Everybody knows that smoking tobacco, whether in a cigarette, pipe or cigar, is bad for your health. It's been directly linked with several chronic diseases, including bronchitis and emphysema; lung cancer; cancer of the mouth, tongue, gums, and throat; heart disease and stroke, not to mention impotence. Why, then, do so many people continue to use it?
The simple answer is that smoking is highly addictive — and this addiction is a physical, medical condition. Nicotine, one of the main ingredients in tobacco, is a stimulant drug. It enters the brain within seconds of being inhaled, increasing the heart and breathing rate, and delivering a "rush" of feelings of pleasure and alertness. At the same time, it also delivers a toxic cocktail of chemicals and poisons that wreak havoc on the body's vital organs.
As the smoking continues, the nicotine alters the brain's functions, so the smoker desires the effects of nicotine more often, but needs to smoke more of it to get those feelings, because the body has built up a tolerance. It's a vicious circle that creates an addiction just as powerful as that of heroin or cocaine.
But there is good news — the body begins to experience positive changes as soon as you stop smoking. Within 20 minutes, the blood pressure, pulse rate, and temperature of hands and feet all begin to return to normal. Within eight hours, the blood oxygen level increases to normal and carbon monoxide levels drop. Within 48 hours, damaged nerve endings begin to regrow. Within 72 hours, bronchial tubes begin to relax, making it easier to breathe.
So no matter how long you've been smoking, it's never too late to stop and improve your health.
Becoming tobacco-free can be hard sometimes. But you don't have to go through it alone; in fact, you shouldn't. A range of services are available to help you. They're provided free of charge to Nova Scotians across the province through the Addiction Services offices in Nova Scotia's District Health Authorities and the IWK, and are all completely confidential. Find the Addictions Services office nearest you.
For more information, go back to the top of this page and see the links on the right hand side of your screen.
Crown copyright 2011, Province of Nova Scotia, all rights reserved.
Page last updated 2011-07-12.