Laser Treatment to Quit Smoking

Using laser treatment to quit smoking is based on the practice behind acupuncture. Using laser treatment to quit smoking consists of using lasers to stimulate the acupuncture or acupressure points. This is done in the same way as where acupuncture needles would be used, inserted into specific regions of the body, but low power lasers are used instead.

According to the Cochrane Library, using acupuncture and related therapies such as laser treatment to quit smoking do not appear to help smokers who are trying to quit.

Acupuncture is a traditional Chinese therapy, generally using needles to stimulate particular points in the body. Acupuncture is used with the aim of reducing the withdrawal symptoms people experience when they try to quit smoking. Related therapies include acupressure, laser therapy and electrical stimulation.

To reach the conclusion that laser therapy to quit smoking was ineffective, 24 case studies where reviewed. Active acupuncture or related therapies was compared with sham acupuncture or their related therapy (using needles or lasers at other places in the body not thought to be useful) or other control conditions.

The review did not find consistent evidence that active acupuncture or related techniques such as laser therapy to quit smoking increased the number of people who could successfully quit smoking.

However, acupuncture may be better than doing nothing, at least in the short term; and there is not enough evidence to dismiss the possibility that acupuncture might have an effect greater than placebo.

It is tantalising to think that the accepted placebo effect could be enhanced when using acupuncture or laser therapy to quit smoking. However, the same enhanced placebo effect may be found with many other interventions to help quit smoking.

It is fair to say that adequate numbers of scientific studies into the effectiveness of laser therapy to quit smoking have not taken place to make a definitive decision one way or another. However, there are many other interventions, including Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), which have been proven to significantly enhance a smoker’s chance of success.

10 Free Quit Smoking Aids

We are of course all aware of the well known (and often expensive) quit smoking solutions such as nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) or zyban or chantix/champix. However, no two smokers are alike and what works for some may not work for others. I have been researching again and found some pretty outlandish solutions. Here are a few examples of some of the free methods you can use to help you quit smoking.

Free Quit Smoking Aids #1: Visualisation
This sounds simplistic, I know, but write out what the last year of your life would be like if you kept smoking. Go into gruesome detail about oxygen tanks, voice boxes, what would happen to family and finally see yourself in the hospice. If you know someone who has, put yourself in the situation of someone you know who died of lung cancer, and just change ‘him or her’ to ‘me.

Free Quit Smoking Aids #2: Water
This is one of the simplest, if somewhat more tedious methods there is. Put quit simply, drink as much water as you can at every craving. Keep it up for about three weeks and see how you get on.

Free Quit Smoking Aids #3: Cleaning
If your are tired of smoking, why not clean the whole habit out of your life in one fell swoop! Start by clearing all your cigarette paraphernalia out of the house, then do a top to bottom spring clean. Make sure you clean the walls too because they will be covered in tar and nicotine residue. Move onto your clothes – wash all of them in as short a time as you can. Consider doing your curtains too because they will hold the smell of tobacco too.

Free Quit Smoking Aids #4: Chewing Gum
Every time you want a cigarette, chew gum like crazy. Make sure you use a sugar free gum or you’ll be rotting your teeth to bits. It helps keep your teeth clean and breath nice and fresh too (for a change)!

Free Quit Smoking Aids #5: Breathing
Rather than going for a smoke, take a drinking straw and just go through the motions. Suck, inhale, breath out and concentrate on the action, rather than the cigarette.

Free Quit Smoking Aids #6: Money Jar
Whatever method you choose to help you quit smoking, keep your motivation by putting the equivalent amount you would spend into a money jar. It will buy you a really nice holiday in 6 months or a really, really nice holiday in 12 months.

Free Quit Smoking Aid #7: Get Sick
Get sick! Of course, this sounds ridiculous. What I mean is, wait until you get that first winter cold. Most smokers don’t feel much like smoking when they have a bad cold, the flu, or are laid up in bed. You also don’t think about it or feel the urge very much because you aren’t doing the things that you associate with smoking. So, the next time you get a cold, don’t smoke and see if you can keep it up once you feel better!
Free Quit Smoking Aid #8: Have a kiss instead
Every time you want to have a cigarette, have a kiss instead. You either have to have willing partner or you could use it to (a) meet a new partner or (b) get locked up if you go about it the wrong way.

