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Smoking and its effects 13.03.13

Tags: smoking

Smoking and its effects with Dr Mitra M Shahidi

Mrs Rabbit asked: I am now in my 50's and smoked from the age of 16 - 20, about 10 per day.  Will the harmful effects of smoking at a young age still be an issue for me at my age now?

Dr Mitra M Shahidi answered: Hello Mrs Rabbit, After about 20 years of not smoking the risks come right down to about the same as a never smoker. There will always be a slightly higher risk but in your case it will be minimal as you never really smoked a lot in the first place.

Mrs Rabbit commented: That's good to know ... thank you :)

Dr Mitra M Shahidi answered: Generally speaking if people stop smoking before they reach the age of 35 and haven't already come to any harm from the smoking by then, they are unlikely to have any problems in later life.
I find this is a good stat to give the youngsters who are determined to keep smoking, to try to encourage them to at least give up by that age.

Mrs Rabbit commented:
I will use that on my eldest daughter and her friends too!  They always say, "you smoked when you were our age" and I say, in my day, we were not made so aware of the harmful effects of smoking.  I still find it hard to accept that with all the negative press and obvious harm that smoking causes, that h youngsters of  today still think it is OK to smoke!!

Dr Mitra M Shahidi answered: Yes unfortunately its a peer pressure thing isn't it, a bit like wearing make up for the girls, but obviously much more harmful!

fiona asked: Hi there, where is the best place in the house to smoke (if any) - my friend always opts to smoke in the kitchen with the window open to protect her kids from the fumes, but I have concerns about that as food is prepared there.

Dr Mitra M Shahidi answered: Hello Fiona, There isn't really a best place, as the smoke lingers in the air for a bit before it eventually dissipates, even with an open window. The 'best' place is the garden in the open air so no one else is exposed.

fiona commented: Thanks, glad I have a solid case for suggesting she smokes elsewhere now!

Ruth asked: Hi, my sister is having a lot of breathing problems and recently got checked out for asthma - which it turns out she doesn't have. She does however smoke occasionally, she claims it's max 15 a week. Can this be causing her respiratory issues?

Dr Mitra M Shahidi answered: Definitely

Dr Mitra M Shahidi answered: Smoking causes people to cough, bring up phlegm (sputum), get narrowing of the airways due to inflammation from the toxins in the cigarettes. It predisposes to more frequent chest infections.
Basically it burns away all your natural defences leaving the lungs raw and prone.

Ruth commented: Thanks, I'll be passing this on to her!

Anonymous11 asked: I smoke fewer than five a day. What's the harm in that?

Dr Mitra M Shahidi answered: Hello Anonymous 11. Well you could argue that it is less harmful than smoking 20 cigarettes a day, but it is also more harmful than not smoking at all. With smoking it is an accumulative risk over time, so the more you smoke and for longer the more likely you are to suffer the ill effects.

Dr Mitra M Shahidi answered: Half of people who smoke will die from a smoking related illness.

Dr Mitra M Shahidi answered: Now if we had a clever test that could tell us who those 50% were going to be we could let the other half smoke to their heart's content - but we don't.
So therefore its like Russian Roulette, you don't know if you're the one who will be the one facing the bullet in the barrel, so is it worth the risk?  i would say no, of course - but you have to decide that for yourself.

Suzie asked: Hi, I only smoke sometimes when I'm out at the pub. Like, less than once a month sometimes. Does this really have an effect on my health?

Dr Mitra M Shahidi answered:
Hello Suzie, I think you can see the answers that I am giving to others.
The issue is the same as that of Anonymous11.
If you smoke, you are taking a risk, the more you smoke the bigger the risk.
Not smoking poses no risk.
One of the reasons smoking was banned in pubs was that even non-smokers were getting smoking related problems.
There really is no 'safe' level of smoking.

Suzie commented: What are the main things that could happen to me if I keep doing it?

Dr Mitra M Shahidi commented: There is a catalogue of smoking related illnesses.
The most common ones that people know about are lung cancer, heart disease (in particular heart attacks) and emphysema (also called COPD).
But those are not the only ones, pretty much any cancer in the body can be caused by smoking, it can reduce your fertility, it can cause premature ageing and wrinkles of the skin, early menopause and worsen pre-existing conditions as well

Anonymous12 asked: Hello, I've been trying to change my smoking habits with the intention of quiting some time (hopefully soon).
I stopped smoking during the day when i am at work and I only have a few cigarettes at home in the evening.
For someone that is trying to give up, is this a solution or should I just completely stop? I am a true believer that my addiction is more related to the habit than the dependancy on nicotine and I think that if I put my mind into it i can do it.

