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First three months crucial for quitting smoking

First three months crucial for quitting smoking

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Published : 2014-01-02 20:14
Updated : 2014-01-02 20:14

For many, quitting smoking tops their New Year’s resolution list. The chances of people succeeding without any medical support or consultation, however, is very low, and amounts to around 4-7 percent of those who have tried, according to a recent report published by the Korean Cancer Association.

Though it may be hard to do, doctors recommend keeping the resolution until March, a critical period for quitters as they start to have better blood circulation and lung function around that time. “Smokers find it difficult to walk up the stairs. But three months after quitting smoking, shortness of breath will decrease,” it said.

Additionally, after quitting smoking for one to nine months, cilia, tiny hair-like structures that move mucus out of the lungs, clean the lungs and help to reduce risk of infection, the report said.

After a year, the risk of coronary heart disease shrinks to half the risk faced by smokers, it added, meaning that a person could have a longer, higher-quality life.

Statistics also show the first three months are the most crucial time for quitters. The consumption of cigarettes in January and February last year remained below the level reached in December but began to rise in March, according to a separate report by KT&G, the country’s largest cigarette maker, suggesting that many people began smoking again.

But why is it so difficult to stay away from cigarettes for three months?

“It is really difficult for a smoker to quit for good on the first try because cigarettes contain a very addictive substance ― nicotine,” said the KCA’s report, which was translated and adapted from the “Guide to Smoking” by the American Cancer Society.

A person becomes physically dependent on nicotine, which is carried into the lungs after constant inhalation. The substance is immediately absorbed into the bloodstream and delivered throughout the body to the brain, heart, blood vessels and hormones. This is why nicotine is even found “in breast milk and in the cervical mucus” of a mother who smokes, the report said.

To cut the body’s dependence on nicotine, doctors recommend nicotine replacement therapy ― using a patch, gum, nasal spray, inhalers and lozenges. Recent studies have shown that about 25 percent of smokers who took medication stayed smoke-free for over six months.

Quitting smoking and staying smoke-free will continue to be on the global agenda this year, which will motivate many smokers to try to quit.

Lately, China, the country with the largest number of smokers in the world, appears to have made efforts to curb smoking. According to Xinhua News Agency, officials are not allowed to smoke in public places. They are also prohibited from using public funds to buy cigarettes.

E-cigarettes, considered safer alternatives to regular cigarettes, have been banned in indoor public areas in New York City.

Earlier this week, New Zealand introduced a 10 percent tax hike on tobacco.

Korea is also making efforts to curb smoking rates. The state-run National Health Insurance Service said it will push ahead with its plan to file massive lawsuits against cigarette makers this year.

The reason why people need to stop smoking is obvious: because it damages one’s health severely, doctors said in the report. Tobacco kills more than 6 million people a year, more than the combined number of people who die from AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria, according to WHO reports.

By Cho Chung-un (christory@heraldcorp.com)

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