If you’re one of the 80,000 Kenyan women who still smoke, this is a must read for you…
Twenty six per cent of the Kenyan population are smokers, says the World Health Organisation (WHO). Men make up 24 per cent of the statistics – “Thanks to testosterone that makes them want to outshine each other in just about anything,” says Dr Daniel Nduiga, a consultant physician at Karen Hospital. Female smokers make up two per cent of that number. But before you dismiss this as insignificant, note that this accounts for 80,000 women – who are potentially responsible for 80,000 families. Half of these are likely to die from smoking related illnesses, notes the WHO.
And the numbers are rising. With the boundaries between men and women being increasingly broken down, some of us have no qualms taking up male dominated habits – smoking included, says Dr Nduiga. “Ten years ago the statistics were so negligible we hardly asked if they smoked. Now we ask all our patients. Any hesitation in response is a definite yes,” explains the doctor, who has worked in a number of heart centres.
Most Kenyan women who smoke are between 25 and 45 years old. They are well-educated, have international exposure and are upwardly mobile, financially. The bug is spreading among the middle class too, informs Dr Nduiga.
A hypothetical study on the aforementioned women – who frequent places where smoking is permitted like night clubs, finds that four out of 10 have tried smoking. Half of that number do it occasionally. These women are aware of the dangers of smoking, which include, heart conditions and an array reproductive health issues like infertility.
How about the once-in-a-while social smokers? Do the following math: number of years smoked, multiplied by the average number of cigarettes smoked in a day, all divided by 20 (usually the number of cigarettes in a packet). If your answer is above four, you are at high risk, says Dr Nduiga. Chances of getting hooked to it are also high. When you stop smoking, however, the risks begin to lessen immediately, he reassures. But the worst case scenario the doctor has encountered is a 35- year-old woman who he had to make carry around an oxygen tank.
- Infertility – smoking is linked to impaired ovulation, implantation of the fertilized egg and the cervical fluid.
- If you are taking oral birth-control medication, smoking exposes you to blood clots, strokes and heart attacks. This could be because of the tobacco chemical interacting with oestrogen. The risk increases with age.
- Smoking when pregnant has been linked to pre-term births, underweight babies and still births. Children born from smoking mothers are known to have more respiratory conditions, colds and ear infections.
- Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) is more than 30 per cent likely to occur in smokers.
- Premature menopause – especially if you started smoking in your teens.
- Bone loss – Smoking increases your chance of getting osteoporosis by 10 per cent.
- Shrinkage of the lungs walls – This makes you pant more during a physically engaging moment. They can eventually fail altogether for long term smokers.
- Smoking is also linked to cancers of the mouth, lungs, larynx, pharynx, oesophagus and kidney, as well as breast, cervical, bladder and vulva cancer.
Quitting aids include prescription tablets, smoking patches, nicotine gum, electric cigarettes and counselling, says Dr Nduiga. Natural remedies such as drinking banana stalk juice, charcoal-in-water solution or smoking the special sticks usually sold at Nairobi’s smoking zones are another alternative. “But only as long as you have a go ahead from a medical practitioner,” the consultant physician says. The majority of his patients who managed to quit smoking successfully went cold turkey, he says.
Going cold turkey
It is never too late. You can stop smoking and reap the benefits of a smoke-free life despite your age, how long you have been a smoker and how badly your body has been damaged by smoking.
Be patient. Smoking gives us a ‘quick fix’. Knowing that you will have to go through a period of not getting this relief helps you sail through it with less anticipation.
Don’t procrastinate. Pick the quitting date and prepare for it. Try getting as much quitting information as you can before this day. Feel free to tell those around you about this grand date. The support you will get may amaze you. Note: smokers will hardly give you the thumbs up.
Cut out stress on the D-day. The first three days may be hellish. Try and make this time as calm and as peaceful as possible. You could take some days off from work. Sleep as much as you can.
Snack more. Snacking helps keep you at ease as your blood sugar fluctuates with the nicotine withdrawal. Chewing gum helps as well. Eat all
Take a walk. A daily 30-minute walk and deep breathing helps reduce the fatigue, head fuzziness and the irritability. It helps stabilise your fluctuating blood sugar, and will keep you from gaining weight, which is common after quitting the habit.
Boost your energy with a multi-vitamin. This, together with a healthy eating, helps you fight the tiredness that comes with the withdrawal.