Don't let modern myths put you off giving up smoking

13 February 2020

People can always give a reason why they shouldn’t stop smoking – but in most cases their excuses don’t actually match with medical facts. And in all cases stopping smoking is a positive step to a healthier lifestyle says Consultant Cardiologist Dr Paul Brooksby.

Here Dr Brooksby looks at some of the most-used excuses and debunks the myths with some sound medical advice.

The myth: Stopping smoking makes you put on weight.

The truth: Eating too much and not getting enough exercise makes you put on weight! I accept that some people do put on weight after stopping smoking but that is because they are using food as a substitute for cigarettes – when they feel they need a cigarette they are eating a biscuit or a chocolate bar instead. There will be cravings as you stop smoking but eating a piece of fruit or even drinking a glass of water can help take your mind off these cravings without adding to your calorie count.

The myth: If you have been smoking for more than five years the damage is already done.

The truth: The sooner you stop the better but no matter how long you have smoked stopping will give your heart and lungs a chance to recover. If you have been smoking for around five years, stopping will half your risk of heart attack. After 15 years the risk of heart attack is almost the same as someone who has never smoked at all.

The myth:  I’ll switch to ‘lights’ and stop later.

The truth: The chances are that you won’t! Whatever the manufacturers try to tell you  a light cigarette contains about the same of tar as a regular cigarette  -  in fact ‘light’ actually refers to the ‘taste and flavour’ of the tobacco and not its tar content. An American survey showed that while smokers of low-tar brands were more likely to attempt to quit, they were less likely to actually stop for good.

The myth: It helps me manage my stress levels.

The truth: As mixed-up as it might sound much of the apparent ‘calming’ effect provided by a cigarette is because you are relieving the tensions caused by low nicotine levels in your blood. Much of the irritability, anxiety and restlessness is because you are looking forward to your next ‘hit’!

It is also the case that some of the relaxation you get from smoking is from taking a break and a few deep breaths, not the cigarette itself. In fact smoking increases stress by causing frequent withdrawal periods between cigarettes.

The myth: Nicotine replacement products are as addictive as smoking

The truth: Most people using nicotine products do not become dependent on them. In fact, the NHS says that biggest problem with nicotine replacement products is that people don't use enough of it for long enough!

The nicotine from patches, gum and so on is released into your system much more slowly and in a different way than nicotine from a cigarette. Your body absorbs it more slowly and less reaches your brain, making it easier to stop using it at the end of your course.

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