Cigarettes and health: Tips to quit

Exactly 1,200 young people wearing white T-shirts and blue jeans pour out of buses, stand in front of an imposing skyscraper, then collapse onto the pavement. This is the number of people who die every day from a smoking-related condition. This is the latest television ad for the Truth Anti-Smoking campaign, a series of short, sometimes controversial media spots aimed at teenagers and young adults.

Media-savvy preventative and educational campaigns such as Truth try to raise important questions about tobacco use, especially among college-aged smokers. Specifically, why is smoking so addictive, what is its appeal and how can people quit?

Cigarette smoke contains over 4,000 chemicals, 43 of which are known carcinogens, such as ammonia, acetone, tar, carbon monoxide and nicotine, according to the Web site www.Quit-Smoking-Stop.com. Nicotine directly causes the strong addiction many smokers experience. Studies show it can be as addictive as heroin or cocaine. Based on these facts, the World Health Organization and the U.S. Public Health Service recognize tobacco as a serious drug problem.

Although two or three relapses are common for smokers trying to quit, the surgeon general has issued several guidelines and suggestions to make quitting more effective. These include mentally preparing by setting a "quit day," disposing of ashtrays and cigarettes, finding support in family and friends, keeping busy with other activities when cravings hit and drinking extra water.

For those who wish to quit with the use of medication, five FDA approved medicines are available. Buproprion SR, the Nicotine Inhaler, and the Nicotine Nasal spray are all available by prescription. Nicotine gums and patches are sold over-the-counter.

There are also other important things to remember about quitting:

Relapses usually occur within the first three months.

Some weight gain is normal as taste buds experience more acute sensations.

Because cigarettes act as depressants, mood swings, anxiety and depression may initially result from quitting.

New advertising campaigns have begun to focus more on the short-term health effects of cigarette smoking, targeting smokers who have not yet considered quitting. Though some think that the harmful side effects of smoking do not surface until a smoker begins aging, smoking actually begins to affect a person's health with each cigarette.

The cilia (tiny hairs) in the nose and mouth become singed and cease to function properly, thus allowing particles and germs to enter the body. Additionally, the rate of lung growth and capacity is immediately reduced. Often smokers will experience the yellowing of teeth and fingernails, as well.

There is a laundry list of long term health effects of smoking, the most well-known being lung cancer, heart disease, emphysema and chronic bronchitis. In fact, the Truth campaign states that one person dies every ten seconds from a smoking-related disease.

Due to fervent media attention and increased national awareness, new regulations are taking effect throughout the country. Smoking inside restaurants and bars in New York City is now banned, and other cities across the United States are debating or implementing similar restrictions. The bans have also traveled from cities to campuses, including AU. Stores on campus no longer sell tobacco products and smoking is confined to certain areas. Like the people of New York, the AU community has expressed mixed reactions regarding the ban.

The Phillip Morris Company, the largest cigarette company in the country, sums up the paradox facing the government regulators today on its Web site (www.pmusa.com), saying, "It can be difficult to create a regulatory environment for a product that is dangerous, yet remains popular"

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