Dr Mitra M Shahidi answered: Hello Anonymous 12, Firstly let me congratulate you on making the decision to quit, just by doing that you are half way there!
What I always tell people who are trying to quit is that you have to do what works for you.
If one solution worked for everyone, we wouldn't have patches, gum, inhalators, fake cigarettes, hypnotism, acupuncture etc..
The most important thing when quitting is to keep quitting and keep up the momentum, if you recognise that you are now addicted to smoking in the evening and can't stop that you need to tackle it again as a new project. However if you recognise cutting down to the evening as a stepping stone to quitting and have given yourself some kind of deadline to stop that as well then go for it.
The ultimate aim is to quit and stay off the cigs, how you get there is less important.

Anonymous12 commented: Thank you. Getting addicted to smoke just in the evening is exactly what I am afraid of therefore I have already in mind my next step which will be smoking only when socialising if I don't manage to completely stop soon. It is hard to stop smoking when your partner also smokes but I am going to be strong and do it whith or without my partner's help.
Thanks Dr Mitra
 
Dr Mitra M Shahidi commented: Yes I agree, I always tell the partners they have to smoke away from the building they share with the quitter to show their support and also that they should be looking to quit too!

Anonymous13 asked: I've stopped smoking for over 2 years now, I wasn't really a long term smoker to begin with but is the damage been done anyway? Whats the point of giving up when you've probably already got the cancer or whatever in you?

Dr Mitra M Shahidi answered:
Hello Anonymous13, I would like to refer you to the answer I gave Anon 11.
The issue is that you simply don't know how much damage is done and when it is done, it is Russian Roulette.
In some, the damage may already be done, in others quitting will save their lives, no matter when in their lives they choose to quit, we simply don't know who is going to fall into which group so surely by far the more sensible approach would be to quit and hope no damage has been done rather than continue and risk more definite damage

Dabs asked: I dont smoke tobacco but I sometimes smoke a bit of weed. Does this have the same bad health effects? Can it still cause cancer etc?

Dr Mitra M Shahidi answered: Hello Dabs, Unfortunately weed is even more damaging, especially as it is often combined with tobacco when smoked.
The additive effects of the two is causing a lot of young people to present with holes in their lungs leading to lung collapse, and we can see they have been smoking weed when we look at their scans before they even confess it to us!

AXA PPP asked: We have a question from one of our twitter followers. How high is the risk of cancer from social smoking?

Dr Mitra M Shahidi answered:
Its difficult to quantify in percentages. By 'social smoking' i presume you mean only when out with friends, but not regularly every day.
You could argue that social smoking is less harmful than smoking 20 cigarettes a day, but it is also more harmful than not smoking at all. With smoking it is an accumulative risk over time, so the more you smoke and for longer the more likely you are to suffer the ill effects.Half of people who smoke will die from a smoking related illness.Now if we had a clever test that could tell us who those 50% were going to be we could let the other half smoke to their heart's content - but we don't.
So therefore its like Russian Roulette, you don't know if you're the one who will be the one facing the bullet in the barrel, so is it worth the risk? i would say no, of course - but you have to decide that for yourself.

becs asked: How can you encourage someone to give up smoking

Dr Mitra M Shahidi answered: Quitting smoking can become a very emotive subject and needs to be handled carefully so the quitter doesn't dig their heels in. They are 3x more likely to quit with professional help than just going 'cold turkey'.
Ultimately the decision to stop has to come from the smoker themselves.
Different people have different triggers to stopping, in some it's their failing health, in others it may be death or illness in a loved one due to smoking, others may succumb to the powers of the anti-smoking ads, which can be vey effective.
The important thing is to be supportive but not judgemental. Try to spot a situation that might result in the quitter reaching for a cigarette and distract them into another path.
If you are a smoker yourself, don't smoke around them.
Ban cigarettes from your home if you live with the quitter - literally ban them not just the smoking of them. Don't allow people to bring cigarettes in.
Remember smoking is an addiction, and it takes several quit attempts to succeed, so quitters should be positively encouraged for every cigarette they haven't smoked rather than chastised for every time they have fallen off the wagon.

Anonymous14 asked: I get indigestion. Could it be because I smoke?

Dr Mitra M Shahidi answered: Hello anonymous14, Yes it definitely could. The reason being that the smoke gets into your stomach as well as your lungs when you smoke, you may have noticed you occasionally taste smoke when you burp.
Also it causes a loosening of the sphincter at the top of your stomach which should stop acid and food stuff coming back up you gullet and so for both those reasons you are more likely to get indigestion. Alcohol can also cause indigestion and often and cigs and alcohol go together - i don't know if that is relevant to you.

ianto asked: Hi, I currently smoke fewer than 10 a day, but I'm also going running a a few times a week. Obviously am hoping to cut down/ quit smoking but is it safe to exercise if I'm a smoker?

