You’ve heard that smoking a hookah is actually not that bad for you, and your non-smoking buddy says quitting is just a matter of will-power. Which of these claims have stood the test of the lab?
Here is our pick of the top five myths about smoking:
Quitting is about will-power
Whereas will-power is certainly a part of quitting, for most nicotine addicts it’s not the whole story by far.
Nicotine addiction is serious, and the difficulties of quitting should not be underestimated. According to the US Health Service some people can find cigarettes as addictive as heroin or cocaine.
A lucky few may find their bodies allow them to quit on will-power alone, but for the vast majority of addicts a combination of nicotine replacement therapy and counselling is the most likely way to quit successfully. And, even then, many addicts will need more than one quitting attempt to kick the habit forever.
Hookahs, menthols and filtered cigarettes are better for you
Hookahs, also called water pipes or hubbly bubblies, are often thought of as a healthy form of smoking, since the smoke is cooled down. But the fact that the smoke feels cool in your throat doesn’t mean it’s safe.
Indeed, you are still being exposed to substances such as nicotine and carbon dioxide. And, according to preliminary research, hookahs can increase your risk of developing both heart disease and cancer.
Similarly, filtered, menthol and low-tar cigarettes also don’t really deliver on the promise of a healthy alternative. Harmful chemicals still make it to the lungs. And, in addition, it’s been suggested that people on these “lighter” alternatives tend to inhale both more often and more deeply.
And if you think chewing tobacco is the way to go, well, not only does it significantly increase your risk of developing heart disease, it also has a nasty habit of leading to oral cancer.
You’ll just die a bit sooner
It is well established that on average smokers cannot expect to live as long as non-smokers. But this is only half the story.
Apart from dying sooner, smokers are also at risk of having the last years of their lives made highly uncomfortable by heart disease, lung cancer, emphysema and vision loss.
So, apart from smoking-related heart attacks, the idea that smokers will simply drop dead a few years sooner than non-smokers is certainly misleading. The sad truth is that most smokers are likely to spend a good few years suffering with persistent coughs, shortness of breath, poor vision and a host of other unpleasant symptoms.
Smoking is your own business
Unless you make very sure that you only smoke well away from other people, smoking certainly isn’t just your own business.
Inhaling even just small amounts of second-hand smoke can significantly increase non-smokers' risk of developing heart disease or lung cancer.
A recent study suggested that even when you’re driving with all the car windows open, kids in the back seat will still be exposed to dangerous levels of second-hand smoke.
Furthermore, when a pregnant woman inhales second-hand smoke, her foetus can be harmed.
Smoking is sexy
A recent study found that Brad Pitt had lit up 42 times in films released between 1998 and 2003. When celebrities smoke on camera, it reinforces the notion that smoking is sexy, attractive, or masculine. Nothing could be further from the truth.
In fact, men who smoke are at a significantly higher risk of developing erectile dysfunction. Add to that bad breath, stained teeth and an ever-present cough, and the reality of smoking starts seeming everything but sexy.
(Marcus Low, Health24, updated August 2011)
Five Common Myths About Quitting Smoking. March 2001. U.S. Public Health Service. http://www.surgeongeneral.gov/tobacco/5myths.htm
10 Myths about smoking - AHealthyMe.com
Stop smoking Centre May 2010