On average, most people relapse for as many as 6 to 11 times before they give up smoking for good. Society, however, frequently inflicts shame on the quitters after the first few failures to stay away from cigarettes. That shame often leads to self-doubt and gives rise to questions like “What if I’m just not strong enough to quit,” forcing people to give up hope instead of smoking.
Good news is, it’s never really too late to quit, and it’s far from impossible. Nicotine level in your blood drops by 95% after 24 hours of staying clean, your taste receptors start healing within 48 hours, and the risk of stroke and coronary heart disease drops back to that of non-smokers between 5 and 15 years of a smoke-free life.
Smoking is hard to quit through sheer willpower
Let’s face it, nicotine patches and gum, fancy vape kit and whole programs on how to quit smoking exist for a reason. Very few people can simply throw cigarettes away one day and never take smoking up again. This happens because nicotine, contained in tobacco, is a highly addictive chemical that alters the way certain mechanisms in your brain work.
When you inhale the smoke, nicotine travel to the lungs, enters the pulmonary venous circulation, moves to the arterial circulation from there and reaches the brain in approximately 10 seconds from the moment of inhalation. Once there, the nicotine binds to nicotinic cholinergic receptors. Subsequently, those receptors trigger the release of various neurotransmitters in the brain. Neurotransmitters belong to a special group of chemicals that are responsible for regulation of emotions and feelings. Dopamine, for instance, makes you feel good and hence motivates you to repeat the pleasurable experience. It is critical for habit formation and reinforcement. When dopamine is released under the influence of nicotine, you instantly feel happier and more relaxed.
The brain recognizes nicotine as a positive stimulus and gradually adjusts to the new environment. This is how tolerance builds. With time, the effects of cigarettes get weaker and less vivid because the brain gets used to the new state and perceives it as simply normal instead of exciting. When you quit, your body goes through a period of withdrawal that is usually accompanied by unpleasant or even severe symptoms like nausea, depression, irritability, headaches and strong cravings for nicotine. It takes time for your body to get back to its “default” parameters, which makes giving up smoking without medical assistance quite a feat.
You’ve probably been wrong about what makes smoking dangerous
Spoiler: it’s not the nicotine. While being highly addictive and posing certain health risks, nicotine looks virtually harmless in comparison with other components of conventional cigarettes.
The substances that cause the vast majority of diseases, associated with smoking, are carbon monoxide, tar, benzene, and ammonia. They contribute to the development of cardiovascular disease, lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, which are all responsible for approximately 80% of all smoking-related deaths.
These effects, however, are limited to combustible cigarettes. Vaporizers and e-cigs use heating to produce vapor, effectively reducing the health risks associated with smoking. The vapor contains negligible quantities of carcinogens and lacks the bits of tobacco and burnt paper that tend to enter the lungs with cigarette smoke. Besides, e-liquids for vaporizers can be nicotine-free and come in a variety of flavors. If you’re looking for a way to stop smoking or transition to a safer and healthier option, a vape starter kit might be a great starting point.
How should you approach quitting?
There are several ways to counter both psychological and physical withdrawal symptoms. Although the best idea is to consult with your doctor, it helps to know your options beforehand. Like with any addiction, smoking has a beginning and a cause. Therapy might be in order to help you tackle the issues that made you seek comfort and relief in cigarettes, at the same time teaching you how to respond to certain triggers, manage your emotions and work through your feelings in a healthy non-destructive way.
Since smoking is both an addiction and a strong habit, the desire to quit isn’t sufficient to actually accomplish it. Breaking a habit means rewriting behavioral patterns that your brain created and continued reinforcing during the development of the addiction. Therefore, medical assistance may be required to help manage withdrawal symptoms. There are medications that introduce small doses of nicotine into your body, gradually decreasing them and helping you adjust to the new condition. They come in different forms, with the most widespread being pills and transdermal patches. Many find it more comfortable, pleasant and stylish to use portable vapes and e-cigarettes to achieve the same effect. In fact, though nicotine-containing e-liquids are addictive to non-smokers, vaping was found to be so effective in helping smokers quit that in the future vapes might become legitimate medicinal tools, available on prescription at many pharmacies.
When it comes to vaporizers, it’s hardly possible to distinguish the best vape ever, since customers’ needs and preferences differ greatly. However, if you’re looking for a place to start, JUUL Labs might be the right point. This company produces a unique vape pen called the JUUL and hence offers a simple entry into the world of vaping. All you have to do is pick a vape pen starter kit that usually comes with a vaporizer and four different flavors to try, and you can consider yourself fully equipped.
So when is it too late to quit smoking?
Although it might sound a little cliché, it’s never too late to stop smoking. Regardless of your age, gender and the number of years you spent with a cigarette in hand, quitting will have a positive effect on your health. While the extent of the benefits will vary depending on those factors, it’s safe to say that your overall state will improve.
The best way to go about quitting is to consult with your doctor and determine what medication you might need to ease the withdrawal process. If you prefer to go through it on your own, consider replacing smoking with vaping, gradually decreasing the levels of nicotine that you ingest. And, most importantly, don’t give up if you relapse. Most people do, and, after all, it’s not a failure while you keep trying.
About the Author
Thanush Poulsen is a health blogger. Currently, he focuses on the different addictions and how to fight them back.