Smoking is pleasurable, up to a point. That, after all, is why so many do it. If there were no gain, the practice would quickly die out. But a lot of meaning is stuffed into that innocent phrase 'up to a point'. While the short term benefits of smoking cigarettes is real, the harm is equally real - and it's potentially much more serious and long lasting.
There are several common factors that tend to lead someone to smoke. Stress, peer pressure and other psychological factors are present for virtually everyone. Substituting a toxic chemical for a healthier means of dealing with them is often viewed as simpler. But the long range consequences can be dire.
Official estimates are that 87% of lung cancer cases can be attributed to long-term, heavy smoking. The odds of stroke are 2-4 times higher for smokers than non-smokers. The risks of coronary heart disease are similar. For COPDs (chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases), such as emphysema and chronic bronchitis or asthma, the statistics are equally frightening. About 80-90% of COPD cases are among those who smoke.
The specific scientific facts took a few generations to establish. But there are now thousands of studies that correlate smoking with ill health effects. While the exact causes and links between smoking and stroke or cancer are still not fully known, the correlation is overwhelming.
The relationship, for example, between the increased build up of fatty deposits on the arteries as a result of smoking is well established. The effects on the lungs as tar builds up in the alveoli are plain to see. The hacking, reduced energy and other effects require no scientific study to know.
Several dozen carcinogenic compounds have been identified in cigarette smoke. They range from such familiar terms as tar and benzene to nitrosamines. Carbon monoxide is present in cigarette smoke, where it binds with hemoglobin to deprive the blood stream of needed oxygen.
Quitting isn't easy. On average, only 6% succeed in stopping smoking permanently the first time they try. But it's possible to be in that group, and to increase that number by joining it.
As with any long term health decision, it requires willpower. But that mental commitment can be aided by counseling as well as a wide range of products available today. Nicotine gum, patches and inhalers can help. Several non-nicotine alternatives are on the market, too. Anti-depressants like Zyban are an option. A newer prescription drug called Chantix has shown promise.
Dealing with the consequences of stopping smoking are trying. Weight gain is possible. Cravings are almost inevitable, for a while. But the long term benefits of quitting are real, immediate and enormous.
After a few years, the risks of stroke and heart disease return to what they are for non-smokers. The skin regenerates to a normal state. The overall energy level rises and the body and mind are better able to deal with the normal challenges of life.
Quit now and gain those advantages. The alternative is grim.