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What is tobacco?

Tobacco is the dried leaf of a plant that grows in many parts of the world. Tobacco contains many chemicals including a drug called nicotine, which is a mild stimulant and very addictive, tar and carbon monoxide (the same gas that car exhausts pump out). Tobacco is found in cigarettes and cigars.

Cigarettes may also be known as; fags, smokes, joints and roll-ups.

What are the immediate effects of smoking?

Nicotine is a powerful, fast acting drug, when smoke is inhaled, the nicotine effect hits the brain about 8 seconds later. Nicotine speeds up the heart rate and increases blood pressure. The carbon monoxide in tobacco smoke greatly affects the heart as it reduces the bloods ability to carry oxygen. Nicotine helps reduce stress, anxiety and boredom. However, this effect fades quickly, which encourages continual use. If you are a first time user it may make you feel sick.

If you smoke regularly it makes your breath smell (known as halitosis) and can turn your fingers and teeth yellowy-brown.

Did you know smoking could affect the way you look?

Most people know smoking seriously affects internal organs, particularly the heart and lungs, but did you know it also affects a person’s appearance by altering the skin, body weight and shape. Smoking can also have a noticeable ageing effect on the body. A smoker’s skin is estimated to wrinkle up to 20 years earlier than that of a non-smoker.

The skin is affected by tobacco in two ways, firstly tobacco released into the environment has a drying effect on the skin’s surface. Secondly, because smoking restricts blood vessels, it reduces the amount of blood flowing to the skin, so depriving your skin of oxygen and essential nutrients.

Body weight and shape can be greatly affected by smoking tobacco. Smokers in general tend to be thinner than non-smokers and this is believed to be because nicotine acts as an appetite suppressant and increases the metabolic rate.

What are the long-term effects of smoking tobacco?

Tobacco and smoking cause long-term damage to your health and can kill. Smoking causes chest problems, cancer, infertility and heart disease. Smoking may also lead to an earlier menopause.

Lung cancer is the cancer most associated with smoking. Lung cancer kills more people than any other type of cancer and at least 80% of these deaths are caused by smoking. However, there are other types of cancer, which can be caused by smoking, these include: cancer of the mouth, lip and throat, cervical cancer, anal cancer, pancreatic cancer, bladder cancerand leukaemia.

Tobacco contributes to at least 2000 limb amputations each year. Smoking will also raise your blood cholesterol levels and blood pressure and these 2 factors are the main 2 reasons why people get coronary heart disease. Smoking accounts for 30,000 heart disease deaths in the U.K. every year.

Every puff of a cigarette irritates the lining in your mouth. This can lead to sores, ulcers and can damage your gums, causing you to loose your teeth.

On average smokers have far more complications during pregnancy such as premature birth or even a still-birth. Women who smoke during pregnancy are also at risk of giving birth to a lighter baby (an average 8ozs/200 grams lighter than babies born to non-smokers) and a low birth weight is associated with higher risks of death and disease in infancy and early childhood. There is also an increased risk of cot death in babies whose mother has smoked during pregnancy. Smoking in men has also been associated with low sperm counts and impotence.

Smoking is expensive, 10 cigarettes a day will cost approximately £800 upwards each year.

What about passive smoking?

Breathing in other peoples smoke, known as passive smoking can cause breathing difficulties, asthma and cancer. More than 17,000 children under the age of 5 are admitted to hospital every year because of the effects of passive smoking. Children are more susceptible to the effects of passive smoking and children who live in a household where both parents smoke, are receiving a nicotine equivalent of smoking 80 cigarettes a day.

Are there any laws on the sale of tobacco?

It is illegal for a shop-keeper to sell tobacco to anyone under the age of 16 in the U.K., although the use of tobacco products by children under the age of 16 is not illegal.

What about giving up?

If you want to give up you should prepare yourself mentally, firstly set a date and know what you will gain from giving up. Secondly analyse what triggers you to smoke, is it boredom, alcohol or parties? Giving up can leave you with a sense of emptiness for at least a month so try and think of something to overcome this, it could be a new hobby.

Get professional help from your doctor, pharmacist or phone the quit line on 0800 00 22 00.

Make a list of reasons why you want to stop and then use these reasons to help you when things are tough. Most people will use a nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) when trying to give up, ensure you choose the right method for you. The NRT patches are the best option for you if you are the kind of smoker who needs a cigarette within 30 minutes of waking. The patch delivers nicotine into the system steadily to reduce withdrawal effects. If you are more of a social smoker or smoke when stressed then gum or lozenges may suit you better and can help break down the association between smoking and certain emotions.

Most people, especially women also worry that when they give up they will put on weight, the good news is that exercise even a regular 20 minute walk will boost your metabolism far better than nicotine. Try drinking water or chewing gum to keep your mouth busy in place of a cigarette.

If you are going to give up you have to do it completely, if you cut down you are more likely to smoke each cigarette you do have more intensively and end up doing yourself more harm.

If you feel under pressure or upset in the first few weeks of giving up, fight off the temptation to smoke, don’t let it be an excuse for beginning to smoke again. It may help if you create a treat for yourself, how much do you spend on cigarettes? On average most people spend approximately £800 a year, so every week put the money you would have spent on cigarettes away and use it to treat yourself to new clothes or a holiday.

After giving up smoking your health will improve rapidly as your body begins to repair itself. You will have more energy, breathing will be easier and food will begin to taste better. More importantly your heart, lungs andbladder will begin to heal. You are classed as a non-smoker when you have been a year without a cigarette.

Facts on tobacco and smoking

  • Tobacco is the only legally available consumer product, which kills people when it is used entirely as intended.
  • Every day in Britain 450 children will start to smoke.
  • Tobacco smoke contains about 4000 chemicals.
  • The tobacco industry spends around £100 million a year on promoting its products in the U.K.
  • 1 out of 2 regular smokers will die prematurely because of their habit.
  • In the U.K. smoking causes 120,000 deaths every year, that is 330 deaths a day, six times more deaths than all other road accidents, murders, manslaughter, poisoning, suicide, overdose and H.I.V.infection put together.

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