As I walk around the downtown core of Toronto, I see hundreds of people smoking cigarettes every day. I am one of those who indulges in the “bad habit”. We all know that smoking is bad for our health, yet continue, because it brings us some pleasure.

But the phrase “everything in moderation” does not apply here. Smoking is a highly addictive activity and the implications can be deadly. Not only does it hit our wallets hard but it damages our lungs. Nicotine from smoking is more addictive in nature than heroin and cocaine.

Cigarette makers know that nicotine addiction is what sells their products. Nicotine reaches our brains in seconds and changes how we feel. One of the chemicals involved is dopamine, which is associated with feelings of pleasure and when dopamine levels drop from not getting nicotine fast enough, symptoms of withdrawal begin. This is commonly known as having a “nic-fit”.

The cigarettes being produced today deliver more nicotine more rapidly than ever in the past. Tobacco companies also use additives and other chemicals to make them more addictive so sales are steady and profits rise. I have tried to quit once but failed, miserably.

I went cold turkey and replaced my smoking addiction with an eating addiction. It happens to many of us. Maybe I have an addictive personality? Don’t we all in one way or another? Only the activity I choose led to an addiction that can be catastrophic to my health both on the inside and out. Tobacco smoking can lead to lung cancer, emphysema and/or chronic bronchitis.

It increases one’s risk of heart disease, which can lead to stroke or heart attack. Smoking has also been linked to other cancers, leukemia, cataracts, pneumonia and impotence in men. There are many aids that can help us quit. Some Nicotine replacement therapies include the nicotine patch, gum, lozenges, inhalers and mouth sprays. As a smoker, your body craves nicotine.

These aids provide that to the body but in smaller dosages and in a safer form. Nicotine replacement therapies do not have carcinogens in them that every cigarette we smoke contains. There are also some prescription medications that can be prescribed by your doctor to help you on your journey. Zyban and Champix are the most known and used out there. Yet these aids are very costly and do not guarantee a smoke-free life.

So, I was curious about these prescription medications on the market to help you quit. The other day I headed to my local pharmacy and grabbed the Champix pamphlet. The next day I read it on my way to work. After reading this “Welcome Guide”, as stated on the front, the first thing that occurred to me was that out of the whopping 34 pages, almost half of them were filled with warnings and precautions; 16 to be exact.

The most alarming side effects were thoughts of suicide, blisters around the mouth, eyes or genitals, heart attack, stroke, seizures, increased nightmares, hallucinations, and paranoia. Yes, those were the most alarming, but there were much more listed. The pamphlet states that “these symptoms have been reported in patients trying to stop smoking with or without Champix.

When symptoms were reported, most were during Champix treatment, but some were following discontinuation of Champix therapy. It is not known if these symptoms are related to Champix.” Sarcastically speaking, these pages full of warnings and precautions make me want to run out, talk to my doctor, and get a prescription right away.

Kudos to those that chose this treatment as an option and were successful in quitting, but it is no option for me! Then there is a fairly innovative product which has come out in the last 10 years or so that is all the rage. It is becoming a way for cigarette smokers to try something new that is not as destructive to their health. Electronic cigarettes or E-cigarettes are cylindrical tubes that provide you with nicotine by heating up a liquid, transforming into a vapor, which you then inhale and exhale.

This mimics the actions of smoking cigarettes and stimulates all of the psychological idiosyncrasies of smoking as well. Many people have turned to electronic cigarettes as a feasible alternative to smoking cigarettes. The vapor that is generated in an e-cig can be flavored with many different flavors s uch as blueberry, strawberry, lemon, orange, cinnamon, chocolate, peppermint, menthol, etc. It can also be laced with different strengths of nicotine.

Nicotine is what is so addictive in regular cigarettes, and it is what makes it so difficult to quit. So what those trying to quit cigarettes have done is add a level of nicotine to the E-cigarette that is similar to what they have been getting from cigarettes, and gradually decrease it.

This has helped many smokers quit completely. Nicotine is not particularly good for us either, but at least the user is not inhaling all the other chemicals that are added to the nicotine in cigarettes, most of which are carcinogens. I have not tried vaping myself so I can’t speak from experience but it must be doing something for those who have chosen it. It sounds too easy though.

I believe that because E-cigarettes are a fairly new product, there have not been enough studies on their side effects. People in my life whom I respect and have been through the quitting journey and have been successful have told me that unless I have the urgency or willpower to quit, I would not succeed. I think that I build up this anxiety inside of me as I think about all the negative things that happen during smoking cessation.

There are many withdrawal symptoms associated with quitting that can be hard to handle and last for several months. They include but are not limited to anxiety, irritability, moodiness, problems paying attention, headache, trouble sleeping, increased appetite and powerful cravings for tobacco.

Quitting is a process that can take several years before achieving a smoke-free life. My advice: if you never start smoking cigarettes, you wouldn’t have to struggle to quit. So for all of you out there thinking about picking up a cigarette and trying it, even socially, don’t do it! Nothing good will come out of it. It is bad for your health, hits your wallet, and the struggle to quit is a powerful one.

If one day I attempt to fight off my addiction once again, I will write about my journey, struggle and hopefully my triumph. So stay tuned as there will be more to follow. I will be successful in the future, and you can too!