Many of us know that cigarette smoking can reduce a smoker’s life expectancy by 10 years if a person had been smoking for >20 years. However, smokers treat this well-established finding as a mere footnote, and they would come up with reasons to keep on smoking. I would not be surprised if I happen to get responses from smokers saying “everybody dies of something, and dying a couple of years younger at the elderly stage is not much of a loss.” This wrong notion on smoking has allowed smokers to rationalize their smoking habits even if they know that it is not good for their health.

Recently, an article by Dr. Arto Y. Stranberg of the University of Helsinski in Finland, provided a powerful breakthrough information to defy this belief. Stranberg and his colleagues conducted a 26-year prospective study which began in 1974. Back then, they gathered a population of healthy middle age individuals and assessed the effect of smoking status on their health-related quality of life 26 years later. A clear relationship was found between smoking and poor health-related quality of life. [1] Non-smokers have improved physical functioning compared with former and current smokers whose role have been limited due to degraded physical conditions. In other words, smoking does not only shorten life expectancy, but the quality of that shortened life is also downgraded.

In the US, cigarette smoking is the leading cause of death in both men and women alike. It is responsible for 87 % of  lung cancer deaths, and 82% of deaths due to emphysema or bronchitis, and 30% of all heart attacks and cardiovascular deaths. [2] These are the 3 major killing diseases that smoking can bring on earlier in life. Those that are not always fatal include peptic ulcers,  chronic leg pains, early menopause,  infertility, impotence, and wrinkling of the skin of the face. Smoking is also a risk factor for oral cancer, laryngeal cancer, esophageal cancer, renal cancer, pancreatic cancer, uterine cancer and urinary bladder cancer.

The damage that cigarette smoking can cause to the body is quite extensive compared to other known disease-causing substances. This is due to the mixture of chemicals contained in cigarettes and the manner it is taken into the body. A lighted cigarette is like a miniature chemical factory that burns out tobacco and additives (e.g. sweeteners, flavorings, and humectants) to form smoke. The smoke itself contains more than 4000 noxious chemicals of which 43 are known carcinogens including nitrosamines, quinoline, benzpyrene, cadmium, ammonia, nitrogen dioxide, formaldehyde, hydrogen cyanide, arsenic, and hydrogen sulfide. These carcinogenic chemicals found in cigarette smoke is collectively called “tar” and is the one responsible for cancer formation in many tissues of the body.  [3] The average content of tar in US cigarettes is 12 milligrams. [4]

Another important component of cigarette is nicotine. It has stimulant effects on brain activity but at the same time, has calming effects at times of stress. Nicotine is the primary reason why it is difficult for smokers to give up smoking. By activating the “pleasure centers of the brain”, it causes addiction just like cocaine and amphetamine. On average, each cigarette can allow smokers to take in about 1 milligram of nicotine. But by increasing puffing rate, inhaling more deeply, and smoking to the tip, smokers can get as high as 2 milligrams. [5] Literally speaking, smokers can freely increase their own consumption of this addictive substance, unconsciously delivering massive amounts of cancer-causing tar to their body.

In summary, this is a typical picture of a smoker: A smoker is a person who is addicted to the nicotine of cigarette smoke, and despite numerous attempts to educate him, he would come up with reasons to keep on smoking. He would not mind the many times he is brought to the hospital because of respiratory difficulty, heart attacks, high blood pressure, lung cancer, and the other complications of smoking. He is so focused on the pleasure derived from smoking, that he totally neglects everything else – including his own health. And he will pay the ultimate price for it with his life.

Hence, the reason why many people fail to quit smoking is not because they are weak-willed and irresponsible, but rather because they are addicted. And being addicted to nicotine does not mean he can never stop. He can stop – but stopping is difficult. When he can convince himself how the benefits of stopping can outweigh the benefits of smoking, he can succeed regardless of how addicted he may be. Conviction is the key word here. A smoker’s belief that something is wrong and things need to be changed and done for the better. Just like conviction caused man to explore new lands, erect spectacular structures, and find cures for seemingly incurable diseases. This same conviction can help a smoker succeed in quitting smoking. His life depends on it.
To get some tips on planning and preparing to quit smoking, click these websites: 

1) Lisa Nainggolan (2008). Smoking Cessation Must Not Be an Afterthought, New
Studies Say.
2) How Smoking Affects The Body
3) What are cigarettes and filters made of?
4) What’s In Cigarettes?
5) What Is A Smoking Addiction?