Updated 26 August 2013

2013 Smoking Survey: The dangers of passive smoking

It's time for the 2013 Great SA Smoking Survey. Have your say and you could win R2000.

It's time for the 2013 Great SA Smoking Survey. Have your say and you could win R2000.  Here is an opportunity to alert the public to the dangers of smoking.

According to the South African Heart Foundation, tobacco causes 10000 deaths each year, which equates to approximately one tobacco related death every hour. Smoking has been named as the single largest preventable factor in premature death, disability and disease.

Health risks of smoking:

  • Smoking increases the risk of heart disease two to three times and almost trebles the risk of having a stroke. If you smoke heavily, your risk doubles again.
  • If you are a woman on the contraceptive pill and have high blood pressure or high blood cholesterol, your risk factor is increased by 10 times.
  • Smoking twenty cigarettes per day increases the risk of dying from an aortic aneurysm four to five times and also increases cholesterol levels.
  • By causes hardening of the arteries in the legs, smoking increases your risk of gangrene by over five times.
  • Smoking increases the heart’s demand for oxygen while at the same time reducing its supply. Smoking can also cause spasms in the arteries to the heart, which dangerously affects the heart’s rhythm.

Each time you light up a cigarette, you are taking away eleven minutes of your life and when you inhale you are inhaling over 4 000 chemicals and poisons. These include:

  • Nicotine, which overworks the heart.
  • Carbon monoxide, a poisonous gas also found in car fumes, which displaces essential oxygen
  • Tar

These are just a few of the diseases that you can get from smoking. Why put your life at risk?

Common misconceptions about quitting

Most people fear putting on weight if they give up smoking. Yet, according to the Heart Foundation, people who quit smoking weigh the same on average as people who have never smoked. Some people eat a little more for a while after they stop smoking because the food tastes so much nicer, and their metabolism slows slightly. But it does not take long to get back to a normal.

The good news

It is never too late to benefit from giving up smoking. It is the single most important step you can take towards improving your health. The Heart Foundation shows how your body reacts to you giving up smoking:

  • Within eight hours of giving up, blood oxygen levels rise to normal and carbon monoxide levels fall
  • Within 24 hours, the chance of heart attack and stroke begins to fall
  • Within 48 hours, nerve endings start to re-grow and the sense of taste and smell start to recover
  • Within 72 hours you can hold more air in your lungs and coughing starts to decrease
  • Within days, the tendency for your blood to clot within your arteries lessens
  • Within one to three months, blood circulation improves
  • Within one to three months men's sperm count rises
  • Within five years, the risk of developing lung cancer is halved
  • Within ten years, you will have about the same risk of heart disease as someone who has never smoked

The Heart Foundation offers the following tips to help kick the habit:

  • Think of all the reasons why you want to quit.
  • Set a date to quit, not too far ahead
  • Plan what to do at those times you usually smoke - have some other action planned
  • If you can, stop completely all at once. Eight out of 10 people use this method successfully
  • On the day itself, try to do something different. Keep active, drink plenty of water
  • The first few days are the hardest. Stick it out. It gets better
  • You might be irritable and difficult at first, ask others to help you adjust. It's normal to crave a cigarette - even for months. The craving will weaken.
  • p>If you don't make it the first time, don't give up. Keep trying.
  • Don't smoke that one cigarette to prove you've kicked the habit. You will be in danger of going back to full-scale smoking.
  • Be positive you'll remain a non-smoker.

Nicotine has been internationally recognised as a drug of addiction. Many regular smokers would like to quit but because cigarettes are so addictive, they find it very difficult to do so.

Remember, quitting is the easier part. Remaining a non-smoker for the rest of your life is the real challenge.

Read more about smoking's effects, how to quit and how to create a smoke-free environment here.


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