If you smoke, giving up is likely to be the greatest single step you can take to improve your health and wellbeing.
Breaking the smoking habit
Smokers are at greater risk from illness and early death than non-smokers. There are many serious and often fatal diseases caused by smoking. The most common of these are:
- Lung cancer - the younger you start and the more you smoke, the greater the risk
- Lung diseases, such as chronic bronchitis and emphysema
- Coronary heart disease - if you smoke, the risk of dying from coronary heart disease begins early in life. Smokers aged 40 are seven times more likely to die from a heart attack than non-smokers of the same age
What makes cigarettes harmful?
Cigarette smoke contains more than 4,000 chemicals, many of them poisonous. Nicotine, carbon monoxide and tar are three components of smoke that affect the human body and cause disease.
- Carbon monoxide - a poisonous gas also found in car exhaust fumes. It reduces the amount of oxygen transported in the blood by up to 15 per cent. Carbon monoxide is linked with heart disease and circulation problems
- Tar - contains cancer-causing substances. About 70 per cent of the tar in cigarette smoke is deposited in the lungs where it can cause severe damage. Smokers of low-tar or mild cigarettes take in as much tar, nicotine, carbon monoxide and other poisonous substances as smokers of regular cigarettes
Smoking during pregnancy
We know that it can be difficult to quit smoking but we also know that you want to give your baby the best possible start in life.
Quitting smoking is the most important thing you can do to improve your baby's health, growth and development. There are more than 4,000 chemicals in a cigarette and when you smoke, these poisons pass through you and into your baby. Not only is this distressing for your baby but the exposure to these poisons can last up to 15 minutes at a time and can cause immediate and long-term damage. This happens every time you smoke so quitting is the best option rather than cutting down.
Smoking while you are pregnant increases the risk of your baby being born weaker and smaller and early (premature) and needing specialist intensive care after birth and increases the risk of sudden infant death by 25%.
Partners can also help by quitting as secondhand smoke also increases the risk of miscarriage, birth defects and low birth weight.
It is never too late to try to quit and the good news is that if you can quit early in the first three months of pregnancy then your risk of have a low birth weight baby and premature baby reduces to the same as a non-smoker.
Only 15 per cent of a cigarette's smoke is inhaled by the smoker, the rest goes into the surrounding air and other people can breathe it in. Breathing the smoke from somebody else's cigarette is called secondhand smoke or passive smoking.
Recent research results point to evidence of a new phenomenon called third hand smoke whereby the toxins and poisonous chemicals contained in cigarette smoke linger on surfaces and in dust long after the smoke has gone. Such surfaces include carpets, toys, and sofas to name a few. Toxins from cigarette smoke can harm the health of families and in particular children with their developing immune system. They are more prone to chest, ear, nose and throat infections and to more serious conditions such as bronchitis and pneumonia.