Dr Mitra M Shahidi answered:
Hello Ianto, Yes it is definitely safe to exercise and it is better to exercise when you smoke than not to. Good luck quitting

ianto commented: Thanks for response - to be honest the more I exercise the less I feel like smoking anyway, which in itself says a lot!

Dr Mitra M Shahidi answered:
Thats a good thing - harness it!

JJ asked: Sometimes when walking down the street I'll get a mouthful of smoke from someone infront of me. It's really annoying. Does this have terrible health side effects too? Will they ever do something about it? I'd like to be able to walk around outside without suffering from other peoples bad habits....

Dr Mitra M Shahidi answered: Hello JJ, Yes I know the feeling, it is foul isn't it.
Provided that is not happening every day and frequently then the ill effects should be minimal.
I'm not sure of any plans on a total smoking ban in the open air, but it would be nice wouldn't it?
Another thing i always fear is when people hold their cigarettes down at children's height in the street, not only for the smoke but also the chance of burning one of the little ones accidentally.

Anonymous15 asked: I have tried to quit and have failed miserably on many occasions. I seem to go great for about a week or two, and then as soon as I have a little bit of stress at work, I get hooked again. Can you please advise on strategies to prevent me smoking again when a bit of stress comes my way?

Dr Mitra M Shahidi answered:
Hello Anonymous15, Have you been trying to quit on your own or with professional help?
It may be that you need patches, gum, or something to help you get through the moment.
or by far the more heathy way is to find a suitable distraction technique; go for a quick run up and down the nearest staircase, see how breathless you get when you're not smoking and tell yourself how much worse you would feel if you ran up and down the stairs when you are full-time smoking. If you're at home go for a run/walk round the block, or read a book or switch the telly on. You get need to get through the few minutes of the urge till it passes away.
Most importantly don't have any cigs at hand and tell all your mates/work colleagues/partner not to let you have one of their's even if you are begging.

Dr Mitra M Shahidi answered:
And remember most people have to quit several times before finally succeeding, so don't beat yourself up about it, focus on the fact that you have been successful in the past and that means you are more likely to be successful in the future. Good luck!

Matt asked: I have a friend who smokes and has a kid. She tends to smoke outside or in a different room out the window though. Will he still be passive smoking though?

Dr Mitra M Shahidi answered: Hello Matt, Yes the child will still be exposed to some smoke if she is smoking indoors, even with an open window as it does hang around a bit before it dissipates. Outside would be better, not at all would be best.

ianto asked: Another question for Dr Shahidi - in the past I've used various types of NRT with differing degrees of success. Lately though, I've noticed quite a few people using e-cigararettes - would you recommend trying these a cigarette replacement?

Dr Mitra M Shahidi answered: I would recommend whatever works for you and i don't mean that to be trite.
Like I said earlier if one thing worked for everyone we wouldn't have so many things out there on the market.
You need to explore all options and see what works for you, the important thing is to hang on to the desire to quit and eventually you will find they way that works for you.
Don't be discouraged if you fall off the wagon a few times, almost everybody does before they finally succeed.

ianto commented: Thanks Dr Shahidi - hopefully soon I will be smoke free again soon :) Thanks for your advice today.

Dr Mitra M Shahidi answered: Yes good luck!

Charlie1 asked: Is smoking a pipe worse than cigarettes? Also, is menthol better than normal cigs or are they all the same?

Dr Mitra M Shahidi answered: Hello Charlie1, Pipes are worse for risk of mouth cancers because pipe smokers tend to keep the smoke in their mouths rather than inhale into the lungs, but overall they're both as bad as each other.
Menthol cigarettes just have the flavour disguised by mint, they still contain all the chemicals, tar and nicotine that non-menthol cigs do

AXA PPP asked: Another question from one of our twitter followers. How do I help stop a social smoker good friend from smoking? Its very unsociable when they disappear for a smoke

Dr Mitra M Shahidi answered: Quitting smoking can become a very emotive subject and needs to be handled carefully so the quitter doesn't dig their heels in. They are 3x more likely to quit with professional help than just going 'cold turkey'.
Ultimately the decision to stop has to come from the smoker themselves.
Different people have different triggers to stopping, in some it's their failing health, in others it may be death or illness in a loved one due to smoking, others may succumb to the powers of the anti-smoking ads, which can be vey effective.
The important thing is to be supportive but not judgemental. Try to spot a situation that might result in the quitter reaching for a cigarette and distract them into another path.
If you are a smoker yourself, don't smoke around them.
Ban cigarettes from your home if you live with the quitter - literally ban them not just the smoking of them. Don't allow people to bring cigarettes in.
Remember smoking is an addiction, and it takes several quit attempts to succeed, so quitters should be positively encouraged for every cigarette they haven't smoked rather than chastised for every time they have fallen off the wagon.