Free Quit Smoking Aid #9: Gross yourself out
Go on the internet and find out all the evil things cigarettes do to you. See if you can find videos and/or get pictures of non-smokers v. smoker’s lungs. Study them and get yourself properly grossed out. Make them into a little wallet pack and every time you get an urge to smoke, have a look and see if it works.

Free Quit Smoking Aid #10: The best for last!

Your weren’t born a smoker so just don’t start – priceless!

Nicotine Replacement Therapy: Can it help you quit smoking?

Over the last year, I have read more than my fill of theories on smoking cessation. I have seen some amazing claims made by people about Nicotine Replacement Therapies (NRTs) or selling herbal and other remedies.

The simple fact of the matter is that smoking is the response to an addiction to nicotine. People smoke because they have a physical need for nicotine and the place to get it quickly is through a cigarette or other tobacco product.

The pharmaceutical industry claims that nicotine replacement is an effective way of quitting smoking. They are missing the point in order to make a profit.

It is far more likely that people who quit smoking will stay quit if they are no longer in the throes of nicotine addiction. To this end, nicotine replacement therapies have very low long term (26 and 52 week) success rates because they maintain nicotine addiction.

NRT patients are frequently still addicted to nicotine many months after quitting smoking – if they are successful in quitting smoking at all – and it is not uncommon to find former smokers still chewing nicotine replacement gum or lozenges even years after stopping smoking.

The pharmaceutical companies do not mind this situation though as they have effectively stolen a customer from the tobacco industry and turned them into a long-term customer of the pharmaceutical industry.

The rouse doesn’t end there either. Tobacco is heavily taxed whereas nicotine replacement therapies are not. The tobacco companies make very healthy profits from selling tobacco products despite up to 80% of the price being taxes and duties.

The manufacturing costs of nicotine replacement therapies are only marginally higher than those of cigarettes and the like. The selling price of nicotine replacement therapies is only marginally lower than tobacco products, despite the bulk of cigarette costs being taxes and duties. To this end the pharmaceutical companies are making huge profits on nicotine replacement therapy products by taking the ‘tax chunk’ as profit.

Nicotine replacement therapies do not work effectively in the long run and that has been shown on many occasions and in many studies. These therapies are used as a means of profiting from nicotine addiction with little interest in the welfare of the smoker themselves.

The only genuine method of overcoming smoking is through change of attitude and it is proven that the most effective methods for quitting smoking do not rely on any form of substitution, whether nicotine or some other herbal remedy. Long-term smoking cessation is only readily achieved when smokers can understand and master their addiction and understand how to control it. Knowing how to change ones attitude to cigarettes is the key to success.

How can I stop smoking?

Smokers are all aware of the damage they are doing to themselves by smoking. Every day they are bombarded with more information about how much damage they are doing to their health. But this is just a depressing message that achieves nothing for the smoker.

The health warnings only serve to provide smokers with the motive to stop smoking. It does not provide the means nor the opportunity to stop smoking. To put it another way, if you are hungry and I tell you that eating some food will stop you being hungry, that information does not sate your appetite! It is exactly the same for smokers – telling them they’re harming themselves does not tell them how to quit.

Smoking tobacco is merely a method for delivering nicotine to the body where it can act on the central nervous system. The smoker craves the reaction they have to having nicotine in their bloodstream, acting on their nervous system.

Nicotine, in the doses that smokers take, is a relatively harmless substance. The real problem with smoking is the other junk in the tobacco smoke that is inhaled by the smoker. There is tar, arsenic, carbon monoxide, benzene, various hydrocarbons, polonium, cadmium, ammonia and a whole host, amounting to over 4,000 other chemicals potentially in cigarette smoke. This is the real problem of nicotine addiction – the delivery system.

As a response to the ill effects brought about by the cigarette smoke, pharmaceutical companies and doctors have conspired to provide nicotine via other delivery systems such as patches, inhalers, sprays and gums. This is commonly known as Nicotine Replacement Therapy or NRT.

This begs the question, why don’t doctors treat heroin or cocaine addicts with pure forms of their respective addictive drugs? Well, in the case of heroine, methadone ‘draw-down’ is the accepted therapy – weaning the addict off their drug. In the case of cocaine, it is just cold turkey! Both methods have poor success rates in reality.

