Smoking and secondhand smoke are the main causes of death for some 8 million people each year globally.
The death threat is not a joke for some 16.6 million adults, or around 1 in every 5 Filipinos, who are tobacco users, during the first surge of the pandemic in May 2020, as reported by the Department of Health.
Dr. Joel Santiaguel, an Internal Medicine Specialist from the Phillippine College of Chest Physicians explained that in a single cigarette stick, there are more than 7,000 chemicals present that can put a smoker’s health at risk. Sidestream smoke, commonly known as secondhand smoke, is also as dangerous as the mainstream smoke being inhaled and exhaled by a person.
Majority have the will to quit smoking, as per the 2015 Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS), but only a very few have succeeded.
Thus, the urgent reminder of Johnson & Johnson (Philippines), Inc.’s Nicorette to “Commit to Quit” during the World No Tobacco Day celebrated on May 31. It also kicked-off June as National No Smoking Month.
Not all quitters are losers
The GATS showed that seven in 10 Filipino smokers want to quit but only 4 percent were able to successfully stop smoking.
It’s primarily because the nicotine found in tobacco is an addictive chemical that induces adrenaline rush and triggers the production of “happy hormones” such as dopamine.
This is one of the reasons why habitual smoking is addictive and quitting can be a challenge for many.
When a smoker decides to quit, withdrawal symptoms are usually experienced and these are not limited to the following:
- Craving to smoke
- Irritability, moodiness, anxiety, and sadness
- Increased appetite and/or weight gain
- Cold sweat
These symptoms are the usual factors that can break a smoker’s smoke-free streak but there are also success stories on the other hand.
Quit Ambassadors Troy Montero and IC Mendoza had their fair share of ups and downs in their quitting journey.
Troy Montero, 49, said that he started smoking because of curiosity and a little bit of peer pressure. Whenever he would think of quitting, there was always an excuse for him to postpone it, but he eventually noticed that smoking was aging him.
IC Mendoza, 33, had a different story as to why he started smoking. IC thought that it looked cool on television so he tried it. When he goes out to have drinks, cigarettes always come with it.
Troy and IC have had a common motivation to embark on the journey of quitting smoking—their family and peers.
The role of fatherhood nudged Troy when he was trying to quit. “I need to set a good example,” Troy said.
Meeanwhie, IC shared that he maximized social media to post his milestones and from there, he built a mini community championing people who don’t smoke.
“Quitting is a journey that is not meant to be done alone. I really found strength in the community,” IC said.
Nicotine Replacement Therapy
Dr. Santiaguel urged the people to “commit to quit, not to shift” (to vaping and any other ‘alternatives’ to smoking).
He emphasized that “where the smoke passes through, it’s where tumors can develop” and these tumors can eventually lead to the biggest problem which is cancer.
Dr. Santiaguel suggested Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT) to smokers who want to start their journey to quit.
“NRTs have been proven effective by several global studies for many years. How it works is that it replaces your supply of nicotine without making yourself vulnerable to the harmful chemicals found in a cigarette. Over time and regular use, it will ease you out of your nicotine dependence and eventually stop the craving for another stick,” Dr. Santiague shared.
Nicorette (Nicotine Polacrilex) is a medicated gum that serves as an NRT. Launched on World No Tobacco Day to motivate aspiring quitters that #QuittingIsNowPossible, Nicorette is an over-the-counter drug, which means it no longer needs a prescription and is available in leading drugstores and online.
NRTs are not limited to gums and patches. This is a multimodal treatment so it is also inclusive of psychosocial and psychological support.
Behavioral change is encouraged and the willingness of the smoker to quit is a must. To make this possible, the family and friends of the smoker should support the goal to stop smoking.
Starting the journey to quit smoking may seem impossible but doing it while there is the urge to quit can eventually lead a smoker to a better place, with better health.
Setting a target or goal can be of help. These three things are what every quitter would need:
- A strong why.
- A strong support system.
- A trusted and effective alternative.
About the Author
Tricia Allyson Salvador is a Communication student from the University of Santo Tomas and currently an intern of SubSelfie.com.