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Updated 03 July 2018

10 smoking myths people still believe

Are you justifying your smoking addiction with any of the following claims? We separate fact from fallacy.

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Quitting smoking is no easy feat.

Glamorous advertising campaigns by the big cigarette brands may be something of the past, but there are still millions of people all over the world who are hooked.

Countless quit smoking programmes and even the most graphic, to-the-point warnings on packages struggle to get devoted smokers to kick the habit.  

And then there are those smokers who won't even consider quitting and use the following myths as an excuse: 

1. 'Smoking keeps me skinny – I will gain weight as soon as I quit'

Nicotine may affect your sense of taste and while some people do gain weight when they quit, smoking cannot be linked to a healthy, trim body.

It is true that nicotine is an appetite suppressant and that quitting might make you more susceptible to weight gain, but it doesn’t have to happen. Nicotine also doesn’t add anything to your overall fitness as it cuts down the amount of oxygen available to your body and forces your heart to work harder.

Focus on eating healthy, balanced meals, up your regular exercise regime and look at using nicotine replacements, such as patches, to help control a raging appetite during the initial stages of quitting.

woman on scale

2. 'Smoking is only a danger to my lungs – and there are plenty of non-smokers who also suffer from lung disease'

While the risk of lung disease is a prominent disadvantage of smoking, it’s not the only illness that should scare you. Smoking also causes significant damage to your blood vessels, which can lead to hypertension and cardiovascular disease.

In fact, according to a previous Health24 article, smoking is one of the biggest risk factors of heart disease. A smoker's risk of damage to the arteries is directly linked to the number of daily cigarettes. 

Smoking also increases your risk for several other chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes.

lung x-ray

3. 'My smoking harms no one else'

Several studies have shown that second-hand smoking (when others inhale the smoke of a primary smoker) can also have dire effects on one’s health.

Non-smokers who are exposed to passive smoking in their home environment or at work have a 30% increased risk of cardiovascular disease and lung cancer than their peers who are not exposed to cigarette smoke.

young people smoking in bar

4. 'I smoke light menthol cigarettes – they are not as bad for you'

Unfortunately this is far from true. Low tar cigarettes are shown to be just as dangerous as those with a high tar content, as users take much deeper drags. And smoking is still smoking, no matter what the tar content of the cigarette is. If your usual "safe" brand is not available, it’s likely that you’ll settle for something stronger. There are no known benefits to lighter brands.

The menthol flavouring in some cigarettes provides a cooling sensation, encouraging you to inhale more frequently and deeply. This potentially makes it even more damaging than non-menthol variations as you are able to inhale more and hold the smoke far longer.  

5. 'The filter gets rid of all the toxins'

Those brown stains on a cigarette butt do not mean that all the toxins are removed from the cigarette. Most of those toxins still get inhaled and remain in your lungs, and what you see in the filter is only the tip of the iceberg.

Watch this video and see for yourself how ineffective filters are in removing toxins from your cigarette. And, according to the 2010 Surgeon’s General Report on Smoking, filters only break down smoke particles, making nicotine easier to absorb, which means that filters don't actually protect you. 

6. 'I only smoke hubbly bubbly or e-cigarettes'

The truth is, inhaling smoke from anything is extremely dangerous as it contains high concentrations of toxins and cancer-causing chemicals.

The dangers of e-cigarettes have been researched over the years and hubbly bubbly (hookah or shisha) is not a safe alternative to traditional cigarettes either. According to a study featured on Health24, "The cooled and sweetened flavour of hookah makes it more enticing to kids and they falsely believe it's less harmful."

And it's not true that the water in a hubbly filters out the toxins.

teenager smoking hookah

7. I’m only a social smoker – the risks aren’t nearly as bad

Lighting up with your friends over a weekend or whenever you are a bit tipsy? Research has shown that the occasional cigarette every once in a while is enough to increase your risk for health problems, including most cancers.

There is some good news, however. If you are a social smoker, chances are that you will have a better chance of quitting, as you only smoke in certain situations or because of certain triggers.

8. 'A healthy diet and exercise regime will counteract my smoking habit'

Do you follow a healthy lifestyle, except for smoking? Hate to break it to you, but unfortunately there is little that a healthy diet and exercise regime can do to reverse the effects of smoking. 

The protection you get from a healthy lifestyle doesn't count for much compared to the dangerous effects of smoking.

9. 'My lungs will regenerate themselves – smoking can’t harm them permanently'

While it’s possible for your lung function to improve when you stop smoking during your early 30s, the lungs of older people do not improve quite as much, according to a study published in the BMJ. Quitting when you are older than 30 will, however, slow down deterioration, so don’t be deterred. No matter how long you've been smoking, you can still cut your risk of heart attack and cancer when you quit. 

10. 'Quit-smoking programmes do not work'

Are you hesitant to rely on the aid of a quit smoking programme because you believe that it's ultimately going to be a waste of money? Think again. While many people are doubtful about investing in a quit smoking programme that involves nicotine replacements, the National Health Service of the UK reports that nicotine replacement therapy programmes can triple your chances of successfully quitting. Those who rely on willpower alone have the lowest chance of successful quitting. 

Enter our smoking survey to win R5 000. 

Image credit: iStock

 
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