But this also begs the question about nicotine addiction – why is it acceptable or even necessary to maintain ones addiction as part of the therapy?

The truth of the matter is that nicotine replacement therapy or NRT does not work very effectively. In the short term it is an effective means of getting smokers to stop smoking whilst their motives are high, but in the long run, it is ineffective and studies have shown this to be the case with most NRT subject resorting to cigarettes after the 4-week follow up.

Combination therapies have been found to be more successful than single therapy approaches and there is much anecdotal evidence that acupuncture and hypnotherapy are effective. However, around 90% of people who have permanently quit smoking have done so using the simplest method – cold turkey. But how is this?

In truth, there are two kinds of cold ‘turkeyer’. There are cold turkeyers who want to quit smoking and there are cold turkeyers who are going to quit smoking. Note the difference between ‘want’ and ‘going to’. The truth is, it is all in the decision making process.

Too many smokers enter into a quit campaign hoping they will be successful in quitting smoking. They fail simply because they enter into the attempt expecting a strong likelihood of failure. And why shouldn’t they – from childhood and all through their lives they’ve been told what a near impossible task quitting smoking is!

However, if the smoker makes the right decisions, understands them and can open their eyes to the truth about smoking and their smoking behaviour, it is possible for them to quit. Knowledge is power and understanding what smoking is really about and how it works on you is the key to quitting for good.

Sure there are smokers who have quit for years without any help, but they virtually all still crave for a cigarette from time to time. It is their will-power that prevents them from smoking a year since their last cigarette. It is their pride. Could you imagine going a whole year without a cigarette and then on a whim, lighting one up!

A positive mental attitude to quitting smoking, coupled with a good understanding of why you really smoke will help any smoker quit the habit. All smokers have the motivation to quit; they just need to know what to do to make it happen aside from just not smoking cigarettes!

Death by Cigarettes

It has long been known that smoking and lung cancer are causally linked. After having discovered this association though, much has been made of the heightened incidence of other forms of cancer caused by of smoking. I am going to highlight the data that reiterates the claims and suggest that the evidence is not so strong for other forms of cancer being causally linked with smoking. The evidence is analysed from the mortality statistics for the UK in 2002.

I will work through the statistics because 26% of the population are smokers and so one might reasonably assume that any incidence of cancer where less than 26% of sufferers are smokers may have other more prevalent caused.

Firstly, we will deal with the cancer deaths so lets get underway with the 33,600 deaths from lung cancer. 84% of these deaths were in smokers. This means that the average 26% of the smoking population yielded more than three times the proportion of deaths – a clear link.

Oesophageal cancer deaths numbered just under 5,000 and the deceased were found to be 66% smokers, 71% and 65% men to women respectively; again another clear link that smoking and oesophageal cancer are linked.

Next, bladder cancer takes over 1,800 lives per year of which 37% are found to be smokers. However, only 19% of female cases were smokers compared with 47% of male cases. It is fair to assume that there are other factors more prevalent in female bladder cancer other than smoking but the link is clear in men.

Stomach cancer took 1,650 lives in 2002 but is found in 35% of men compared with only 11% of female smokers. It is reasonable therefore to draw the same conclusion about the causes as for bladder cancer between men and women.

Pancreatic cancer is another cancer that is less prevalent in smokers than the general population. Indeed 20% of men and 26% of women dying from the disease in 2002 were smokers, suggesting parity with women and a disparity with men. It may be reasonable therefore to assume that there are other contributory factors in male pancreatic cancers.

Death from cancer of the upper respiratory tract was found at a rate of 66% in smokers, nearly three times the percentage of smokers. Note though that women sufferers represented half of their cohort compared with three quarters of men, suggesting upper respiratory cancer is more likely in men than in women smokers.

Kidney cancer is another cancer where smokers are seen less frequently than non-smokers in the statistics.

The next disease we shall look at is the non-cancerous, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or COPD. The disease manifests itself mainly in two forms, being emphysema and chronic bronchitis.

Emphysema is the destruction of the lung leading to loss of surface area, alveoli (air sacks in the lungs) and the loss of elasticity. Chronic bronchitis manifests itself through swollen bronchi and over production of mucus within the lung. It is characterised by daily coughing bringing up sputum. Both emphysema and bronchitis lead to slow, debilitating and frustrating deaths for their victims.

