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I Quit for Life contributes 5% of its annual income to Cancer Council Australia to actively support them to minimise the threat of cancer to all Australians.

Effects of Smoking

Some Facts

Most smokers want to quit. Approximately 17% of the Australian population smoke every day and most smokers want to quit. According to statistics, more than 75% of smokers have tried to kick the habit at least once, and many have tried over and over again.

Tobacco smoking is the single largest cause of preventable illness and death in Australia. Smoking causes a range of cancers as well as heart disease, stroke and emphysema. Cigarette smoking is a major cause of heart attack, stroke and peripheral arterial disease.

Smoking kills more than 19,000 Australians a year - more than 52 Australians each day. Nearly 40% of all people who die from smoking do so due to heart disease. Tobacco causes far more illness and death than any other drug.

Passive smoking is a health hazard

Tobacco smoke is more dangerous to health than nicotine. Long-term inhalation of tobacco smoke exposes every cell of your body to powerful chemicals that can cause cancer and cell mutations, and that ultimately cause tobacco-related illnesses.

Tobacco smoke from cigarettes, cigars and pipes contains over 4,000 chemical compounds and breathable, suspended particles. Some of the chemicals present in tobacco smoke have been proven to cause cancer and increase the risk of birth defects. Exposure to second-hand smoke is a serious health hazard for smokers as well as non-smokers. People who inhale smoke from others are at increased risk of disease.

Non-smokers living with smokers have about a 25 to 30 per cent increase in risk of heart disease and are also more likely to suffer a stroke.

Harm to children

Smoking in pregnancy greatly increases the risk of miscarriage, is associated with lower birth weight in babies, and inhibited child development.

Exposure to second hand smoke is especially risky for children and babies and may cause low birth weight, sudden infant death syndrome, higher rates of infant respiratory illness such as bronchitis, pneumonia, asthma and middle ear infections.

Cigarette smoking - the risk factors:

  • Increased risk of heart attack by two to six times
  • Increased risk of heart disease for women using the contraceptive pill
  • Increased risk of stroke by three times
  • Increased risk of peripheral arterial disease by more than five times
  • Major cause of heart attack, stroke and peripheral arterial disease
  • Smoking kills more than 19,000 Australians a year
  • Fifty percent of these deaths will occur in middle ages smokers
  • Fifty percent of all smokers will die from smoking related diseases
  • Seventy percent greater risk of death from coronary heart disease than non smokers
  • Non smokers living with smokers have about a 25 to 30 per cent increase in risk of heart disease and are also more likely to suffer a stroke
  • UK studies show that smokers in their 30s and 40s are five times more likely to have a heart attack than non smokers
  • Other symptoms such as tiredness and coughing are indications that the body is in a state of disrepair and is working hard to get rid of the poisons associated with smoking
  • People who switch to lower tar cigarettes mistakenly believe they will inhale less nicotine and chemicals
  • Smoking kills almost six times as many people as road and other accidents, suicide, murder, manslaughter, poisoning, overdoses and HIV all put together
  • According to World Health Organisation, smoking is responsible for approximately five million deaths worldwide every year
  • Your chances of conceiving a baby decrease. Smoking can cause fertility problems, such as impotence in men and a lower chance of conceiving in women. Women who smoke during pregnancy are more likely to have a miscarriage.

Denial is a defensive coping mechanism for not facing up to the reality of the harmful effects of smoking.

There are over 40 chemicals found in cigarette smoke that are known carcinogens - that means 40 chemicals that have been known to cause cancer in humans.

As far as we are concerned that's 40 good reasons to stop smoking now!

A deadly cocktail of chemicals

Tobacco smoke contains more than 4,000 chemicals, many of which are known poisons including:

  • Tar - contains dozens of chemicals that cause cancer
  • Nicotine - increases blood pressure which makes the heart work harder
  • Carbon monoxide - found in car exhaust fumes makes the heart beat faster and replaces oxygen in the blood
  • Ammonia - found in floor cleaner is used to increase the amount of nicotine that enters the body
  • Arsenic - found in ant poison
  • Benzene, cadmium, formaldehyde, lead, mercury, naphthalene, urethane and a variety of nitrosamines which are potent human carcinogens. Some of these chemicals are in household products with warnings on their labels telling you to avoid inhaling them

Cigarette smokers also run a much higher risk of being affected by many forms of cancer including: cancer of the lung, throat, mouth, nose, voice box, larynx oesophagus, pancreas, stomach, kidney, bladder, ureter, bone marrow (myeloid leukaemia). Cigarette smoking is also associated with higher rates of peptic ulcers, stomach disorders, and periodontal disease.

