An Open Letter to Non-Smoking Family and Friends

Why is smoking bad for me? — British Lung Foundation

An Open Letter to Non-Smoking Family and Friends

Tobacco smoke contains over 5,000 chemicals including nicotine. Nicotine is highly addictive. Smokers smoke for the nicotine but are harmed by the tar and other chemicals.

Many of them can cause cancer. Others are poisonous, such as hydrogen cyanide, carbon monoxide and ammonia. When you smoke, these chemicals can damage your lungs but also pass into your blood and spread through your body. Smoking can affect every part of the body — from your skin to your brain.

Outside the lungs smoking causes heart attacks, strokes and cancer. On average, smokers live 10 years less than non-smokers. Smoking tobacco is the biggest avoidable cause of death.

  • Cigarette brands marketed as low tar, light or menthol are not safer than other cigarettes. Smokers get similar amounts of tar and other chemicals.
  • Roll-ups are just as dangerous as manufactured cigarettes and can be more dangerous without filters.
  • Smoking cigars or pipes is also bad for your health.
  • Shisha smoking, also called hookah or waterpipe, also contains tobacco. The smoke goes through water, but contains the same dangerous chemicals and is just as harmful as normal cigarette smoke.

Smokeless or chewed tobacco

Smokeless or chewed tobacco is used by south Asian communities. These tobacco products are known by their south Asian names, such as betel quid, paan or gutkha, and are just as addictive.

They can also be harmful, and are associated with mouth cancer, cardiovascular disease and problems in pregnancy.

As well as tobacco, they can also include other unhealthy ingredients such as betel nuts or areca nuts, which are known to cause cancer in their own right. 

Examples of these products are:

  • tobacco with or with or without flavourings, such as mishri India powdered tobacco and qimam, also known as kimam
  • tobacco with slaked lime or lime paste  and areca nut, such as  paan, gutkha, zarda, mawa, manipuri and betel quid with tobacco
  • tobacco with other ingredients added,  such as kahini, gul, and naswar, also called niswar or nass

Inhaling any smoke is harmful

This especially includes smoking other substances such as cannabis. Cannabis smoking is associated with developing emphysema. You can become addicted to cannabis, and just tobacco, cannabis smoke contains cancer-causing chemicals. If you mix cannabis with tobacco and smoke it, you’re at risk of becoming addicted to nicotine too.

Why is it so hard to stop smoking?

Most smokers want to stop because they know about the risks to their health. But many keep smoking because they’re addicted to nicotine, often from a young age.

As well as marketing targeted at young people, the tobacco industry has designed and modified cigarettes to make them addictive. The nicotine in tobacco gets rapidly into your brain and creates a need to continue to smoke.

The falling level of nicotine in your brain creates the urge to smoke. Controlling these urges is the key to being able to kick the habit.

Smoking is often part of your daily routine and habit. Your local stop smoking clinic can support you to manage this side of smoking as well as tackling physical cravings.

Are e-cigarettes bad for me?

The consensus is that using an e-cigarette or vaping is far less risky than smoking. It’s a less harmful way to receive nicotine and the vapour contains few of the harmful chemicals found in cigarette smoke. If they are present, they are at much lower levels. There is now also good evidence that e-cigarettes can help smokers quit.

Why should I stop smoking?

You’ll live longer, feel better and have more money to spend on things and activities you doing, holidays. You’ll also protect people around you who used to breathe in your smoke.

  • If you already have a lung condition, stopping smoking is the best step you can take for your health and quality of life. It will help you cope with your symptoms and stop your condition getting worse. For example, smokers are 5 times more ly to catch flu.
  • It’s never too late to stop, no matter how long you have smoked for. Your lungs will work better, even if you stop when you’re over 60. If you stop smoking when you’re 30, you’re ly to live 10 years longer.
  • Your friends and family will be healthier too. People who breathe in second-hand smoke are at risk of the same diseases as smokers. Second-hand smoke is particularly dangerous to babies and children as their lungs are still developing and are much more vulnerable to breathing in toxic materials.
  • Stopping is a key way to protect your children’s health in the long term. Children are much more ly to take up smoking if their parents smoke.

I managed to stop smoking 10 years ago and have a new lease of life. I now enjoy swimming and cycling. I wouldn’t have been able to push myself as hard if I were still smoking — and coughing.Michael

If you smoke 20 cigarettes a day, quitting could save you more than £275 every month — that's over £3,000 a year!

Next: How can I quit smoking? >

Download our stop smoking information (230KB, PDF)


Smoking Cessation

An Open Letter to Non-Smoking Family and Friends

Smoking increases your risk of heart disease, lung disease, and cancer. Smoking damages blood vessels making it more ly for the arteries to become obstructed. Smoking makes your blood thicker and as a result makes you more ly to form clots in your arteries.

Smoking makes you more ly to have a heart attack, stroke, and heart failure. Smoking damages the lungs causing significant diseases emphysema and chronic obstructive lung disease. Smoking causes a variety of cancers. Smoking is the single most important preventable cause of death in the United States.