Deaths from COPD in 2002 in the UK numbered 28,500 of which 84% were smokers demonstrating a clear link between the inhalation of tobacco smoke and the disease.

Some sources suggest that pneumonia is more likely to kill in smokers but only 17% of the 36,000 fatal pneumonia cases were found in smokers suggesting this is not the case.

Finally, heart disease is the biggest single killer in the UK with over a quarter of a million deaths a year as a result of its various forms.

Of all the major forms of heart disease, ischaemic heart disease, cerebrovascular disease, aortic aneurysm, myocardial degeneration and atherosclerosis, the percentage of smokers suffering from aortic aneuryism was just under 60%. All other forms of heart disease showed near 26% or below. This suggests that smoking may not be the main contributory factor but it almost certainly will have had an impact.

All in all, there were 114,500 premature deaths from cigarette smoking, mostly from cancer, but also from heart disease and pulmonary (lung) disease. The best way to improve ones chances of not suffering from a shortened life and succumbing to one of the diseases mentioned in this article is by quitting smoking once and for all. Benefits have been clearly documented and the sooner smokers quit, the bigger the benefits of quitting become on their life expectancy. Indeed, smokers who quit before they reach thirty, statistically negate virtually all the ill health effect of smoking and can generally expect to live as long as a non-smoking contemporary.

Passive Smoking

Passive smoking is the involuntary inhalation of cigarette smoke of other people’s cigarettes. Passive smoking, secondary smoke, second hand smoke or environmental tobacco smoke all relate to the same thing – that being the involuntary inhalation of tobacco smoke. Cigarette smoke is generally defined as either the exhaled smoke from a smoker or the ‘sidestream’ smoke from the cigarette tip. It is made up of over 4,000 chemicals of which, 40 or so are known to cause cancer, including numerous hydrocarbons, arsenic and polonium.

Smokers choose to inhale this noxious combination of chemicals and carcinogens but non-smokers do not. In the case of children or babies, there is normally no choice whatsoever and it is estimated that some 700 million children around the world are exposed to secondary smoke from the 1.2 billion smokers in the global population.

It is well documented now that secondary smoke or passive smoking has some adverse affects on the passive smoker and most significantly when they are children. Indeed, in an extract from the 1997 Declaration of the Environment Leaders of the Eight (G8) on Children’s Environmental Health, they stated;

“We affirm that environmental tobacco smoke is a significant public health risk to young children and that parents need to know about the risks of smoking in the home around their young children. We agree to co-operate on education and public awareness efforts aimed at reducing children’s exposure to environmental tobacco smoke.”

So, what evidence is the G8 working from and why should we care? Well, a review by the World Health Organization in 1998 concluded that passive smoking is a cause of bronchitis, pneumonia, coughing and wheezing, asthma attacks, middle ear infection, cot death, and possibly cardiovascular and neurobiological impairment in children. Furthermore, a report in 1992 by the Royal College of Physicians in London estimates that 17,000 under 5s are admitted to hospitals in the UK every year as a direct result of passive smoking.

A report from Hong Kong in 2001 concluded that children living in homes where there are two or more smokers are 30% more likely to be admitted to hospital for treatment than those living in a smoke-free house.

UK reports from 2000 and 2001 have found that environmental tobacco smoke has a detrimental effect on children of any age and also that asthma is more prevalent in smoking households. It is thought that between 1,000 and 5,400 new cases of asthma are solely attributable to passive smoking every year in the UK.

A further report from Britain in 2006 linked smoking with a three-fold increase in the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), commonly called cot death. Many other studies have found environmental tobacco smoke exposure to directly correlate with increased incidences of ear infections, meningitis, mental impairment, autism, subdued vitamin C levels and poorer sense of smell and taste. On top of these malaises, there have also been found, links between childhood exposure to tobacco smoke and the risk of cancer in later life and with general malaise. A Norwegian study found that adults who had been exposed to smoke during their childhood had poorer attendance levels in their adult life at work.

Studies in Britain have found that there is widespread acknowledgement that passive smoking is not only bad for children but also for adults. However, the specific risks that increase because of passive smoking are not well known. The majority of people cited chest infections and increased risk of asthma as the most common outcomes of passive smoking. Two more common outcomes of environmental tobacco smoke in infants are cot death and glue ear (ear infection), but this was not recognised by most respondents in the survey. Despite this, two thirds of smokers say that they do not smoke in the same room as children and a quarter state that they would smoke less in the company of a child because of their knowledge of the dangers of secondary smoke.

