It’s Stoptober, a 28 day challenge to the 8 million UK smokers to quit smoking ‘en masse’ for the month of October. In 1974, almost half the UK population smoked compared to just 20% of men and 21% of women today. Of these, approximately 69% want to quit completely. Smokers who stop smoking for 28 days are five times more likely to quit successfully.[quote align=”left” name=”” role=””]In 1974, almost half the UK population smoked compared to just 20% of men and 21% of women today[/quote]
Not many smokers consider that, on average, one tree is cut down for every 300 cigarettes, or that the land requirement for tobacco farming accounts for the deforestation of 20,000 acres in the Philippines alone. This results in reduced biodiversity and habitats are damaged and destroyed, with intensive monoculture soil nutrients become depleted. Eventually, the associated build-up of parasites and soil degradation of the farm land deems the soil unsuitable for farming and the farmers move on to restart the process of environmental devastation elsewhere, leaving the initial area virtually devoid of life.
Cigarette stub or butt littering has a more local environmental impact. The white fibres in cigarette filters are 95% cellulose acetate, a form of plastic which takes from 18 months to 10 years to degrade dependent on the environmental conditions in which they are littered. The smoker may be partially protected of some toxins by the filters during smoking, but these stubs are the most common forms of plastic littler worldwide. The toxins which remain on the filter leak into water systems, endangering marine life.[quote align=”right” name=”” role=””]One in 25 trees felled globally are used as fuel to dry tobacco leaves.[/quote]
Cigarettes contain over 4000 chemicals; 200 of which are poisonous and over 50 are known to be carcinogenic. With each deep inhalation of cigarette smoke, the superhot core releases metals including arsenic and toxins such as formaldehyde and hydrogen cyanide. The major negative biological impacts of smoking on both the smoker and those exposed to environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) are well known. In brief, cigarette smoke contains binding tar (causes lung cancer), nicotine (addictive) and carbon monoxide (causes heart disease); the World Health Organisations states that there is no safe level of exposure to tobacco smoke.
Neurobiological research suggests a smoker’s brain develops additional nicotine binding receptors to accommodate the large dose of nicotine inhaled. These stimulate withdrawal cravings when nicotine levels fall. The receptors can take up to 6-12 weeks after a former smoker has quit for their brain to match that of a non-smoker and it is during this time that the risk of relapse is high. Dopamine depletion in the neurochemical system has been linked to moodiness and lethargy, amongst other things.[quote align=”left” name=”” role=””]Cigarettes contain over 4000 chemicals; 200 of which are poisonous and over 50 are known to be carcinogenic[/quote]
It is hoped that those who quit as part of ‘Stoptober’ can start a mass movement of positive peer support inspiring other smokers to quit successfully. For the two-thirds of smokers that light that first cigarette before the age of 18 , it can take less than two weeks for a tobacco addiction. The UK population of smokers is falling but worldwide this number is rising, which could leave a mammoth global footprint affecting the long term health of the planet and its inhabitants.
Join the campaign to receive free support from a Stoptober pack, an online and smartphone app and a 28-day text support service with daily motivational tips www.smokefree.nhs.uk/Stoptober