A new study from UCL researchers has revealed that the number of 18-34-year-olds in the UK who smoke increased by 25% during the first lockdown period.[i] In many ways, I can understand how this has happened. With everyone cooped up at home under stressful circumstances, it’s easy to see why picking up a pack of cigarettes could be viewed as a good way to let off some steam.
What I want to speak about is the necessity of breaking this habit, especially now that things are returning back to normal. The problem with cigarettes is that they fast become addictive. Although how quickly someone becomes addicted will depend hugely on their personality and a number of other factors, in some cases it can only take a couple of cigarettes before nicotine dependence kicks in, and once individuals have reached this stage, it can be difficult to quit.
I won’t go into depth about the overall health problems that smoking can cause, but I am going to highlight the huge impact it has on oral health. Minor effects of smoking include bad breath and stained teeth. However, regular smoking can soon start to cause a number of significant health problems, including higher incidence of gum disease and a greater chance of oral cancer.[ii]
It goes without saying that these conditions are bad news. Gum disease can quickly lead to tooth loss and other significant and potentially life-altering consequences, while the magnitude of oral cancer is evident in the name alone. As such, it’s a smart move to quit smoking as soon as possible, especially if you have only picked up the habit over the last 18 months.
Luckily, there are multiple avenues available for those looking to cut the habit. As with any addiction, stopping smoking isn’t as simple as just putting the packet down and calling it a day. The process takes willpower and determination, so you need to be in the right frame of mind before you proceed.
A top tip on how to achieve this is to constantly remind yourself of the benefits of quitting the habit. Smoking is expensive, unhealthy and stopping will not only make you feel better physically, but also be better for your wallet. Another good tip is to join a support network of others who are trying to kick the habit and to make a solid plan on how to proceed. Depending on how many cigarettes you are currently smoking a day, it may be better to phase out tobacco gradually rather than to go cold turkey straight away – everyone is different, so finding an approach that works for you is crucial.
Another good idea is to explore the available products that have been developed to help people to quit. Nicotine gum, patches and other adjuncts have all been proven to help, but again the success of these approaches will vary from person to person.
Ultimately, quitting smoking is a difficult but necessary step to take in order to preserve your oral and general health. Don’t be afraid to seek help and advice and remember – quitting may take time, but the rewards of being smoke-free are undoubtedly worth the battle.
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[i] UCL News. Surge in Smoking Among Young Adults During https://www.ucl.ac.uk/news/2021/aug/surge-smoking-among-young-adults-during-lockdown
[ii] Oral Health foundation. Smoking and oral health. Link: https://www.dentalhealth.org/smoking-and-oral-health [Last accessed September 21].