The numbers are still alarming: around eight million people worldwide die every year from diseases caused by smoking. In Germany there are 127,000 people a year. For comparison: This is the population of Wolfsburg. Smoking remains the largest preventable cancer risk factor. And yet: more and more people are reaching for cigarettes again. Before the corona pandemic, around a quarter of all adults consumed tobacco products – currently it is more than a third, as the German Cancer Aid confirms. And smoking seems to be cool again for many young people. More than every tenth person in the 16 to 29 age group reaches for the fags. Electronic cigarettes and e-shishas, which are no less dangerous, are particularly popular with young people.
Expert: “Smoking is a behavior learned over years”
Experts suspect several reasons for the increased number of young smokers: Fears associated with the Corona crisis, lack of prospects, frustration and loneliness. For adolescents, the consumption of any intoxicants is particularly dangerous, but older people are also harmed by smoking.
In the NDR Info Livestream we are talking to the addiction doctor Dr. Alexander Glahn from the Hannover Medical School. “Smoking is a behavior learned over years,” says Glahn. But this could also happen again verbe learnt. He explains how here on > and at NDR Info Facebook in the live stream – from 5.10 p.m.
High addictive potential of nicotine
Anyone who smokes has a higher risk of damaging their respiratory tract, heart and blood vessels and developing cancer. Many know that and still can’t get away from the cigarette. “Nicotine is one of the substances that creates the most intense dependence. This is often underestimated,” says Monika Lucki from the addiction help center at Caritas Hildesheim. “Smoking has been a socially accepted drug for a long time. It is associated with many rituals, habits, a certain external image and the formation of identity. That has a great bond.”
Anyone who manages to stop smoking not only lives healthier, but also has a better quality of life. The blood circulation in the organs and muscles improves, as does the physical condition and the sense of smell and taste, and the skin becomes more beautiful. For smokers, who are often ill, there is another incentive: without nicotine, the immune system becomes much more robust against infections. And last but not least, you can save a lot of money.
How long does smoking withdrawal last?
Many people find it difficult to stop smoking from one day to the next and not to relapse. Those who stop smoking often have physical withdrawal symptoms at first, but these disappear after five to seven days when there is no more nicotine in the body. However, the psychological dependence lasts longer and can last for years. In her non-smoking seminars, addiction support expert Lucki therefore follows a behavioral therapy approach that focuses on changing habits. In addition, she relies on therapy with nicotine replacement and the group experience of those affected to pursue a common goal with other people.
Nicotine replacement can help in the first phase
Nicotine replacement in the form of patches, nasal spray, chewing gum or tablets can be helpful for people with a high level of dependence. They are also suitable for smokers who are very afraid of physical withdrawal symptoms. Nicotine replacement products can be a crutch for a transitional period, Lucki said. However, it should be dosed carefully and not used for too long, even if the recommendations of the pharmaceutical industry are sometimes different. The disadvantage is that you have to wean yourself off the nicotine substitute.
Tips for quitting smoking
Mark Twain already knew: “It’s child’s play to quit smoking. I’ve done it a hundred times.” Quitting smoking and not starting again, on the other hand, is difficult. A prerequisite for a long-term successful renunciation is the change in one’s own behavior and old habits. Basically, a healthy diet, plenty of exercise and relaxation can make it easier to quit smoking. A few strategies can help you quit smoking.
- tell others about it: It is helpful to talk to other people, such as work colleagues, about the project. In this way you make a kind of contract, the environment can support you.
- involve friends: If you have a group of smokers, it can help not to meet them initially. However, friends should always be involved. For example, you can meet outdoors or your boyfriend or girlfriend can go outside to smoke.
- Avoid typical rituals: Certain situations trigger the addiction memory: the morning coffee, the cigarette after dinner or after stress at work. In typical situations that trigger smoking, everyone should ask themselves: what can I do instead? Instead of smoking in the car on the way to work, you can snack on something, preferably something healthy like apples and carrot sticks.
- Remove smoking paraphernalia: Take away all smoking utensils such as ashtrays, cigarettes and lighters. Anyone who has smoked on the balcony should avoid it at first. Also, do not deposit cigarette packs.
- strategies against stress: Short relaxation and mindfulness exercises help against stress in everyday life. Chewing gum or pulling a rubber band on your wrist can also help relieve tension.
- Dealing with a relapse properly: If you have reached for a cigarette again, you should be aware that a relapse is possible, but so is a new beginning.
- Save cigarette money: Saving money spent on cigarettes is motivating. Treating yourself to quitting can be a good incentive to persevere. It is best to put the money in a transparent glass where it is clearly visible or to hang bills on a clothesline.
Quit smoking and don’t gain weight
Many smokers worry that they will gain weight by not smoking. According to Lucki, the actual energy turnover changes only slightly. Many ex-smokers gain weight primarily because they consume more calories than they burn. However, you can allow yourself a slight increase in weight until your body has adjusted. To prevent this, sweetened drinks and sweets should be avoided and a conscious diet should be followed.
Tobacco vaporizers and e-cigarettes are not an alternative
Some smokers see tobacco vaporizers or tobacco-free nicotine products such as e-cigarettes as an alternative to cigarettes. Although these contain fewer pollutants, possible long-term damage has not yet been sufficiently investigated. In addition, the consumption of such products is not an exit, according to addiction expert Lucki, because the dependency remains. Especially for young people, she sees an increasing danger from so-called vapes. The popular e-cigarettes in the form of small colorful sticks burn liquids (liquids) with a variety of flavors. Vapes can be the gateway to later cigarette consumption.
Smoke-free: Information portal with offers
The Federal Center for Health Education offers with the information portal rauchfrei-info.de offers free help, including an online exit program, a starter package and a savings calculator.