Since smoking is a chemical dependency, one must understand that it is extremely difficult to quit. It takes a lot of motivation and willpower.
World Asthma Day, celebrated on the second Tuesday of May every year, is a campaign which has been created with the objective of making people more aware about the health condition, the dangers it poses and how in the current health climate, with the COVID-19 pandemic, people with asthma need to be more vigilant, maintain social distancing and ensure that they have access to their medication.
Dr Mrinal Sircar, Director and HOD of Pulmonology at the Fortis Hospital in Noida, expressing his views on the issue, said, “I am not sure if people will be smoking more than usual or not. Usually, in times of stress, people tend to smoke more. This is because smoking relieves the pressure and allows them to feel better. So how this works is that when someone smokes excessively over a long period of time, they become dependent on it. They smoke, the receptors in their brains get activated and a feeling of pleasure floods the body.”
He further added, “On one hand, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused people to smoke a lot more. They are at home with nothing to do, the fear of the pandemic is spreading on a large scale, people are terrified of job loss and the impact on their livelihood and have, therefore, turned to smoking for comfort. On the other hand, the pandemic has also caused people to quit smoking cold turkey since in a lot of places, the supply has been cut off. Staying at home has also caused people to smoke less as they are indoors and around their children, parents and spouses. People tend to not smoke excessively around their family due to the dangers of secondhand smoke”.
“Tobacco smoke weakens the lung function and is a common trigger for asthma attacks as well as other lung diseases. Secondhand smoke exposure can also cause severe and frequent asthma attacks, especially in children. If you smoke, make a plan to quit immediately to improve your health and protect the health of others. The government’s quit line number (1800-11-2356) or the mCessation program website (www [dot] nhp [dot] gov [dot] in [slash] quit-tobacco] are terrific resources for those who need support,” said Vaishakhi Mallik, Associate Director for South Asia, Policy, Advocacy and Communication at Vital Strategies.
When you talk about asthma and smoking, you need to consider how long a person has been smoking for, how many cigarettes do they smoke in a day and if they already have a pre-existing asthmatic condition. Those who do have a pre-existing asthmatic condition and smoke excessively and have done so for a long time tend to have only 30% of lung function as compared to those who don’t have a pre-existing condition. In short, what needs to be understood is that asthma is simply aggravated by smoking because lung function deteriorates. The chemicals in the smoke cause immense irritation to the lungs.
There are two ways to quit smoking, one is to quit cold turkey and the other is to go as per targets.
Since smoking is a chemical dependency, one must understand that it is extremely difficult to quit. It takes a lot of motivation and willpower. People close to smoking addicts need to understand that their brains have been rewired, which is why the struggle to quit is so immense. In setting a target, you grade your success. For example, on the first day you smoke 20 cigarettes. The next day you smoke 15. Then 10. Then 5. Then 2. Then bring it down to one. That is how you can quit over a period. However, in cold turkey, you completely stop smoking. This will result in withdrawal and cause sweating, heart palpitations, and irritation among other symptoms. However, after 21 days, these withdrawal symtoms will subside, and you will begin to feel better.
You’ll need to keep yourself very distracted to quit smoking. To do that, Dr Mrinal has some suggestions:
- Play with your kids and engage with your spouse – especially now that you are in lockdown
- Take up a new hobby
- Handle the cravings by running or engaging in physical exercise
- In extreme situations, use medication after consultating with a doctor
In short, don’t take up this habit if you can help it. It is dangerous for you and those around you. It is not also not easy to get rid of this nasty habit. It is expensive and it can result in several mutations in our genes, which can cause cancer.