Roo asked: Why do people have such a problem giving up? I've smoked a few times but never become addicted. I don't plan to smoke again, its just happened in the past when I've been really drunk. I don't really get why so many people like it so much?

Dr Mitra M Shahidi answered: Hello Roo, Just like any other type of addiction, some people are more susceptible than others.
Also it depends on what their perception of 'social norm' is. Some people will have grown up in families who have all smoked and have fond memories and positive associations with sitting on granddad's lap whilst he chugged away on his pipe and remember the smell and feel happy and can't see what the problem with smoking is. Others will have been brought up in an anti smoking household and are smoking to rebel against their social norms. Different things trigger different people in different ways I guess is the simplistic answer.

Anonymous16 asked: If smoking is so bad for us why don't the government just ban it completely?

Dr Mitra M Shahidi answered: Hello Anonymous16, That's a question for the Health Minister I think!

Liz asked: Hi, is there a 'best method' for giving up? So do more people give up if they use patches rather than gum etc?

Liz commented: Can you find out this information from your GP?

Dr Mitra M Shahidi answered: Yes definitely, or on the internet if you have access. Enter 'smoking cessation services in ........' and enter your area

Liz commented: Great, thank you very much.

AXA PPP asked: Another question via our twitter. How can I cope with the emotional side of giving up smoking?

Dr Mitra M Shahidi answered: With professional support. Most importantly tell yourself you are quitting not 'giving up'.
Giving up makes it sound like you are losing something from your life so it doesn't help you stop.
Look upon it as a positive move and you will cope better.

Anonymous17 commented: I have read that the trials for Champix(Chantix) were biased so that a positive outcome would prevail. I have been taking Champix for 6 weeks and to be honest am hardly bowled over by it.  If you're not smoking how can blocking the receptors in the brain for Nicotine help you feel better as you're not going to know they're blocked if your not smoking

Dr Mitra M Shahidi answered: Hello Anonymous17, Honestly no, hence the reason there are so many products available out there.
You just need to start with one that you think wold suit you and move to the next one if it doesn't.
What we do know however is that you're more likely to quit if you do it with professional help than on your own, so try your local cessation service, they can help you with your choices.

fiona asked: What kind of support can stop smoking clinics offer? I noticed one at my GP and wonder what they involve

Dr Mitra M Shahidi answered: Hello fiona, Firstly they will give you a lot of information on how to go about it, what products are available and also some stats to help you, such as it can take up to 12 quit attempts before people finally succeed etc. Then they will follow you up either by phone or text or email, whichever you decide suits you, with the aim of encouraging and supporting you on this important journey.
I think they even give you some of the stuff for free, the gum, patches etc

fiona commented: Thanks, that's helpful!

Anonymous2 asked: What support group would you reccomend for giving up smoking?

Dr Mitra M Shahidi answered: Hello Anonymous2, I would recommend a local one which you can commit to and fits in with your needs and convenience of timings, as you will be more likely to make proper use of it.

AXA PPP asked: We have one final question via our twitter. How long does it take for the effects of smoking on your body to reverse?

Dr Mitra M Shahidi answered:
About 20 years but some damage is not reversible.

Kels asked:
What's worse: being fat or smoking?

Dr Mitra M Shahidi answered: They're both as bad as each other and the combination of both is fairly lethal!

becs asked: Worried about putting on weight whilst you give up smoking? any advice

Dr Mitra M Shahidi answered: Yes that is a difficult one. I think its fair to say most people do put on a bit but also do lose it again.
I think the best strategy is to incorporate exercise into your quit plan and recognise that the reason people put on weight is because they are now eating instead of smoking and try to use something else to fill the gaps. its not that cigarettes magic the weight off you, contrary to popular belief.
Also exercise is a powerful mood enhancer so will help keep you positive and on track.
Also have some expectation to gain weight so you don't get demoralised and go back to smoking, but maybe set a limit on how much weight you're willing to gain before you have to tackle that alongside the smoking.

becs commented: Thanks, for the advice.

AXA PPP asked: Thanks to everyone who joined our live chat today and special thanks to our expert Dr Mitra M Shahidi for joining us.

Dr Mitra M Shahidi commented:
You're very welcome and thank you for all your stimulating questions.
Mitra Shahidi


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