Smokers’ Health

Lifestyle image - adults

Smoking cessation

The tobacco epidemic is one of the biggest public health threats the world has ever faced, every year killing more than 8 million people worldwide. More than 7 million of those deaths are the result of direct tobacco use while around 1.2 million are the result of non-smokers being exposed to second-hand smoke.1.

According to the Statistics Sweden (SCB), 1 out of 10 women and men aged 16 and older smoke every day2.

The scale of the human and economic impact that tobacco imposes is preventable - in 2003, WHO Member States unanimously adopted the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC). “WHO report on the global tobacco epidemic 2019: Offer help to quit tobacco use” is the seventh in a series of WHO reports that tracks the status of the tobacco epidemic and interventions to combat it.3

Nicotine addiction

Smoking cessation is difficult: Patients are fighting both physical and psychological addiction

Nicotine addiction is a biochemical process which results in an increase in nicotine receptors4. Quitting has both physical and psychological components5. Physical withdrawal symptoms are the result of the body reacting to the absence of nicotine; psychological issues are the result of giving up the habit5.

  • Physical addiction6

    • Nicotine activates receptors in the brain that cause the release of chemicals which cause the smoker to perceive pleasure and/or less anxiety and tension
    • The brain gets used to these chemicals and wants the release to occur throughout the day to reproduce these positive sensations all the time

    Physical nicotine withdrawal symptoms

    Withdrawal symptoms can start within a few hours of quitting, peak at about 2 to 3 days after quitting and may last up to several weeks5. Symptoms include7:

    • Anxiety
    • Hunger
    • Irritability
    • Depressed mood
    • Restlessness
    • Insomnia
    • Difficulty concentrating
  • Psychological addiction8

    • Smokers learn to associate smoking with certain behaviours involving people, places, activities and moods
    • These situational triggers can derail a quit attempt if quitters are not prepared

    Understanding psychological withdrawal

    Psychological withdrawal symptoms may be more difficult to overcome than physical symptoms. Triggers such as stress, being around other smokers or alcohol may result in intense cravings. As triggers may be unavoidable it is important to help quitters to understand how to handle them using distraction techniques such as changing drinks or chewing sugar free gum or avoiding places associated with triggers.

  • Benefits of quitting

    Lifestyle image – male + female

    There are many health benefits to be gained from smoking cessation

    Physical health benefits9

    • In 9 months, lung capacity increases by up to 10%
    • In 2-12 weeks, blood circulation improves
    • Immune system improves
    • Improved fertility
    • Oral health benefits including reduced risk of developing gum disease
    • Reduced risk of heart disease, lung cancer and chronic bronchitis
    • Living for longer

    Mental health benefits10

    • Lower stress levels
    • Reduced anxiety
    • Reduced feelings of depression
    • Increased quality of life
    • Improvement in feelings of positivity
    • Benefits akin to taking antidepressants for mental health sufferers

Willpower alone is considered to be the least effective method of smoking cessation11

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