In order to protect children, there are a number of things that parent should do to try and minimise their child’s exposure to tobacco smoke:

Smokers should try to smoke only outside. If you must smoke inside limit smoking to a room where you can open windows to allow adequate ventilation. Smokers should never smoke in a child’s bedroom and must not allow anyone else to smoke there. Smokers should not smoke while washing, dressing or playing with children. Finally, smokers should never smoke in the car with the windows closed or open.

Some children rights campaigners suggest that exposing children to cigarette smoke is a form of child abuse and should be punished accordingly. I am inclined to agree with them.

Young People and Smoking

There is known evidence that smoking when young, whether directly or passively, has a much more significant impact on future health than starting when a young adult. However, there is a major health risk associated with smoking irrespective of when smokers’ start and half of all smokers will die prematurely due to smoking.

In the UK, about 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys at the age of 15 smoke. The higher proportion of girls smoking is thought to be due to the (false) assumption the smoking acts as an appetite suppressant and aids dieting. The current likelihood of boys and girls smoking has reversed from the statistics in the 1970s and 1980s when more secondary school boys smoked.

Whilst the likelihood of smoking in girls is biased as a result of their misconceptions of appetite suppression, boys or girls are three times more likely to smoke if their parents smoke. It is accepted that parental approval or disapproval does have an impact on the likelihood of children to take up smoking. However, it is the child’s peer group and elder siblings that are the most influential on their take up of the habit.

Tobacco advertising, whilst not widely regarded as encouraging smoking within the tobacco industry itself has a significant impact on children smokers. Children are more likely to select a brand that is heavily advertised than one which is not. According to Charlton, White and Kelly in their paper “Boys’ smoking and cigarette-brand sponsored motor racing”, an interest in motor racing doubled the chance of the children fans becoming smokers! This strongly suggests that advertising will in fact influence whether or not children start smoking.

Smoking has definite detrimental health effects on children and known smokers have double to six fold increased likelihood of respiratory illnesses including coughs, phlegm, wheeziness and shortness of breathe. This results in significantly poorer attendance records for these children at school. It is also known that in non-smoking children exposed to secondary smoke i.e. passive smokers, there is an increased risk of bronchitis, pneumonia, asthma and other chronic respiratory illnesses.

Infants also suffer considerably from secondary smoke. This is compounded by the size of the children being smaller, the concentration of the toxins and carcinogens in cigarette smoke are extenuated. Babies, infants and children all have significantly increased likelihood of contracting cancer dependent upon the amount of time they have been exposed to secondary smoke. There is a directly proportional correlation between exposure and risk and as such babies risks are greatest, followed by infants then children.

The socio-economic background of children is a major determinant factor in whether or not children smoke themselves or are exposed to secondary smoke. Children from poorer backgrounds are not only more likely to have smoking parents and hence become more likely to smoke themselves. They also suffer more from secondary smoke as a result of their parents increased likelihood of smoking. It is in effect, a vicious circle.

Children are just as likely to become addicted to nicotine as adults – the speed of nicotine addiction is just as prevalent, just as quickly in children as it is in adults. The one saving grace for children is that due to the high taxation placed on tobacco products in general, their limited disposable income restricts their ability to finance smoking. The proportion of children and young adults that never really start but actually quit smoking as a result of the financial burden is greater than that in older age groups where financial concerns are outweighed by health issues as the main motivation.

In a recent MORI poll, one third of children that smoke were found to have their first cigarette of the day within 30 minutes of getting up in the morning. 12% were found to smoke their first cigarette within 5 minutes rising! Of those asked, two thirds said that they would find it difficult to go a week without a cigarette and nearly 80% said they did not believe they would be able to stop smoking altogether. This last point emphasises the deep-seated assumption that it is hard to stop smoking which is repeated throughout all age groups.

Luckily, secondary smoke exposure in children is decreasing and has approximately halved since the 1980s. Despite this, one third of smokers continue to find it acceptable to smoke in front of children. According to a study in 1992 by the Royal College of Physicians in London, the resulting illnesses lead to an estimated 17,000 child admissions to hospital every year as a result of smoking related illness in th UK.

