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Archive for February 25th, 2010

Unlit filtered cigarettes
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By Sue Shekut, Owner, Working Well Massage, Licensed Massage Therapist, Certified Wellness Coach, ACSM Personal Trainer

Coping with stress can be tough. Some people turn to cigarettes as a way to cope with stress. In the long run, smoking doesn’t help your body ward off stress…it creates new health and social problems that lead to more stress. Quitting smoking is also tough but the rewards are numerous.  I was once a heavy smoker myself and quitting was one of the toughest things I’ve ever done. Quitting smoking also freed me from a crippling dependence not only on nicotine but on the habit of ingesting smoke with the result of having my clothes and hair smell like smoke and having yellow fingers and skin that was aging more rapidly than normal.

The American Cancer Society has great information on smoking cessation. In the next few posts we will share some tips o quitting smoking with you.

Why is it so hard to quit smoking?

Mark Twain said, “Quitting smoking is easy. I’ve done it a thousand times.” Maybe you’ve tried to quit, too. Why is quitting and staying quit hard for so many people? The answer is nicotine.

Nicotine

Nicotine is a drug found naturally in tobacco. It is as addictive as heroin or cocaine. Over time, a person becomes physically and emotionally addicted to (dependent on) nicotine. Studies have shown that smokers must deal with both the physical and psychological (mental) dependence to quit and stay quit.

How nicotine gets in, where it goes, and how long it stays

When you inhale smoke, nicotine is carried deep into your lungs. There it is quickly absorbed into the bloodstream and carried throughout your body. Nicotine affects many parts of the body, including your heart and blood vessels, your hormones, the way your body uses food (your metabolism), and your brain. Nicotine can be found in breast milk and even in mucus from the cervix of a female smoker. During pregnancy, nicotine freely crosses the placenta and has been found in amniotic fluid and the umbilical cord blood of newborn infants.

Different factors affect how long it takes the body to remove nicotine and its by-products. In most cases, regular smokers will still have nicotine or its by-products, such as cotinine, in their bodies for about 3 to 4 days after stopping.

How nicotine hooks smokers

Nicotine causes pleasant feelings that make the smoker want to smoke more. It also acts as a kind of depressant by interfering with the flow of information between nerve cells. Smokers tend to increase the number of cigarettes they smoke as the nervous system adapts to nicotine. This, in turn, increases the amount of nicotine in the smoker’s blood. In fact, nicotine inhaled in cigarette smoke reaches the brain faster than drugs that enter the body through a vein (intravenously or IV).

After a while, the smoker develops a tolerance to the drug. Tolerance means that it takes more nicotine to get the same effect that the smoker used to get from smaller amounts. This leads to an increase in smoking over time. The smoker reaches a certain nicotine level and then keeps smoking to maintain this level of nicotine.

Read more at the American Cancer Society website here.

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