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Call it Quits

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Cigarettes remind me of my dad. His brand of choice was Players Light, in turquoise and white cartons or tin.

Cigarettes remind me of my dad. His brand of choice was Players Light, in turquoise and white cartons or tins. I remember the smoky smell of his hands and clothes, and I used to watch him make his own, to save money, with a little cigarette machine.

My dad spent hours, most nights, making enough cigarettes for the next day. Sadly, his smoking contributed to his early death of a heart attack 10 years ago. Even a warning heart attack and triple-bypass surgery didn't stop him from smoking the addictive pull, both physical and psychological, was far too strong.

Every day in Canada 123 people, on average, die from tobacco use. Awareness of the dangers of smoking is higher than ever, yet more and more people are lighting up, especially youth and women. Eighty-five percent of smokers start smoking before their sixteenth birthday.

Why the attraction? Smoking equals cool. Despite a marked reduction in tobacco advertising over the years, and increased even graphic warnings on tobacco products, the lure of the smoke persists. Once addicted, breaking free can seem daunting.

The Nature of Addiction

Nicotine is a highly addictive substance. Addiction means tolerance (you need more and more to feel the same effect), and withdrawal symptoms if you try to quit. In fact, avoiding the pain of withdrawal is the main reason many people don't try to quit at all.

But addiction isn't strictly physical. It also involves psychological dependency. Smoking a cigarette goes hand-in-hand with daily tasks: waking up, drinking coffee, waiting for a bus, or socializing with friends. Performing these tasks without a cigarette can seem unnatural and uncomfortable. Combined with the physical withdrawal symptoms of anxiety and nicotine craving, trying to quit can be difficult to face. Learning more about the harmful effects of smoking can help.

What You Don't Know Can Hurt You

Tobacco companies have been putting additives into cigarettes for years, to increase appeal and sales. While many of these ingredients are approved as food additives, they haven't been tested when burned, and many burned additives are toxic and/or cancer-causing, such as carbon monoxide, hydrogen cyanide, and benzene.

Smoking increases your risk of stroke up to six times, and if you're using birth control pills, you're 10 to 20 times more likely to suffer a stroke or develop heart disease than non-smokers. Smokers develop cataracts, psoriasis, stomach ulcers, and wrinkles more often than non-smokers. If you smoke, you're 20 times more likely to die from lung cancer, and more likely to develop other cancers, including mouth, throat, breast, and brain cancer.

Tips to Quit

Health Canada suggests four steps to help you quit:

  1. Get psyched. Motivate yourself by figuring out what you value. Believing that quitting will help you achieve your goals motivates you to try to quit.
  2. Get smart. Keep track of your smoking habits. You'll probably find you smoke more than you think, often when you don't really want to. Social triggers are powerful temptations to light up.
  3. Get support. Develop a network of friends and professionals who will cheer you on and provide resources. It may mean finding a quitting buddy to go through the process with you.
  4. Get on with it! Know what to expect when you quit and go ahead with your plan of action. Taking control means living a better life.

Although I've had my share of cigarettes, and despite the nostalgic charm they hold for me, luckily I've never become addicted. Knowing the severe harm they did to my father motivates me to remember him in other ways. If you do smoke and want to quit, educate yourself. Kick the habit for yourself, your friends, and your family. Remember that tobacco contributes to the death of tens of thousands of Canadians each year. How sexy is that?

Why a Non-Smoking Week?

The goals of national non-smoking week are to:

  • educate Canadians about smoking dangers
  • prevent non-smokers from starting and becoming addicted
  • help smokers quit
  • promote the right of non-smokers to breath clean air
  • target the tobacco industry and its marketing practices.

Tips to Help You Quit

  • Drink water to flush out nicotine and other toxins.
  • Deep breathe to improve your lung capacity.
  • Delay lighting up to take control.
  • Do something different: leave the situation that makes you want to smoke.

Source: Canadian Lung Association, lung.ca/smoking

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