Smoking in front of children, particularly infants and babies is considered by some to be a form of child abuse. Infants and babies cannot escape from the secondary smoke and in the case of babies; they cannot even ask to get away from cigarette smoke! Children have the right to be protected from passive smoking and as such, parents must recognise that passive smoking causes ill-health in children and that they have a responsibility not to inflict harm on their children. The simplest way forward is to simply never smoke around children

Pete Howells owns the website and has devised a simple system that will help any smoker quit by giving them the instructions they need to follow to achieve their ambition to quit. Please visit to find out more about his incredible process for quitting smoking.

Respiratory Disease Risks in Smokers

It is well documented that smoking causes cancer and more specifically lung cancer. Indeed, smoking is responsible for lung cancer in 80% of female cases and 90% in male cases in western society. Alarmingly, 25% of all smokers who die prematurely from their smoking induced illness will die from lung cancer. However, an oft-overlooked aspect of smoking is the ‘nearly as common’ incidence of chronic obstructive pulmonary (lung) disease. (Just to highlight a common misconception, chronic means ‘over a long period of time’ and not acute, which is short-lived. People often confuse the two.)

The definition of COPD, as recognised by both the American Thoracic Society and the European Respiratory Society, is a disorder that is characterised by reduced maximal expiratory flow and slow forced emptying of the lungs; features that do not change markedly over several months. This limitation in airflow is only minimally reversible with bronchodilators. (Bronchodilators are drugs that ease the flow of air in the lung.) Or to put it in layman’s terms – your lungs don’t function properly any more and you cannot breath properly!

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease or COPD is responsible for the premature deaths of 21% of all smokers. Combined, Lung Cancer and COPD are responsible for 45% of smoking related deaths in the UK every year. To put that in real, horrific numbers, that is over 51,000 people, more than the population of Durham or the equivalent of 228 Boeing 757 aircraft crashes every year!

Whilst these figures are quite devastating, smokers often overlook COPD as a life threatening disease. However, it is reasonable to believe that if smokers became more aware of the suffering associated with COPD, it should give them ample motivation to quit smoking.

There are two main diseases associated with COPD and to a lesser extent asthma is also a factor. The main diseases are emphysema and chronic bronchitis. Most people diagnosed with COPD manifest symptoms of both diseases although the amount of each form of ailment can vary dramatically from patient to patient.

Emphysema is a hugely debilitating disease resulting in chronic shortage of breath. Sufferers are unable to exercise and in the most severe cases, they are unable to undertake any physical activity. It is characterised by the destruction of the alveoli of the lungs. These air sacks become damaged through cigarette smoke over a long period of time. This results in a reduction of lung surface area, which in turn means the sufferer cannot obtain adequate oxygen from breathing.

A second characterisation is the destruction of elasticity within the lung tissue itself. This is caused by the metabolic interference of chemicals in cigarette smoke with cells within the lung. The resulting interference means that smokers produce greater levels of the enzyme elastase within the lung that destroys the elastin proteins within lung tissues, thus reducing the elasticity of the tissues.

This reduction of elasticity means that sufferers of emphysema have to work harder to breath. In its milder forms, this can be witnessed in sufferers pursing their lips when breathing. Sufferers also tend to have larger chests as a result of the use of more muscles in breathing to overcome the lack of elasticity within their lung tissues. In the very worst cases, sufferers must keep an oxygen bottle with them at all times in order to live with any level of normality.

COPD sufferers also demonstrate chronic bronchitis. Chronic bronchitis is defined clinically by the presence of chronic bronchial secretions, enough to cause expectoration, occurring on most days for a minimum of three months of the year for two consecutive years. Basically, if the person coughs up phlegm on consecutive days over three months (usually during winter), they can be deemed to be suffering from chronic bronchitis.

Smokers often refer to their bronchitis as a ‘smokers cough’ without thinking the actual cause could be the primary stages of COPD.

Diagnosis of COPD is done through both physical examinations, imagery techniques such as X-ray and high definition CT scans and through lung function tests. Lung function tests measure flow rates, volume and residual volumes and are compared against known healthy averages to determine whether a subject can be diagnosed with the illness. Further to these methods, doctors can measure gas transfer efficiency in the lungs and monitor blood oxygen levels and compare the efficiency of the lung when using bronchodilators.

