Helping Women Quit Smoking: 7 Common Concerns
A 2015 report found that 1.4% of Malaysian women smoke cigarettes daily1. The approach to quit smoking for women is unique. A 2008 qualitative study surveyed that the reasons Malaysian women initiate smoking are mainly due to peer pressure, parents who smoke, stress management, and to impress others2.
This article explores and addresses 7 common concerns amongst women want to quit smoking.
Concern # 1: “I will gain weight if I stop smoking.”
Research shows that heavy smokers will eventually develop insulin resistance and lower physical activity resulting in weight gain anyway3. There may be slight weight gain when one quits smoking but it will only be temporary. Make it a point to eat healthy and exercise once you decide to quit smoking4.
Apart from exercise and a healthy diet, weight management products are available over the counter. These respective products may contain the following ingredients:
- Garcinia cambogia (suppresses appetite and increases metabolism)
- Meal replacement shakes (minimal calories)
- Amino acid complex (increase metabolism and triggers fat loss)
- Enzymes (that dissolves carbohydrates)
These products are generally tolerable and considered safe. However, do drop by a pharmacy and ask your pharmacist for more information.
Concern # 2 “Smoking allows me to make more friends.”
Females who have at least one close friend who smokes is 13 times likely to pick up smoking5. A 2008 study revealed 20% of young Malaysian females perceive that people who smoke have more friends5. This perception indicates that peer pressure is a strong trigger factor to smoke among women.
To resist the pressure to smoke, try catching up with your friends or colleagues and initiate a conversation at a public place where smoking is banned. One should attempt to choose to be involved in a social group that encourages healthy lifestyle rather than with be in a group of people who smoke.
More effort should be done by the government, schools and companies to conduct health related activities to create a more health conscious society. These efforts can empower women to be more confident about resisting the pressure to smoke5.
Concern # 3 “There isn’t much benefit in quitting.”
A 2008 Malaysian survey revealed that 8.8% of young women viewed smoking as neither good nor bad; moreover 1.7% viewed smoking as good5. But consider this, a woman who quits smoking stand to have the following health benefits6:
Improved fertility (increase chances of conceiving)
A healthier pregnancy, and lower risk of birth defects
Lower risk of developing cervical cancer and other types of cancer
Improved appearance, including reduced wrinkling/aging of skin and whiter teeth
Setting a good example for children and decreasing the likelihood that they will smoke
Speak to your doctor or pharmacist. There are various quit smoking aids that can help you in your journey to quit.
Concern #4: “I smoke. I think smoking is affecting my skin”
Cigarette smoke contains over 4000 harmful chemicals, many of which may damage the collagen and elastin of the skin tissue7,8. Smoking is bad for your skin, it is associated with the following symptoms:8
- Saggy skin
- Hair loss
- Age spots
- Poor skin tone.
It is vital to practice good skin care, such as using mild face cleansers, applying facial moisturizers and using face masks regularly.
Other methods to maintain moisture in the skin is to take some of the following health products:
- Collagen oral supplements
- Stem cell oral supplements
- Sheep placenta oral supplements
- Oral probiotics (i.e. Bifido Longum Rosell-175)
Concern #5: “I smoke. I think smoking is going to give me cancer”
A puff of a cigarette releases a range of carcinogenic agents as well as free radicals. Free radicals are agents that can cause oxidative damage to cells and tissue9. This increases the risk of developing the following cancers9:
- Throat cancer
- Lung cancer
- Oral cavity cancer
- Oesophagus cancer
- Stomach cancer
- And many more types of cancer
The obvious solution is to quit smoking. Consider also to supplement yourself with antioxidants to counteract those free radicals.
Examples of supplement products which provide antioxidant activity are:
- Vitamin C oral supplements
- Vitamin E oral supplements
- Grape seed extract oral supplements
- Astaxanthin oral supplements
- Gluthathione oral supplements
A blend of fruits and vegetables oral supplements (or in natural form)
Concern #6: “I Smoke. I think my teeth are becoming yellow.”
The tar from cigarettes can discolor the teeth over time. Smoking is also associated with the following dental conditions8,10:
- Gum diseases (gingivitis)
- Yellow teeth (discoloration)
- Persistent bad breath
- Higher chance to lose teeth
Oral health will be greatly affected if you continue to smoke. It is important to pay special care to dental health. Brushing teeth with whitening toothpaste may help reduce the yellow tone. Gargling and dental flossing will reduce the risk of gingivitis and bad breath.
Some whitening toothpaste contain the following natural ingredients:
- Activated charcoal
- Sodium bicarbonate
An oral probiotic supplement (i.e. Streptococcus salivarius K12) may help combat against bad breath and improve oral health.
Concern #7: “Vaping is not as harmful as cigarettes. Right?”
In Malaysia, vaping is a common term used interchangeably with electronic cigarettes (E-cigarettes). The mechanics of the device is that a liquid is heated into an aerosol for inhalation. The liquid may comprise of propylene glycol and glycerol and flavors. Some liquid may comprise of nicotine which is the same ingredient in cigarettes that causes addiction4.
Some regard E-cigarettes as a healthier alternative to cigarettes. Some proclaim E-cigarettes to be safer as no tobacco is used. Certain studies showed some smokers found it easier to quit smoking after using E-cigarettes. These studies were however found to be small with limited participants4. The Ministry of Health Malaysia has not recognized E-cigarettes as a method to help people quit smoking. The long term safety of electronic cigarettes remains unclear4. Speak to your doctor or pharmacist. The established quit smoking aids are Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT), Varenicline and Bupropion4.
If you are a smoker and require professional help to quit, please visit any Caring Pharmacy outlets. You can also visit the JOMQUIT website for further information:http://jomquit.moh.gov.my. The website also showcases inspiring stories on how smokers eventually quit smoking!
- The Tobacco Atlas. Malaysia. (Web accessed February 2019). Web link:https://tobaccoatlas.org/country/malaysia/
- Exploring why girls smoke in Malaysia – A qualitative approach. N Al-Sadat and CW Binns. (2008). Asia Pacific Journal of Public Health.
- Consequences of smoking for body weight, body fat distribution, and insulin resistance. A Chiolero, D Faeh, F Paccaud, J Cornuz. (2008). American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
- Clinical Practice Guidelines on Treatment of Tobacco Use Disorder (2016). Ministry of Health Malaysia.
- Smoking in girls and young women in Malaysia. K Foong and YL Tan. (2008). Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Research.
- Smoking. A women’s health issue. FDA. (Web accessed February 2019) Web link: https://www.fda.gov/TobaccoProducts/PublicHealthEducation/HealthInformation/ucm445713.htm
- Cigarette smoking associated with premature facial wrinkling: image analysis of facial skin replicas. JS Koh, H Kang, SW Choi and K Ho. (2012). International Journal of Dermatology.
- Slideshow: Surprising Ways Smoking Affects Your Looks and Life. (Web accessed February 2019). Web link:https://www.webmd.com/smoking-cessation/ss/slideshow-ways-smoking-affects-looks
- Tobacco Smoke: Involvement of Reactive Oxygen Species and Stable Free Radicals in Mechanisms of Oxidative Damage, Carcinogenesis and Synergistic Effects with Other Respirable Particles. A Valavanidis, T Vlachogianni and K Fiotakis. (2009) International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.
- Dental patient knowledge about the effects of smoking and attitudes about the role of dentists in smoking cessation. NA Yahya, R Saub, M Nor and N Yusoff. (2017). Southeast Asian Journal Tropics Medicine and Public Health.