Once you have heart disease, vascular disease, lung disease, or cancer it is imperative that you find a way to quit smoking. If you have had a heart attack and continue to smoke, you are up to 5 times more ly to die than if you had quit smoking.

If you have a balloon angioplasty or bypass surgery and continue to smoke, you are more ly to continue to have chest pain, more ly to need another surgery, and more ly to die, than if you had quit smoking. Once you have lung disease, you are at much great risk of infection, lung failure, and death if you continue to smoke.

Smoking makes it harder for you to recover from major surgery or get over infections. You should absolutely, positively never smoke another cigarette again.

What can I do to prepare to quit smoking?

Resolve to quit smoking Decide positively that you want to quit. Committing yourself right now puts you on a path to success. Make a list of all the reasons why you want to stop. Carry these reasons with you and review them several times a day. Determine what made you smoke.

Being more aware of your triggers and cues to smoking will assist you in making other choices during your cessation attempts. Tell your family and friends that you are quitting and enlist their support. Identify your rewards for quitting smoking. Begin thinking of what your life will be as a nonsmoker.

Think about how much healthier your heart and lungs will be and how much better you will feel in the long run. Throw away all of your tobacco, lighter, ashtrays, and other smoking-related products as soon as you get home. Clean your clothes, car, drapes, and furniture to rid them of the smell of smoke.

Stay away from other tobacco users and other tempting situations(i.e. alcohol). Do something special that you’ve been putting off. It will helpyou associate positive feelings with quitting.

How can I prepare to avoid urges to smoke?

Spend more time with friends who do not smoke. Find activities that make smoking difficult (e.g. gardening, exercising, washing the car). Keep oral substitutes handy.

Try carrots, sunflower seeds, sugarless gum, straws, toothpicks, or apples. Change your daily routine to break your old habits. Distract yourself from thoughts of smoking by talking to someone, reading, or doing a task.

Use relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, yoga, or exercising.

How can I have the greatest chance of success?

Enrolling in a multi-component program offers you the best chance of quitting. Success rates are highest when smoking interventions are combined.

Interventions include the following: • Physician advice • Self-help materials • Behavioral counseling • Self management techniques • Support groups • Nicotine replacement therapy • Zyban (medicine that reduces urge to smoke) • Follow-up AM I A CANDIDATE FOR NICOTINE REPLACEMENT AND/OR ZYBAN? Research supports that almost everyone can benefit from using nicotine replacement. Ask your doctor or nurse whether this is right for you. Your health care provider can help you choose the most appropriate form of nicotine replacement. Zyban (buproprian) decreases the urge to smoke and can help you quit smoking. It can be used alone or in combination with nicotine replacement. Ask your doctor whether you are a candidate for Zyban. There are potential risks with this medication, including seizure. You should never take an extra dose of Zyban and should not use it in combination with Wellbutrin. UCLA Form #10034 Rev (08/11) Page 3 of 4 Nicotine replacement and/or Zyban are often started prior to, or at the time of hospital discharge to help you not go back to smoking. Ask your doctor or nurse.

What should I do if I relapse and begin smoking again?

Stop smoking immediately. Get rid of all tobacco products. Don’t be too hard on yourself. Get yourself back on track as soon as possible. Realize that most people try several times before they successfully quit. Identify your triggers that led you to smoking again and learn from your past mistakes. Set a new quit date and begin again.

Where can I get additional help?

  • UCLA Smoking Cessation Treatment
  • American Lung Association 7-8 sessions. Cost: $ 75- $150. Call 1-800-LUNG-USA (800-586-4872) or LA number (213) 884-5864.
  • American Cancer Society Provides a variety of quit-smoking programs within your local zip code area. Call (800) ACS-2345 (800-227-2345). LA Regional Chapter, (213) 386-6102.
  • Nicotine Anonymous Ongoing support groups. No fees (free). Call (800) 642-0666.
  • California Smokers Helpline Assist in making individualized stop-smoking plan for people with different ages and languages. Provides information on a variety of smoking cessation programs in CA.Open 24 hrs. Call 1-800-NO-BUTTS (800-662-8887).
  • Smoke Enders Home study package: 7 weeks audio tape work book course with counseling. Cost: $125. Call (800) 828-4357.

Disclaimer: The above list, “Where can I get additional help?” is provided as a source of information to our patients. The listed organizations, with the exception of UCLA Freedom From Smoking and UCLA Psychology Clinic, are not sponsored by, affiliated with, or under the control of The Regents of the University of California.

UCLA Health, UCLA hospitals and the University assumes no responsibility for the quality or availability of any listed program or service. We are providing this information to you only as a convenience, and inclusion of any organization on this list does not indicate expressly or implied any endorsement by The Regents of the University of California.

Hospitals and health-science campuses of UCLA are now smoke-free environments. To learn more, visit UCLA Smoke Free Resource Center website.


How Can I Quit Smoking?

An Open Letter to Non-Smoking Family and Friends

First, congratulate yourself. Just reading this article is a big step toward becoming tobacco-free.

