Updated: Jul 10
By: Megan Sanchez
No patches, no smoke-quitting guides, no pep talks, just a story about tobacco addiction to inspire you to live a healthier life.
"I haven’t really publicly spoken about my tobacco addiction on social media, and haven’t really updated my friends about it.
Not because I am ashamed or embarrassed.
On my journey to better myself and my health, I just got super busy and never got around to it.
But here I am. 100% ready to talk about it.
My name is Megan, I am the founder of EVMO News, and in this article, I will address how I beat my tobacco addiction, how long I smoked, how long I’ve been clean for…. And all the facts and statistics regarding smoking & health …. Let’s GO!"
When Did I Start Smoking?
Unfortunately, the Mediterranean region is notorious for being among the most densely populated smoking regions in Europe.
My smoking experiences first started In Italy and Greece during my high school years where I was indirectly peer pressured into starting to smoke in order to blend in with the other teens.
I didn’t realize it back then and I would have definitely denied peer pressure as being the cause for my smoking.
Now, as an adult, I realize that I could’ve chosen not to bond with my friends over that activity.
Do I regret it? No. I believe that every experience in life teaches you something important.
Am I happy that I quit? Absolutely YES!
And I hope that I can inspire many more young people to quit their addiction because it is not worth it to harm yourself with the excuse of “stress” or “being cool” or simply to “party better”.
How Long Did I Smoke for?
In terms of an every-day addiction, I smoked for a total of 10 years. EW and YIKES!
How Long Have I Quit Smoking?
A total of 3 years, I have not fallen back into smoking since graduating from university.
What Took Me so Long to Quit?
Honestly, in my experience I had to reach the “breaking point”.
This for me, meant waking up and feeling severe pains all over my body and beginning to feel chronic fatigue.
I was about 25 at the time and I started feeling my lungs tire out even from taking a simple walk.
I snapped out of my “tobacco hypnosis”. I came face to face with reality after the fun and games.
I asked myself: “why am I messing up my health for this ‘cancer stick’? Am I nuts? Let’s research some facts about tobacco addiction...”
And that’s exactly what I did. I looked up the facts.
I’ll share with you below the most important ones I deem necessary to understand for anyone that wishes to quit their addiction and start living a healthier life.
Understanding the Psychology of Nicotine Addiction
Smoking is considered one of the most common and difficult of human addictions.
This is mostly due to the addictive chemical called nicotine, which is a main ingredient in tobacco.
But what makes nicotine so addictive?
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, consuming nicotine — through inhalation via regular cigarettes or vaping — triggers the release of the chemical known as dopamine in the human brain.
As with many drugs, dopamine causes a “feeling of relaxation or bliss” which triggers the brain to desire to repeat the same behavior that causes this bliss.
This is the reason why a person may get addicted to smoking tobacco over and over again.
This process is formally called reinforcement.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, an average smoker takes about 10 or more puffs on each cigarette.
A person who smokes one pack (25 cigarettes) a day, gets roughly 250 “hits” every day.
If you think about it, those are a lot of times that the brain is being “taught” to keep on “using” and “craving” nicotine.
Those are many times that the brain is “taught” that “nicotine makes you happy.”
Now that we know that our brain is tricked into thinking that smoking = dopamine = bliss , we understand the subconscious thoughts of an addicted smoker.
To the addicted smoker, life’s problems and “hellish sentiments” are escaped by engaging in the temporary bliss of smoking - where all “feels good” and all “seems resolved”.
However, when we take a step back from dopamine and see the real effects of smoking, we are able to better rationalize the toxicity of smoking.
Stats from U.S Population Sample
Cigarettes cause more than 480,000 premature deaths in the United States each year.
That’s about 1,300 deaths every day.
More deaths are caused each year by tobacco use than by all deaths from human HIV, illegal drug and alcohol use, motor vehicle injuries, suicides, and murders combined.
On average, adults who smoke cigarettes die 14 years earlier than nonsmokers.
Based on current smoking patterns, about 25 million Americans alive today will die prematurely from smoking-related illnesses, including 5 million people younger than 18.
More recently, research has shown that chronic smoking is also associated with poorer neurocognitive functioning (NIDA, 2020)
Stats from E.U Sample
The European Region has the highest proportion of tobacco use in the world, with an estimated 209 million people (or 29%) smoking (WHO, 2019: 14)
It is estimated that half of smokers in EU will die prematurely as a result of smoking
Smoking also increases the overall risk of disease in populations, affecting at least 20 tissues, organs and systems (including the lungs, heart, brain, colon, bladder and breast) (ibid.)
Tobacco use significantly increases the probability of dying prematurely from several NCD causes of death, accounting for:
25%, 41% and 63% of CVD, cancer and respiratory disease deaths in men, and 6%, 10% and 37% of deaths in women, respectively. (WHO, 2019: 24)
Stats from More World Country Examples
The tobacco epidemic is one of the biggest public health threats the world faces today, killing more than 7 million people a year (WHO, 2019: 26).
The ten countries with the highest smoking rates are:
Bosnia and Herzegovina (38.60%)
Source: (World Population Review, 2020)
The Point of It All:
A combination of worrisome statistics along with my body signaling alerts, such as: bodily pains, and lungs tiring out after a simple walk, motivated me to throw my last pack of cigarettes in the trash and to never go back to smoking.
Truth be told, the first week was the hardest.
I experienced withdrawal symptoms from nicotine and I craved the idea of smoking a lot.
After week 2, the smell of smoke nauseated me and deeply bothered me.
After 2 years of quitting, I took a puff of a cigarette one evening at dinner with friends, just to see what effect it would have on me.
I coughed for a couple of minutes and felt like I had graveyard dirt in my mouth.
My friends laughed at me, as I said: “There you have it, I am not a smoker. I can never go back to smoking.”
My lungs are very appreciative of my decision and after 3 years of being clean from tobacco, I am now getting my story out there.
The scope of this article is not to “convert” smokers to quit and tell them “they are bad people because they smoke”.
The idea here is not to “guilt-trip” ex-smokers for smoking in their past.
I’m just out here sharing my experience with you to hopefully connect with you in some way.
I do hope you will treat your body as a temple, independently of the decision you make in life to smoke or not.
Be kind with yourself, love yourself.
Megan Sanchez is the founder & CEO of EVMO News.
She's authored 36 publications, won top awards like the "Summa cum laude" in International Relations & Global Politics (2017) and Obama Award of Academic Excellence (2011).
Megan has studied 7 languages, and grew up internationally as a third culture individual.
Now she is managing the EVMO News Journalism Group, the EVMO Ocean Cleanup (2021) and EVMO Fashion (2020).
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