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What’s the Deal with Smoking?

by Dr. Benedict Christopher Austria
Medical Associate, Aegle Wellness Center

Smoking is one of the most avoidable primary risk factors that cause non-communicable diseases. According to the World Health Organization 2016 Tobacco Fact Sheet, around seven million people die due to smoking every year, six million of whose deaths are caused by smoking, and 890,000 of whose deaths are due to secondhand smoke exposure. There is no safe level of inhalation of secondhand smoke.

Since the enactment of Executive Order 26 entitled “Providing for the Establishment of Smoke-Free Environments in Public and Enclosed Places” last July 23, you now breathe in the invigorating aroma of coffee upon entering cafés, instead of nasty cigarette smoke. In the latest Global Adult Tobacco Survey (Philippines) in 2015, 22% of the population was exposed to secondhand smoke when visiting restaurants. The same survey also noted, however, that there has been a significant decrease in smoking among adults, from 29.7% in 2009 to 23.8% in 2015.
On July 28, 2017, global stock prices for tobacco products dropped as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced its plan to reduce nicotine content in cigarettes, noting that there are now plant biotechnology companies that produce tobacco with up to 97% less nicotine.
Nicotine is the psychoactive substance in tobacco, which makes it very addictive. After taking a puff from a cigarette, within seven seconds the brain is affected by nicotine, which leaves the smoker feeling relaxed yet still sharp. Smokers usually have a 24-hour nicotine blood curve, which has a sharp rise in the morning and plateaus in the afternoon, then falls during sleep. When blood nicotine is too low, smokers may have withdrawal symptoms such as anxiety, restlessness, irritability, difficulty concentrating, and headaches.

The Fagerstrom Questionnaire for Nicotine Dependence is a tool to identify smokers who will benefit from nicotine-tapering interventions like nicotine patches, gum or oral medications.

Current studies published in the American Journal of Preventive Health and Circulation suggest that using e-cigarettes or vaping may help some smokers quit. However, most e-cigarettes are not regulated and still contain toxic chemicals. Another study published in Tobacco Control reported that vapor from e-cigarettes has toxicants 9 to 450 times lower than that of normal cigarettes—such a wide range of uncertainty!  There are no long-term safety studies regarding e-cigarettes, so a quit date for their usage must still be set.

Quitting smoking will directly benefit a smoker’s health and can extend his or her life up to 10 years.

Source: World Health Organization,
5 A’s and R’s brief tobacco interventions in primary care

Quitting smoking is one of the hardest things to do, especially for those who are physically addicted to nicotine. Developing a quitting strategy will help them. The STAR acronym is the World Health Organization’s advice to help tobacco users quit.
Set a quit date. Choosing a quit date as soon as possible will help you stay focused and motivated.
Tell your friends, family and coworkers.  Sharing your goal with those whom you interact with will help you achieve it.
Anticipate challenges to your attempt to quit. There will be challenges in quitting smoking, especially if there is physical addiction. Try to avoid any triggers like drinking alcohol, and avoid those who smoke.
 Remove tobacco products from your environment. Avoiding smoking cues will help in quitting. Throw away your stock of cigarettes and avoid places that sell them. 
Smoking is the antithesis of health and wellness. If you plan to live a healthy life, avoiding smoke in all forms will not only make you live longer, it will also make you feel better.
If you want help for a family member or for yourself to quit smoking, call us at
+632 737 0077 or email us at

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