Many people don't quit smoking because they think it's too hard, and it's true that for most people quitting isn't easy. After all, the nicotine in cigarettes is a powerfully addictive drug. But with the right approach, you can overcome the cravings.

Smokers often start smoking because friends or family do. But they keep smoking because they get addicted to nicotine, one of the chemicals in cigarettes and smokeless tobacco.

Nicotine is both a stimulant and a depressant. That means it increases the heart rate at first and makes people feel more alert. Then it causes depression and fatigue. The depression and fatigue — and the drug withdrawal from nicotine — make people crave another cigarette to perk up again. Some experts think the nicotine in tobacco is as addictive as cocaine or heroin.

But don't be discouraged; millions of people have permanently quit smoking. These tips can help you quit, too:

Put it in writing. People who want to make a change often are more successful when they put their goal in writing. Write down all the reasons why you want to quit smoking, the money you'll save or the stamina you'll gain for playing sports. Keep that list where you can see it. Add new reasons as you think of them.

Get support. People are more ly to succeed at quitting when friends and family help. If you don't want to tell your family that you smoke, ask friends to help you quit.

Consider confiding in a counselor or other adult you trust.

If it's hard to find people who support you ( if your friends smoke and aren't interested in quitting), join an online or in-person support group.

Strategies That Work

Set a quit date. Pick a day that you'll stop smoking. Put it on your calendar and tell friends and family (if they know) that you'll quit on that day. Think of the day as a dividing line between the smoking you and the new, improved nonsmoker you'll become.

Throw away your cigarettesallof your cigarettes. People can't stop smoking with cigarettes around to tempt them. So get rid of everything, including ashtrays, lighters, and, yes, even that pack you stashed away for emergencies.

Wash all your clothes. Get rid of the smell of cigarettes as much as you can by washing all your clothes and having your coats or sweaters dry-cleaned. If you smoked in your car, clean that out, too.

Think about your triggers. You're probably aware of the times when you tend to smoke, such as after meals, when you're at your best friend's house, while drinking coffee, or as you're driving. Any situation where it feels automatic to have a cigarette is a trigger. Once you've figured out your triggers, try these tips:

  • Break the link. If you smoke when you drive, get a ride to school, walk, or take the bus for a few weeks so you can break the connection. If you normally smoke after meals, do something else after you eat, go for a walk or talk to a friend.
  • Change the place. If you and your friends usually eat takeout in the car so you can smoke, sit in the restaurant instead.
  • Substitute something else for cigarettes. It can be hard to get used to not holding something or not having a cigarette in your mouth. If you have this problem, stock up on carrot sticks, sugar-free gum, mints, toothpicks, or lollipops.

Handling Withdrawal

Expect some physical symptoms. If your body is addicted to nicotine, you may go through withdrawal when you quit. Physical feelings of withdrawal can include:

  • headaches or stomachaches
  • crabbiness, jumpiness, or depression
  • lack of energy
  • dry mouth or sore throat
  • a desire to eat

The symptoms of nicotine withdrawal will pass — so be patient. Try not to give in and sneak a smoke because you'll just have to deal with the withdrawal longer.

Keep yourself busy. Many people find it's best to quit on a Monday, when they have school or work to keep them busy. The more distracted you are, the less ly you'll be to crave cigarettes. Staying active is also a good distraction, plus it helps you keep your weight down and your energy up.

Quit gradually. Some people find that gradually decreasing the number of cigarettes they smoke each day is an effective way to quit. But this strategy doesn't work for everyone. You may find it's better for you to go «cold turkey» and stop smoking all at once.

Look into using a nicotine replacement if you need to. If you find that none of these strategies is working, talk to your doctor about treatments nicotine replacement gums, patches, inhalers, or nasal sprays.

Sprays and inhalers are available by prescription only, and it's important to see your doctor before buying the patch and gum over the counter. Different treatments work differently (for example, the patch is easy to use, but other treatments offer a faster kick of nicotine).

Your doctor can help you find the solution that will work best for you.

Slip-Ups Happen

If you slip up, don't give up! Major changes sometimes have false starts. If you're many people, you may quit successfully for weeks or even months and then suddenly have a craving that's so strong you feel you have to give in. Or maybe you accidentally find yourself in one of your trigger situations and give in to temptation.

If you slip up, it doesn't mean you've failed. It just means you're human. Here are three ways to get back on track:

  1. Think about your slip as one mistake. Take notice of when and why it happened and move on.
  2. Did you become a heavy smoker after one cigarette? Probably not. It happened more gradually, over time. Keep in mind that one cigarette didn't make you a smoker to start with, so smoking one cigarette (or even two or three) after you quit doesn't make you a smoker again.
  3. Remind yourself why you quit and how well you've done — or have someone in your support group, family, or friends do this for you.

Reward yourself. Quitting smoking isn't easy. Give yourself a well-deserved reward! Set aside the money you usually spend on cigarettes. When you've stayed tobacco-free for a week, 2 weeks, or a month, give yourself a treat a gift card, movie, or some clothes. Celebrate again every smoke-free year. You earned it.


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