Excerpts from Unfiltered
Social Scene: Your life
Jacob: I started smoking cigarettes right when I turned 13. I was sitting at my house — everybody there smoked, everybody in the whole house does. … So I wanted a cigarette, so I went and stole a cigarette out of one of the packs laying around and went and smoked. And my step-dad found out and he told me to write out on a piece of paper the good things and the bad things of smoking cigarettes. And I didn't have any good things really. …
Valerie: It makes me cough and I hack up stuff in the morning. Before I go to bed, I'll be coughing and I'll wake up in the middle of the night coughing and hacking loogies, and that's not very feminine. I mean, I know guys aren't turned on by a girl hacking up a loogie. That's something a guy does. I might as well scratch my butt while I'm at it. It's just gross. Smoking's nasty. And I wish I could quit.
Health Risks: Heart
Fred: The heart attack was smoking related. That was a very traumatic time. There was a rehabilitation period and I'm very fortunate to be here today.
What smoking does is screws up your cardiovascular system, and it causes your arteries to constrict, your blood vessels to constrict. It was advised to me very strongly, both by my family doctor and the cardiovascular surgeons and doctors that worked on me, that I quit smoking.
Right now, today, some of the physical ailments that I have is that I have high blood pressure. I'm treating that with medication. Other things, when I'm laying in bed at night I'm sittin' there right before I fall asleep — sometimes I hear the wheezing of my lungs. And, you know, it scares the hell out of me.
It's killing me slowly. Don't think that you're invincible, because you're not. It will get you.
Health Risks: Brain
The feeling of pleasure and relaxation a smoker gets, especially from the first cigarette of the day, is actually just relief from the symptoms of withdrawal they've started to feel. These symptoms are at such a low level that smokers often aren't aware that they are feeling anxious or depressed. So, in reality, the "relaxation" you feel when you smoke is usually just the relief of withdrawal symptoms, like a junkie gets when he shoots up.
When nicotine enters the brain for the first time it sets up a "memory trace" that makes the brain want more. The person is not yet addicted but the nicotine immediately tricks their brain into believing that they've done something great, when they've really just irritated their bodies. This memory trace never stops insisting tobacco feels good, but once you are hooked then other, more powerful processes take over.
Health Risks: Passive smoke
Keith M. (coordinator, cardiac catherization laboratory): If you're in a car with somebody that's smoking or if you're in a room with somebody smoking, you're going to get all the same chemicals that cause all the diseases. It may not be as concentrated as you sucking it in and pulling it directly into your body, but over a period of time it can increase exponentially and cause just as many disease factors. So, if you're hanging out with friends and you're going out cruising the town on Saturday night, and you've got the windows rolled up and the stereo cranking up and it's full of smoke, you're just as at risk as if you were smoking it yourself. And misery loves company; if somebody's hooked on a cigarette, they like for everybody around them to be smoking. You're going to have to be strong. You're going to have to stay away from them. Show some intelligence.
Quit Smoking: Plan of attack
Patty (director, medical imaging and cardial pulmonary): Put your mindset to it that "I can do this." You need to let your friends know, you need to let your family know so they can support you. One of the most important things to do is set a date. Keep to that date. You want to go and get rid of all of your cigarettes, all of your ashtrays, all of your lighters. Make it important. Throw it in the trashcan. Put it outside. It is a part of your life that you want to put behind you, so you need to make a ceremony out of it.
Come up with activities for yourself that are fun so you have something to look forward to while you are trying to quit.
You want to drink lots and lots of water on your first couple of days when you're actually quitting smoking. Orange juice also — the water and the orange juice helps get everything out of your system, all of the impurities from the nicotine, from all of the chemicals that are in cigarettes.
Quit Smoking: Staying clean
Paula (smoking cessation coordinator): When you have an urge to smoke, you can just deep breathe, and deep breathe until that urge goes away. It will go away. Urges don't last forever.
If you have a strong urge, don't let it take hold of you. Get out. Be active. Run. Call a friend. Tell them the truth, "I'm having an urge to smoke, help me through this." Join a program. Anything. Anything to get your mind off the urge, because if you don't the urge starts taking on a life of its own.
The first time you quit, and the second time you quit the success rate could be low. But I like to think of it as a trial and error. Every time you try to quit, you are learning what you need to do the next time.