Occasional or social smoking is not okay and it is never too late to stop smoking, said Dr Mohd Kamal Mohd Arshad, a cardiologist from Sunway Medical Centre here.
He gave the advice in a statement issued by the centre in conjunction with the World No-Tobacco Day with the theme “Commit to Quit” on the 31st May.
Dr Mohd Kamal also corrected the misconception that occasional or social smoking was acceptable and less harmful.
“There is no safe level of exposure to tobacco. Even in small amounts, tobacco smoke still increases health risk.”
Quoting the World Health Organisation (WHO), the cardiologist said tobacco caused approximately 7.2 million deaths per year, including second-hand smoke exposure.
The number was expected to rise in future because according to the National Institute of Health, roughly 5 million Malaysian adults aged 15 and up smoked.
Dr Mohd Kamal explained that the chemicals in tobacco smoke caused plaques to build upon the walls of the arteries.
“Over time, the plaque hardens and narrows the arteries, limiting the flow of oxygen-rich blood to one’s organs and can lead to chest pain, high blood pressure, heart attack, or even death,” he said.
“Just smoking one to four cigarettes a day doubles your risk of dying from heart disease. Heavy smokers who reduce their number of cigarette consumption daily still have a high risk of heart disease because cutting down is not the same as quitting,” he explained.
“Within 24 hours of smoking your last cigarette, you can minimise your risk of heart disease and withdrawal symptoms from smoking will occur, but most individuals who stop smoking report feeling happier and better overall with a little encouragement and help, it is possible.”
Dr Kow Ken Siong, respirologist (Internal Medicine) from the Sunway Medical Centre, added in the statement, “Out of the 4,000 chemicals present in cigarette smoke, 69 with hundreds more are carcinogenic that can trigger an inflammatory reaction in the lungs specifically the airways and alveoli.
“The inflammation can then lead to tissue damage in one’s lungs and airways, resulting in a less efficient gas exchange.
“There is a misconception that smokers can never quit smoking immediately. Many fail due to their dependence on nicotine, but they can quit smoking if they have the desire to.”
Dr Kow pointed out that in recent years, many smokers had turned to e-cigarettes and vaping as it was deemed to be a healthier option to satisfy their nicotine cravings.
“Vaping is a method to recruit smokers who may have never tried smoking before and vaping actually ‘legitimises’ the act of smoking, therefore making it ‘acceptable’.”
“The vaping community has glamourised the habit and misled many others into this unhealthy habit, particularly among schoolchildren and young adults,” he said.
“The sooner a smoker quits, the higher his/her chance to reduce the risks of cancer, heart and lung disease, and other health conditions related to smoking, “ he added
Sunway Medical Centre is located at Bandar Sunway, Petaling Jaya. For more information on Sunway Medical Centre, visit www.sunwaymedical.com.my.