Tobacco & Smoking

Tobacco a central nervous system stimulant, mostly bought as cigarettes, is another commonly used drug in NZ.  It is also the most common cause of drug related death. Accordingly to 1999 Ministry of Health statistics, 26% of New Zealand adults are       smokers.

New Zealand has taken a number of positive steps towards dealing with the health risks of tobacco.  Measures used have included taxes, bans on promotion, age restrictions and health education.  It is illegal to sell tobacco to people under the age of 18 years.

Another step has been The Smoke Free Environments Act (2003), which came into force in January 2004.  This act is largely to protect workers and other individuals from exposure to second hand smoke.

Nicotine Addiction

Nicotine is the chemical in cigarettes that makes them addictive. Higher levels of nicotine  in a cigarette can make it harder to quit smoking. Some researchers feel nicotine is as  addictive as heroin. In fact, nicotine has actions similar to heroin and cocaine, and the chemical affects the same area of the brain.

Depending on the amount taken in, nicotine can act as either a stimulant or a sedative. Cigarette smoking has definite immediate positive effects. For example, it can:

  • Boost mood and relieve minor depression
  • Suppress little fits of anger
  • Enhance concentration and short-term memory
  • Produce a modest sense of well-being

Most smokers have a special fondness for the first cigarette of the day because of the way brain cells respond to the day’s first nicotine rush. Nicotine, particularly taken in the first few cigarettes of the day, increases the activity of dopamine, a chemical in the brain that elicits pleasurable sensations, a feeling similar to achieving a reward.

Over the course of a day, however, the nerve cells become desensitized to nicotine. Smoking becomes less pleasurable, and smokers may be likely to increase their intake to get their “reward”. A smoker develops tolerance to these effects very quickly and requires increasingly higher levels of nicotine.


10 Reasons to Quit

  1. You’ll sleep better.
    Smokers are four times as likely to report feeling unrested after a night’s sleep, an American study found; it seems going through nicotine withdrawal each night can contribute to sleep disturbances.
  2. Nonsmokers have stronger bones than smokers.
    Women smokers have been found to lose 2.3% to 3.3% of bone mineral density for every 10 pack-years of tobacco use. The effects are even worse in postmenopausal women.
  3. Your chance of having cold hands and feet will go down…
    When you quit smoking, your circulationgets better right away.
  4. The Pill suddenly becomes a lot safer to use.
    If you’re on the Pill and smoke, you should cut out one or the other. The Pill is not recommended for smokers because oral contraceptives carry a risk of clots, heart attacks, and strokes; those risks are increased if you smoke.
  5. You may be able to cut back on your dosage of certain medications.
    Smoking affects the liver enzymes that process certain drugs, so smokers sometimes need to take higher doses to get the same effect.
  6. You’ll be less likely to burn down your house.
    One study found that people who live in smoking households were up to 6.6 times more likely to experience a fire injury than those in nonsmoking households.
  7. Enjoy your food more.
    Smoking diminishes the taste of food and the pleasure of eating.
  8. Decrease your risk of heart disase and heart attack.
    Smokers are at two to four times greater risk of developing coronary heart disease as nonsmokers. Cigarette smokers with coronary heart disease are also at twice the risk for sudden cardiac death as nonsmokers with coronary heart disease.
  9. You’ll be less wrinkly.
    After 10 years, smoking can speed up your skin’s aging process  by narrowing your skin’s blood vessels and damaging the tissues that give the skin its strength and elasticity.
  10. Clean up your children’s lungs.
    Secondhand smoke is now believed to be a risk factor for children to develop asthma; it also contributes to respiratory infections (such as pneumonia and bronchitis) and ear infections, as well as coughing, wheezing, and decreased lung function.

Just some of the reasons to quit, notwithstanding the huge financial benefits including lowered health insurance premiums. The average amount spent by New Zealand’s 750,000 smokers is approximately $2,135 each per year and approximately $1,500 is tax revenue.


Make A Quit Plan

Start by choosing an easy day to stop smoking, one when you will not be under too much pressure.  Choose an approach that will work for you since everyone is different.  Here are some tips you can include in your plan.

  • Phone Quitline  0800 778 778  0800 778 778 , or go to for advice and support.
  • Postopne having a cigarette for 15 minutes…then begin extending the time between cigaretes.
  • Ask friends and whanau/family to support you while you are trying to quit.
  • Remove all reminders of smoking.  Get rid of matches and ashtrays.  Destroy any remaining cigarettes.
  • Make a list of situations when you reach for a cigarette, eg with coffee first thing in the morning.  Change your habits to avoid the opportnunities these create.
  • You may fear you will put on weight when you quit – because food tastes better, or you replace cigarettes with snack food.  What you eat is very important.  Choose low fat foods, for example low fat milk and cheese, and eat more vegetables and fruits.  Go easy on chocolate, cakes, biscuits etc.
  • Plan new activities to to replace your smoking.  Physical activity will help control your weight and make you feel beter.  Aim for 30 minutes of moderate exercise (eg fast walking) on all or most of the days of the week.
  • Add up the money you save by not smoking and reward yourself with a special treat with your savings.
  • If your get any withdrawal symptoms, think of them as Recovery Symptoms as your body readjusts to its natural nicotine-free state.


A good book to read is Allan Carr’s ‘Easy Way To Stop Smoking’.  Ideally this should be read before your set your date for quitting.