People start smoking for lots of different reasons, and once they get into the habit, it can be pretty hard to stop. That's because smoking is both physically and mentally addictive. If you're a smoker, it's important to understand the reasons behind your habit, as well as the impacts of smoking on your health
Health impacts of smoking
Tobacco smoke contains nicotine - a stimulant drug - and a number of other chemicals including carbon monoxide, ammonia and tar. These substances have a number of negative impacts on your health including:
Yellow nails and fingers
Decreasing your ability to fight off illness
Shortness of breath
In the longer term, smoking has some other really serious health impacts, including;
Increasing your risk of cancer in many parts of your body
Causing damage to your arteries, and increasing risk of heart disease
Increasing your risk of macular degeneration, an eye condition that can cause blindness
Causing damage to your lungs, increasing risk of emphysema and other lung problems (such as lung cancer)
Increasing your risk of gum disease
Increasing your risk of stroke
Despite knowing smoking has a lot of negative health impacts, smoking can be a really difficult habit to break. That's because smoking is both physically and mentally addictive, which means people have to fight the other habits of smoking, as well as their addiction to nicotine. If you understand your smoking habits, it makes giving up smoking much easier.
Certain situations and activities will often trigger a desire to smoke. These include
Talking on the phone
Watching someone else smoke
Working under pressure
After a meal
People also often feel a need to smoke in response to emotions they are feeling. Smoking is often used as a way to:
It can be hard to quit without addressing these issues or finding alternative and more productive solutions.
Targeting the ears
As an acupuncturist, I target certain areas of the body for certain conditions. When it comes to helping smokers quit, pressure points in the ears are especially effective in suppressing cravings. The National Acupuncture Detoxification Association supports an entire protocol around this set of ear suppression points for addiction.
In between acupuncture treatments, patients at home can use ‘ear seeds,’ a form of acupressure. This involves placing tiny balls on the ear with adhesive tape in targeted areas. This technique allows patients to self-treat by applying pressure to points on the ear to help temper the urge to smoke.
There’s a lot of theory behind the use of these pressure points. The cranial nerves, accessed through the ears, stimulate the nervous system to suppress the urge for cigarettes. We’re trying not only to suppress cravings, but also to engage the relaxation response.
Studies show that acupuncture promotes the brain to pump out endorphins, our feel-good hormones. We’re really manipulating the body using needles and targeted pressure to help support people as they work through withdrawal symptoms.
Will it help me?
The goal of acupuncture is to help curb any cravings you have for the nicotine itself. Generally, I tell patients to be tobacco-free for at least 24 hours before their first consult for acupuncture. If they take that step, this tells me they have the mindset to be tobacco-free. Many times, a patient’s spouse has scheduled the appointment, or peer pressure spurs them to come in, and they’re not really ready.
If a patient is not ready to throw away the cigarettes in their pocket, that tells me they’re not mentally ready to quit.
Once patients are committed, I start seeing them two or three times per week in the beginning. Then the visits taper to once a week as withdrawal symptoms fade. Eventually, visits are discontinued altogether when they are tobacco-free.