I smoke, but I’m fine. Many think so, even for years. But the “healthy smoker” does not exist: symptoms such as cough, phlegm and shortness of breath, considered “normal” for a smoker, especially if elderly, and other less directly visible alterations are actually a sign of an existing respiratory, cardiovascular or metabolic disease. Or worse, a tumor. Indeed tobacco causes every year in Italy over 90 thousand dead. Nonetheless 10.9 million Italians continue to light a cigarette every day and, according to data from the Observatory for alcohol and drug use of the Istituto Superiore di Sanità, for years 30% of fellow smokers try to quit without success. Thanks to the stress, then, during the Covid pandemic, things have also worsened, in particular among teenagers, And the number of smokers rose by one million. The most effective strategies to succeed in the business and the reasons that can incentivize to say goodbye to cigarettes were discussed during the Corriere della Sera event. “The Time of Health” during the meeting «Quit smoking. How to have more chances to do it ”, at the Museum of Science and Technology, with the participation of Roberto Boffi, pulmonologist, head of Pneumology and the Anti-Smoking Center of the IRCCS National Cancer Institute of Milan, of Elena Di Cioccio, actress, television and radio host and di Giulia Veronesi, director of the Umberto Veronesi Foundation and director of Robotic Thoracic Surgery at the San Raffaele Hospital in Milan. Quitting has a number of huge benefits, both from a physical, psychological and economic point of view. And it’s never too late: even those who develop a smoking-related cancer, for example in the lung, benefit immediately.
Trying to quit (and succeeding): witness
An interesting experiment is the one attempted with the docu-reality “I’ll stop tomorrow”. The program was presented by Elena Di Cioccio and it was made in order to teach viewers how to permanently quit smoking. Heavy smokers were shown what they were willing to do for a cigarette. And realize the level that your addiction had reached it could become an effective motivation to start walking away from it. «We tried to make smokers participate in a different point of view, compared to the usual gesture of bringing cigarettes to the mouth. We studied a series of games, which could confront people with the consequences of smoking. Consequences not only physical but also, for example, from the economic point of view. We made some simple calculations, multiplying the number of cigarettes smoked over the years by the cost of one pack. Well, figures ranging from 10 thousand to 50 thousand euros have come out. And we asked the participants to imagine what they could have done with that figure. Some have managed to quit, partly because the family supported them and partly for health reasons. But others have not made it“. The first to have succeeded is precisely the presenter, who says: «I started smoking very early, I was about 12 years old and I always smoked. It was a gesture of rebellion. I stopped at 38 ». A challenge won precisely by virtue of this program. «Quitting smoking is very complicated, you need a serious motivation. It is a lifelong battle. And the cultural point of view must be a priority ». Send a message to young people: «Today rebellion is about loving each other. When you realize that the cigarette does not make you strong but destroys you, then the perspective changes ».
The petition to the Veronesi Foundation Parliament
“On average smokers die 10 years earlier and the danger of illness or death rises with the increase in cigarettes smoked and decreases as the number of years in which one has stopped smoking increases – recalled Giulia Veronesi -. THESmoking is one of the scientifically certain causes of 25 different diseases, including over 12 types of cancer. But this information is often known to smokers and to encourage the most hardened, “valid” reasons are needed, which can also vary according to age ». Only the most determined and self-disciplined can say goodbye to tobacco on their own. It is certainly not impossible, but according to statistics only between 4 and 7% of those who try it alone (the fateful “I’ll stop tomorrow”) complete the feat. Prerequisites, however, are an iron willpower and an important basic motivation.Along with the prohibitions (such as those of smoke even in certain outdoor areas) and the high cost of cigarettes: two strategies that have proven to work. «Hence the petition to the Veronesi Foundation Parliament for an increase in the cost of tobacco by at least 10 euros: increasing the price of tobacco is the first effective measure to reduce consumption, especially among the very young, but also among adults – underlined the expert -. Proof? Surveys indicate that in the face of a doubling of the price of a package, 57% of teens say they would stop and 40% would try to reduce the number of cigarettes per day“.
In the face of more than 93 thousand annual deaths in Italy caused by smoking (about 43 thousand of which from cancer) there is a little known number: more than a quarter of deaths concern people who are still young, between 35 and 65 years of age. The latest reports from the Higher Institute of Health show that almost half of the very young smoke or vape from time to time is that one in 10 minors are already habitual smokers. They start in middle school, some in elementary school. They prefer packaged cigarettes, but consumption of both hand-made cigarettes with cheaper bulk tobacco and e-cigs is growing. “The punishments and prohibitions, always accompanied by a dialogue that motivates them, they can be useful when the child is very young and there is reason to believe that his smoking is still quite sporadic – explained Boffi -. It is essential to explain to children that it is an addiction and explain to them the harmfulness of secondhand smoke by banning smoking throughout the home. And obviously setting a good example: if the parent smokes he must quit together with the child. Other reasons can come from sports and sexual activity (smoking decreases performance on both fronts) and aesthetic: skin, hair, teeth immediately suffer from the harmful effects, which quickly regress if you stop ». And then there is money, it is no coincidence that many young people and very young people prefer to buy cut tobacco and roll their own cigarettes. It is good to make children understand what and how many other things they could do with the money they use to smoke.
Numbers in hand, the success rates of smokers who manage to quit are much higher if help is sought from specialized centers and whether proven methods are used. “When a smoker finally decides to quit and asks for help, based on his” identikit “(how much and when he smokes, why, how long and his attitude, even psychological, towards smoking) the doctor decides which strategy to prescribe to help him deal with the symptoms related to abstention – explained Roberto Boffi -. You can opt for a single method or a mix of strategies depending on the person in front of you ». In short, cigarette addiction must be assessed both as a need for a daily amount of nicotine (for example the intense desire to smoke at more or less regular intervals), and as a symbolic value (if smoking is a remedy for anxiety, a source pleasure, a facilitator of social contacts, etc.). “You can opt for a single method or a combination of nicotine replacement therapy (candies, patches, inhalers, chewing gum or sublingual sprays with a nicotine content to alleviate withdrawal symptoms, available in pharmacies), drug treatment based on bupropion, varenicline or cytisine (also valid supports for psychological dependence, on medical prescription) and psychological support “, concluded the expert.