Smoking still a large problem, but solutions are available
By Devinn Jani
Smoking remains a pervasive issue across the world. While it is widely known to have adverse side effects, many people have difficulties quitting.
One of the reasons could be related to the fact they simply might not know the different treatment options on the market. The good news is that there are a variety of alternatives to help someone quit.
Tobacco use first began in the Americas, where local natives would chew and smoke the associated leaves. As Europeans made contact with these native populations, anecdotes of this captivating and influential plant made it an intriguing bartering tool with natives.
Eventually, the plant made its way back to the European continent by means of French ambassador Jean Nicot de Villemain, who propagating the “medicinal” properties of
tobacco, eventually leading to his name being used to name the most popular tobacco plant, Nicotiana tabacum, and also the eventual addictive psychoactive alkaloid, nicotine.
Extensive tobacco (nicotine) use spread rapidly across the globe, as it became the cash crop of the early American colonies.
Further inventions such as the cigarette-rolling machine in 1880 continued nicotine’s spreading to the point where billions of cigars and cigarettes were being sold yearly in the early 1900s.
However, as science advanced nicotine received its first serious attempts of resistance.
Culminating with a 1964 warning by then Surgeon General Luther Terry, stating that tobacco causes lung cancer and bronchitis.
Despite these known effects nicotine use still continues to this day causing tremendous costs both financially and culturally for society. Recent reports suggest the annual societal costs from tobacco use range between $289 and $332.5 billion in the United States alone.
Even more threatening than the financial costs are the effects on life span. In the United States tobacco use leads to over 480,000 deaths yearly.
These costs along with a global health movement warning of the dangers of tobacco have led smoking rates to decrease, remarkably from 20.9% of the population 18 years and older in 2005 to just 15.8% in 2016.
Despite this admirable decrease, it is estimated that 5.6 million Americans younger than 18 will still suffer a premature death from smoking-related disease. Making efforts to treat nicotine, the active addictive psychoactive ingredient in tobacco, an important goal for our society.
There are many ways to help a smoker aid a smoker in stopping; however all have varying success.
The most common, and perhaps most intuitive, is behavioral therapy which stresses the motivations to quit, handle cravings and withdrawals.
These psychosocial treatments provide the most benefit when used concurrently with pharmacotherapies and typically increase their efficacy. The first pharmacotherapy available was nicotine replacement therapy in the form of nicotine gum in 1984, allowing smokers to receive nicotine but avoid the chemicals in tobacco smoke.
Nicotine replacement therapy was effective and shown to double the odds of smoking cessation compared to placebos. Varenicline is a drug that has shown promising effects due to its relative safety and high efficacy in aiding smoking cessation compared to alternative aids.
With so many alternatives out there, it is more than possible to not only quit short-term but to remain smoke-free for throughout your life.