Treatments for COPD are purely based on managing the disease. There are no cures for COPD and death comes slowly through lack of breath. One of the main treatments to manage the disease is of course the cessation of smoking. In younger smokers damage done to the lung can be reversed naturally by the body, however, in middle age and older smokers, the damage is irreversible. Nevertheless, quitting smoking will stop the increased rate of damage being done and can only have a positive benefit to the smoker.

A useful exercise for current smokers to undertake to understand the suffering caused by emphysema is this; take a deep breath, then breath in some more air on top of what you have already – now start doing things using only what capacity is left in your lungs. Try going upstairs or walking to the shop and back with only this much lung capacity. It is easy to see what a debilitating disease emphysema is when you have tried this exercise.

It is a tedious and lengthy process to die by COPD but knowing this should encourage smokers to think very hard about their addiction to nicotine and their potential painful death as a result. Quitting smoking id the single biggest step a smoker can make to improving their health.

The Anatomy of Smoking in the UK

Tobacco was brought to Europe from the Americas at the end of the 15th century when it was thought to have medicinal qualities. Indeed, as late as the 1940s, tobacco companies used medical personnel such as doctors in advertisements to promote their particular brands of cigarettes.

It was not until the 1950s that the dangers of smoking were firmly established but tobacco companies are now known to have gone out of their way to hide these facts from the public. It is now known that tobacco consumption causes, upwards of 50 other diseases including, lung cancer, bladder, mouth, nasal, lip and throat cancers, stroke, heart disease including arteriosclerosis (fatty hardening of the hearts blood vessels) and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) including bronchitis and emphysema.

The active ingredient in cigarettes is nicotine which is a highly addictive alkaloid not dissimilar to caffeine. It is due to their addiction to nicotine that smokers continue to smoke despite commonly being aware of the main health risks. Despite knowing that the nicotine was addictive, tobacco companies denied the fact publicly up to the 1980s. Indeed, the Unites States Surgeon General’s Office did not accept that nicotine was an addictive agent until 1979 such was the lobbying power of the tobacco industry.

In the UK, about 12 million adults currently smoke, with more men (c.28%) than women (c.24%) smoking. Women smoke on average 13 cigarettes per day and men 15 which is thought to be as a result of differences in body size. The number of smokers has fallen dramatically as the public’s awareness of the harmful effects have become known. In the early 1970s, over 50% of men and 40% of women smoked compared to the lower and falling rates of today.

Smoking rates vary little across the UK, though it is accepted that the further north one travels, the more smokers you will encounter. Scotland has a smoking rate of 31% compared with 27% and 25% for Wales and England respectively. There is also a clear demarcation between socio-economic groups with lower class manual workers being more pre-disposed to smoking (over 30%) than professional or higher socio-economic classes (17-20%).

Smoking rates are higher amongst lower adult age groups with the 20 to 24 year age group having the highest incidence of smoking at around 36%. Only 15% of the over 60s smoke and only 8% of the over 65s which reflects the fact that many older smokers quit or die by the time they reach this age group! Research has shown that around a quarter of smokers will not reach retirement age as a result of terminal disease caused by smoking.

Smoking rates amongst teenagers differ considerably from young adults in that only around 16% of schoolboys and 26% of schoolgirls smoke. It is thought that the (incorrect) belief that smoking can aid slimming or reduce appetite promotes smoking amongst girls who are more conscious of their appearance. Some commentators argue that so called supermodels set a bad example, as they are predominantly seen to be smokers too.

Publicity surrounding the ill effects of smoking, coupled with both government sponsored and charity driven education and stop smoking campaigns have had an effect on smoking rates. Research has shown that over 20% of women and 30% of men are ex-smokers. This research has also shown that between 70% and 90% of current smokers would like to quit the habit primarily in response to the health effects.

Indeed, the motivation for quitting is strong with over 114,000 smokers dying every year as a result of smoking induced illnesses. Singularly, smoking is the biggest identifiable killer after heart disease in the western world. Five times more people die every year as a result of smoking than all of those from traffic accidents, poisoning and drug overdoses, alcohol related liver diseases, murder, manslaughter, suicide and HIV/AIDS.

It is widely accepted that half of all smokers will die prematurely as a result of smoking although many commentators argue that the other half that don’t die early lead considerably less healthy lives in their latter years.

