No doubt, you’ve heard at some point in your life that smoking isn’t good for you. If you are a smoker, you’ve probably been told many times to quit. Chances are that if someone close to you smokes, you’ve been the one telling them to quit.
Despite the health risks linked to smoking, the overall smoking rate for B.C. is 11%. Smoking rates in northern B.C. are much higher, however, at 23.1%.
Have you ever wondered why?
In looking back on my 7 years of working in tobacco reduction, I am amazed at how many people underestimated how addictive nicotine is and how unaware smokers were regarding the harmful effects of smoking. Many people think that smoking is just a habit or a lifestyle choice. Some think that only more willpower is needed to quit smoking. However, the reality is that nicotine is a drug and smoking is a powerful addiction that makes it difficult to quit!
Nicotine follows the same reward pathways in the brain as heroin & cocaine. After the cigarette smoke is inhaled, the nicotine gets absorbed in the lungs within 7 seconds – yes, that quickly! Then it stimulates neuroreceptors and releases a chemical called dopamine. Dopamine is the chemical in the brain that makes you feel relaxed, helps with concentration and gives you a bit of a boost. Keep repeating this process, and nicotine addiction is born.
The cigarette is a highly sophisticated product and is engineered to be a very effective nicotine delivery system. However, nicotine addiction is only one of the risks that come with smoking. In the white cloud of cigarette smoke, over 7,000 chemicals are released when the tobacco is burned. These include tar, nail polish remover, candle wax, battery acid, and formaldehyde – to name just a few! These chemicals are toxic and poison your internal organs, especially your heart and lungs. Over 70 of these chemicals are linked to various cancers.
The reality is that nicotine does not cause cancer or heart disease or stroke or COPD. However, it is the nicotine addiction that keeps smokers craving and inhaling the tobacco smoke and all those chemicals. Nicotine is extremely potent and addictive and contributes to tobacco dependency. Just because the intake of nicotine is legal does not make it OK. Nicotine is impacting the health of Canadians by the thousands each year.
The statistics are staggering:
- Tobacco use is the #1 cause of preventable death & illness in Canada.
- Tobacco users have a 50% higher risk of heart attack.
- The risk of suffering a stroke is 8 times greater for smokers.
- Smoking is the #1 cause of lung cancer.
- Approximately 37,000 people in Canada die each year from a smoking-related illness.
Quitting smoking is the best thing you can do for your health and it’s important to remember the process rarely happens in one step.
The good news is that there is help to quit if you are a tobacco user or would like to help a tobacco user quit.
Now that you know a bit more about how addictive nicotine truly is, what can you do to stop the addiction either for yourself or to support somebody with their smoke-free journey?
About Doreen Bond
A true Northerner, Doreen was born and raised in Prince Rupert and has lived in the north her whole life. She works in at the Public Health Unit in Prince Rupert as a Regional Tobacco Reduction Coordinator with Northern Health’s Population Health team. Doreen is passionate about tobacco reduction and has a strong interest in community development. Once contemplating a move to Vancouver Island, she chose to stay in Prince Rupert to raise her sons with everything the north has to offer. In her spare time, she loves sport fishing on the ocean, beachcombing on the white sandy beaches and hiking outdoors on the pristine mountain trails. When not at work, Doreen can be found at home, spending quality time with her family and friends and taking the odd bellydancing class.