Top image: Young people dressed up as clowns give leaflets against smoking habits at the Plaza Cagancha in Motevideo in the framework of World No Tobacco Day on May 31, 2012.
The health hazards of smoking are well known: Cigarettes are known to contribute to the prevalence of cancers of the mouth, head, lung, breast, bladder, stomach and other parts of the body. It is also linked to coronary heart disease and many other fatal disorders. It is suspected of causing infertility in women and raises the risk of fetal deformity during pregnancy.
The World Health Organization said it kills 5 million people worldwide a year, which is equivalent to one person dying every six seconds. The organization warned that the death toll could rise to more than 8 million by 2030 unless urgent actions are taken.
Still, people smoke.
According to the Ministry of Health and Welfare, about 48.3 per cent of men and 6.3 per cent of women over 19 years old are smokers as of 2010. The rate is the highest among OECD member states, the ministry said.
"In one cigarette, there are more than 20 class-A carcinogens and 60 other cancer-causing ingredients. When one smokes for a long period of time the chances of getting cancer are 20 times higher than for non-smokers," said Dr. Lee Jin-hwa of Ewha Womans University Medical Center.
The government is gearing up to encourage more people to cease puffing, too. Health authorities are providing free anti-smoking programs for smokers at public healthcare centers and established the hotline 1544-9030, which provides real-time counseling services for those willing to kick the habit.
More than 1,000 public spots as well as internet cafes and pool halls nationwide have been designated as smoke-free areas. The government also aims to disclose full information about toxins used in tobacco production and add graphic photos of the consequences of smoking on cigarette packaging.
"It is time people for quit smoking," Lee stressed.
In order to mark World No Tobacco Day that fell on Thursday, Lee suggested a set of guidelines to take into consideration when planning to quit smoking:
Motivate yourself. Encourage yourself with benefits. For example, you can keep reminding yourself that not smoking will save you money and improve your health.
Pick a day and just start. Do not hesitate to throw out your cigarettes that very day.
Ask for help. Let everyone around you know that you have decided to stop smoking. Ask for their cooperation. This is great motivation, too.
Find out what others who have successfully quit smoking have done. Listen to their advice.
Take full advantage of the various anti-smoking programs around you.
Avoid going to drinking sessions or places where smoking is prevalent. Until you are fully confident that you can resist all temptation, don't expose yourself.
The so-called withdrawal symptom hits its peak from the first to third week into the program. Therefore, don't be overly anxious if a sudden, strong impulse to start smoking haunts you. It is natural. If you can overcome the urge during that period, it will become much easier during the remaining stages.
Use a nicotine patch or gum if you feel the urge to grab cigarettes once again. It is a long journey and using some assistance isn't a bad idea.
Drink water often. Eat lots of fruits and vegetables that have abundant vitamins and fibers.
Release your stress with exercise. Watch your weight. Some replace their urge to smoke by indulging in snacking, but that is not a wise idea.