Smoking is responsible for about 30% of all cancer deaths including about 85% of lung cancer deaths. The other 15% of lung cancer deaths can be encouraged through passive smoking although the asbestos and other industries have been found to be responsible for much. 50% of aortic anyeurism heart disease deaths and at least 80% of emphysema and bronchitis can be solely attributed to tobacco consumption.

Polls have shown that the vast majority of the population, smokers, ex-smokers and non-smokers alike all underestimate the dangers of both smoking and passive smoking. Quitting smoking remains the single biggest benefit a smoker can make to their potential future health and those of the people closest to them.

Smoking Risks in Women

Smoking kills 114,000 people per year in the UK and a growing proportion of these are women. The risks taken by women in smoking are many fold and are well documented. Of these 114,000 deaths, over 42,000 of them are women.

As a group, 23% of all adult women are considered to be regular smokers compared with 26% of adult men. However, at secondary school age, more girls smoke than boys, at a rate of 26% to 16% respectively. Arguably this is because of the false belief that smoking helps weight loss and or slimming. As teenage girls are more susceptible to the social pressure of looking slim, this may well be a promoting factor in the higher prevalence of female smokers.

Given this similar rate of regular smoking at adulthood, women tend to smoke 2 cigarettes per day less than men, on average smoking 13 cigarettes compared to men smoking 15. It is possible that this is as a result of the difference in body mass between men and women.

80% of female lung cancer victims are smokers compared with 90% of male lung cancer victims. This is thought to be as a result of some metabolic difference between men and women, but female smokers should not consider the lower percentage as a blessing. Overall, more than 90% of lung cancer patients, whether male or female, are dead within 5 years of diagnosis as a direct result of their smoking.

Social class plays a role in death rates as a result of lung cancer too. The lowest social classes of men are five times more likely to die from lung cancer than the highest. In women, the lowest social class is twice as likely to die from lung cancer as the highest social class. Obviously, there are significant differences in smoking habits between these social classes but also other mitigating factors such as diet and alcohol consumption may play a role too.

Women greatly increase the risk of cervical cancer along with all the other forms of cancer that are known to be more prevalent in smokers. These include cancers of the mouth, lip and throat, cancer of the pancreas, bladder cancer, cancer of the kidney, stomach cancer, liver cancer and leukaemia.

Women who smoke put their children at much higher risk than those who don’t although any child should be protected from exposure to cigarette smoke regardless. Smoking during pregnancy leads to an increased risk of miscarriage, bleeding during pregnancy, premature birth and hence low weight of babies at birth. Lower birth weight and premature birth greatly increase the risks of ill-health in the child and the failure of that child to thrive. Finally and probably most painfully to any parent, smoking greatly increases the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome also referred to as SIDS or cot death.

There is a prevalence in western society for women to use the contraceptive pill and links have been found between the pill and smokers with respect to a reduction in good health or a risk of negative side effects. Most notably, women on the pill increase their risk of heart attack ten-fold by smoking. There is also a higher incidence of stroke and cardiovascular disease in women taking the pill and smoking.

Smoking also increases the risk of problematic menstruation (but not Pre-Menstrual Tension or Pre-Menstrual Stress) and has been found to accelerate the onset of menopause. It has been found that women are likely to enter the menopause on average 2 years earlier than non-smoking women and are at increased risk of developing osteoporosis, a debilitating disease suffered by women which sees their bones decay and ‘shrink’ as they grow older.

Smoking also has an aging effect on smokers, most noticeably in the wrinkling of the skin. The toxins in cigarette smoke are known to harm the metabolism of the skin as well as promoting the drying of the skin itself. Coupled to this, smoking accelerates the narrowing of blood vessels providing blood to the skin that again reduces its vitality. It is also thought that some of the chemicals in cigarette smoke increase the production of specific enzymes that break down collagen, the underlying substance that gives skin a youthful appearance and feel. It is also thought that smoking and the incidence of psoriasis are linked.

Finally, excess weight in female smokers tends towards the upper torso and around the organs of the body, rather than around the legs and hips. Female smokers have a lower waist to hip ratio making them statistically less curvaceous or feminine looking. The weight gain (if any) after smoking cessation tends away from the upper torso and with time, body fat tends towards the hips, buttocks and legs, away from the organs and heart. This is though to greatly reduce the risk of heart disease in women who quit smoking.