First of all, the good news: Between 2007 and 2019, the number of adult smokers has declined steadily. However, 1.3 billion people worldwide still use tobacco today (of which 1.1 billion are smokers, with another 200 million turning to other tobacco products). Five companies dominate 80 percent of the market. While they are promoting increasingly new tobacco products such as e-cigarettes or tobacco heaters in industrialized nations, cigarettes continue to be aggressively advertised in poorer parts of the world. As a result, tobacco consumption is growing steadily, particularly in Asia, Africa and the eastern Mediterranean region. In fact, conventional cigarettes still account for 90 percent of the market share.
A cause for concern is that tobacco use by young people is widespread and rising sharply in some countries. This is the case in 63 of 135 countries surveyed and is due in no small part to new tobacco products, often flavored, such as e-cigarettes and snus. Globally, around 50 million girls and boys between the ages of 13 and 15 use tobacco in some form.
With 8.67 million deaths caused globally each year (2019 figures), tobacco use and smoking in particular remains a massive health threat, generating US$2 trillion in medical costs each year.
Therefore the best prevention is still to not start smoking in the first place. And it is never too late to quit. The body immediately begins to regenerate; within twenty minutes, blood pressure and heart rate drop, and after twelve hours the carbon monoxide content in the blood has normalized. Every cigarette not smoked is a small victory and a step in the right direction. As the figures show, most smokers want to get rid of their vice, but only a relatively small proportion of them then put this resolution into practice.
Take heart today and abstain from the next cigarette, and then the next, and the next…. The following tips can be helpful:
- It may sound trite, but the saying “Where there’s a will, there’s a way” is especially true when quitting smoking. There is nothing to shake here; you must really want to get away from smoking. A half-hearted “Well, I’ll give it a try” won’t do. If you don’t want to quit, forget it. But ask yourself why you want to continue consuming a product that has a fifty percent chance of killing you.
- Social pressure is helpful! Ask those around you (work colleagues, relatives, friends, spouse…) to be understanding yet strict with you.
- Many addicts have a tendency to see themselves as victims. (If you have been thinking “Not me,” this most likely applies to you!) Try to find out why this is so. You have an opportunity today to become the master of your own destiny.
- Do you know Beppo, the street sweeper, from Michael Ende’s book “Momo”? He explains to Momo how to overcome a seemingly insurmountable problem: “You must never think of the whole road at once, do you understand? You must always think of the next step, the next breath (…) All of a sudden you realize that step by step you’ve made the whole road.” You need to do the same with quitting smoking. Don’t think that you are quitting smoking now. Just think about not smoking the next cigarette or not smoking a cigarette this morning, for example. And then take it upon yourself to again not smoke the next one or not smoke one in the afternoon either. Step by step, not smoked cigarette by not smoked cigarette you will get closer to your goal.
- It only takes a few weeks for a behavior to become a permanent habit. How long has this been the case for you with regard to smoking? Be aware that you have “built” smoking into your life in such a way that it comes naturally to you. So be patient with yourself, if it takes a while to kick the habit. And figure out where your pitfalls are. On what occasion do you usually smoke? After coffee, while waiting for the train or bus, after sex, after a good meal, when you are stressed…? In these moments you are vulnerable. Try to avoid these situations as much as possible. Find a (healthy!) substitute activity: Listen to music, nibble a carrot, read a good book, suck a mint….
- “Oops, I did it again…!” – Now it happened after all, you smoked a cigarette again? Don’t worry about it. Every relapse is an opportunity for you to get to know yourself and your weaknesses (and strengths!) better. Experience shows that the majority of smokers need six or seven attempts before they finally succeed in quitting. Do not give up, even if it happens to you many times again. A child who learns to walk and falls down again and again does not decide to spend the rest of his life crawling, does he? Just try it from the beginning, step by step.
- Acknowledge that you may need assistance at best. Permanent ear acupuncture needles work wonders for many people, others are helped by methods such as EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques) tapping.
- Tobacco is a nightshade plant. Because of the similar ingredients, you should make sure that you do not consume any other nightshade plants in the first period. Therefore, avoid potatoes, peppers, eggplants or even tomatoes (and the products made from them). Alcohol can also provoke a relapse.
The best moment to start changing for the better is right now. You can do it.
Figures are from The Tobacco Atlas, 7th edition, published May 18th, 2022: