Smoking


Hello. Paul Zollinger Read. I’m the Chief
Medical Officer at Bupa. And I want to talk to you today about smoking.
Now, I’m sure you’re all aware about the dangers of smoking. Now what smoking does, is it has
a variety of chemicals in, so it has tar and it has nicotine. Nicotine is highly addictive,
so you start to smoke and you can’t give up because you’re hooked on the nicotine. The
tar then gets into the cells in the lungs and over the years damages those. And then
some of those cells can change. They begin to multiply in an uncontrolled way and form
clumps of cancerous cells, or tumours, in the lungs.
It’s difficult to pick it up early because the symptoms are, people tend to have a cough,
which is really quite common. Occasionally they’ll cough up blood but often that’s too
late so lung cancer’s a really difficult condition to treat. But what about some other conditions?
Well, perhaps one of the commonest is what we call chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
You probably know it as emphysema and that’s what my granddad had. He smoked for years,
picked it up in the first world war and wrecked his lungs. Emphysema basically causes holes
in the lung and over the year the holes become bigger and bigger. And the amount of exercise
you can do becomes less and less until you can’t really get up from a chair and you are
on home oxygen. What happens is that the bronchi and alveoli
in your lungs become damaged. The lining of your bronchi become inflamed and produce lots
of mucus that can block your airways and the alveoli can also become damaged. All this
means that less oxygen passes into your bloodstream making it more difficult for you to breathe.
So that’s what we call COPD. The other one is heart disease. I’m sure you’re
all aware of the significant affect that smoking has on heart disease. And I think it’s interesting
that when the smoking ban came in place, within nine months, the number of heart attacks fell
considerably. So, clearly, smoking furs up the arteries. But that just doesn’t cause
lung disease. Because it furs up the arteries in your legs as well. And that’s another common
symptom. In the medical world we call it claudication. To you it’s cramp. And when that’s due to
smoking and the arteries fur up, that cramp comes on sooner and sooner and sooner. And
then you go to the doctor’s and they desperately try to put tubes in and unblock those arteries.
Sometimes it’s successful and people give up smoking and people are cured.
Smoking takes a long time to do damage to most people. But there is help. You can seek
advice from your doctor about help to give up smoking. There are many tried and tested
strategies. But what we know works well is when you plan to give up smoking. So you tell
all your family and your friends. You make an agreement with the doctor who may have
put you in touch with a counsellor. And they support you with treatments such as nicotine
patches. It’s not easy because you’re giving up something
which is addictive. However, the benefits are immense. Giving up smoking reduces the
incidence of the diseases I’ve described. But finally, there’s one other point because
smoking doesn’t just affect you. It affects the people in your house, your spouse, your
partner, your children and passive smoking is a really significant danger to health,
particularly in children. And when I was a GP, the number of times I saw conditions in
children such as asthma precipitated by smoking. The number of times I saw premature children
with low birth weights because of smoking. Smoking has many other affects.
So, if you’re a smoker, you can be helped to give up. Contact your doctor. There are
really successful treatments that can help you.