Deal With Withdrawal Symptoms Of Quitting Smoking or Quitting Chewing Tobacco?
Your motives must be clear. Quit smoking and stop chewing tobacco for the betterment of your own health and well being. Notice early signs like improved energy, better stamina, no morning cough, deeper breathing, etc, to stay motivated.
Dr Ashwin Rajagopal says, “People should remember that the craving will only last for 15-20 minutes. Distract yourself by chewing gum and keeping your mind engaged in work or an activity. The most successful method for quitting is counselling the individual with nicotine replacement therapy.”
Are E-Cigarettes Or Hookahs Safer Than Smoking Cigarettes & Chewing Tobacco?
“A big misconception, hookah and e-cigarettes do not have a better filters and are not less harmful than conventional smoking. While the water in the hookah filters harmful ingredients, it cannot filter harmful and addictive chemicals like nicotine,” says Dr Deepak Verma.
He adds, “E-cigarettes are in fashion and come in various attractive shapes and sizes. As a result, the consumption of e-cigarettes in young men and women, especially in urban areas, is on a rise. Also known as vaping, the aerosol that users breathe from the device and exhale can contain harmful substances, including nicotine. It sometimes has ultra-fine particles that can go deep into the lungs, volatile organic compounds and cancer-causing chemicals such as heavy metals (nickel, tin, lead).”
Nicotine is nicotine, no matter the deliver system. Whether you’re having it through a hookah, a conventional cigarette, through chewing tobacco, or vaping (e-cigarette), the long-term damaging effects outweigh the few seconds of pleasure one may experience while indulging in this activity.
How Harmful is Passive Smoking?
“Passive smoking is as bad as smoking directly,” says Dr Deepak Verma. He adds, “Only 30 minutes of exposure to second-hand smoke can affect how your blood vessels regulate blood flow and make them similar to that of a first-hand smoker. Long-term exposure to passive smoking may lead to the development of atherosclerosis (narrowing of the arteries).”