The World Health Organisation estimates there to be 1.1 billion smokers on planet earth, 80% of whom live in low and middle income countries. Up to 50% of those exposed to tobacco smoke die as a result of the habit and the harm is all the more vivid when one considers that deaths are at a rate of 8 million people annually.

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This is equivalent to wiping out the sum of the populations of Nairobi, Kampala and Mombasa annually. More than an eighth of these deaths are amongst people who choose not to smoke but inhale second-hand smoke from people smoking around them. The list of health conditions associated with the habit is long and includes 14 different cancers, long term and irreversible lung conditions, cardiovascular illnesses, impotence and infertility, and diseases affecting bone health. Not to mention smoking increases the risk of contracting COVID-19.

But what exactly causes such an intense addiction to smoking? The mechanisms behind addiction are complex and involve both the physiology of the central nervous system, and psychology. Most career smokers will attest to multiple failed attempts to quit through their lifetimes.

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Just know that it is never too late to stop smoking and the earlier you quit the better. In fact the benefits of quitting kick in within twenty minutes of putting out a cigarette. They range from immediate important physiological benefits to reversal of heart attack and stroke risks to normal levels within five to fifteen years of quitting.  Studies have shown that people diagnosed with lung cancer have better outcomes when going into cancer therapy if they quit, and have a higher success rate at sustaining cessation.

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How about you seek professional help such as a support program to help quit? It may be easier than going it alone. Whichever route a person decides to take, the biggest player in the process is the quitter. The will to quit is a key and necessary ingredient. For the smokers who are not ready to quit, the first step is always to understand the health and economic harm caused by the habit, on both oneself and one’s family, and the benefits of quitting.

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Do not let previous failed attempts of quitting get you down; however numerous and spectacular. Each failed attempt is filled with lessons on what to do differently. Incremental targets are useful. This means quitting for a day, then trying for two days, then three and so forth to the point where there is too much to lose by smoking that one cigarette. Seeking inspiration from successful quitters is a useful tactic, and there are always important lessons on what works, and what does not. It is not uncommon that stress, anxiety and fear burden a quitter, especially when ponders the onerous task ahead.

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Yoga and meditation, adopting alternative relaxation techniques and surrounding oneself with friends who cherish and support the quit process will aid you immensely. Adopting a healthy lifestyle with exercise and healthy diet usually helps condition the mind overall positivity.

Set a quit date weeks ahead and inform those around you of the date and ask for their support and understanding. This includes family, colleagues and friends. Of course remove any tobacco products from your surroundings.

The first few days and weeks are the hardest as it always is when breaking any habit. You will experience withdrawal symptoms in the form of coughs, headaches, cravings and weight gain from an increased appetite. Some people experience a volatile mood, difficulty concentrating, poor sleep and even symptoms that mimic the ‘flu. Note that these symptoms rarely last longer than a month.

Good luck.


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