Although the health risks of smoking are cumulative, giving up can yield health benefits regardless of the age of the person, or the length of time they have been smoking.

By 2020, the World Health organisation expects the worldwide death toll to reach 10 million, causing 17.7% of all deaths in developed countries. There are believed to be 1.1 billion smokers in the world, 800,000 of them in developing countries.

Heart attack, stroke and cardiovascular disease

The heart relies on a generous supply of oxygen and nutrients from the two coronary arteries and their branches. Over the years, fatty deposits or plaques (collections of cholesterol and fat) build up in the walls of the coronary arteries (a process called atherosclerosis). These are like porridge and this narrowing of arteries reduces the flow of blood to the heart, starving the heart muscle (myocardial) cells of oxygen and nutrients. Smoking speeds up the clogging and narrowing of coronary arteries. Smoking also damages other blood vessels. This can prevent blood circulation, particularly to your hands and feet. Peripheral arterial disease can result in blood clots, infection, gangrene and even amputation.

Nicotine and carbon monoxide in cigarette smoke are also thought to be important causes of arteries losing their elasticity. This means that arteries respond less well to fluctuations in pressure and are more likely to rupture.

Smoking, even passive smoking, increases heart rate and blood pressure. This leads to demanding more oxygen from the blood which contains high levels of carbon monoxide. Through a complex set of reactions, heart muscle function is impaired and other regulatory systems for insulin and lipid metabolism are compromised.

Often, smokers who develop this and have a heart attack will require complex and risky heart bypass surgery if they survive the attack.

Smoking can double or even quadruple your risk of stroke. Some of the chemical ingredients in cigarette smoke such as nicotine and carbon monoxide accelerate the process of atherosclerosis. Clots are more likely to form because smoking thickens the blood and makes clotting factors, such as platelets, much more 'sticky'. Cigarette smoke forces arteries to constrict - a narrowed diameter makes it harder for the thickened blood to move through the vessels.

Lung Cancer

Another primary health risk associated with smoking is lung cancer, which kills more than 20,000 people in the UK every year.

Minute particles of tar travel into the tiniest branches of the lungs - the alveoli - where they stick. The body works to eliminate these particles from the lungs by coughing, but over time and with continuous smoking, the tar collapses the alveoli, reducing the ability of the lungs to transport the necessary gases, oxygen and carbon dioxide, through the body.

Smoking is responsible for almost 90% of lung cancers amongst men, and more than 70% amongst women. Worse, when you get lung cancer, you're very likely to die from lung cancer. It's 92% fatal among men, and 88% fatal among women. Smokers are 10 times more likely to die from lung cancer than a non-smoker. If you've smoked since you were a teenager, the lung cancer rate zooms to nineteen times higher. Men who smoke more than a pack a day have about 20 times the lung cancer rate of non-smokers and who smoke increase this risk by nearly 12 times.


Emphysema is one of several chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases. It causes abnormal swelling and destruction of lung tissue. Lungs maimed by emphysema eventually lose their elasticity. Breathing becomes a continuous agonizing struggle. And there's little hope for a significant recovery once diagnosed. Lung tissue once destroyed by emphysema can never be replaced, turning its victims into respiratory cripples, who spend agonizing years gasping for breath.

Smoking and eye disease

Smoking is a major factor contributing to the early development of age-related macular degeneration. Age related macular degeneration is an eye condition caused by cardiovascular (heart) disease and it is the most common cause of blindness in the Western world. As already noted smoking contributes to cardiovascular disease.

How the eye is affected

The macular area of the retina has the finest blood supply in the body, serving the retinal receptors that enable us to see minute detail clearly. Obstruction and failure of the blood supply to the macula happens even before other body functions may be affected. This blood vessel damage causes a gradual failure of vision. New vessel growth and leakage can result in scarring of the retina and severe vision loss.

Age-related macular degeneration has extensive implications. People who have it:

  • Cannot read or see detail on the TV
  • Cannot easily recognise faces
  • Cannot drive
  • Confuse medication labels and are at risk of other illnesses
  • Fall more easily and suffer more serious complications from falling
  • Lose independence and may require residential care earlier than if their vision was normal.


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