Australian smokers face up to damage
Tuesday October 6, 2009
Smoking cessation experts urge Australians to seek help to quit
With approximately three millioni Australians smoking cigarettes on a daily basis, Australian smoking cessation specialists are taking a new approach to quitting, by exploring the use of 3D imaging technology to inspire smokers to quit for good.
By manipulating a photo of the subject's face, the new technology is able to progress the face age up to 72 years old, giving them graphic insight into their potential future as a smoker.
The technology has been bolstered by new consumer research conducted by Pfizer Australia which has found that three in fourii (73 per cent) Australian smokers would be likely to contemplate a quit attempt if they were able to see the damage that they were doing to their face by smoking.
The Federal Government's strategy of publishing graphic images of the damage smoking causes to internal organs has had a significant impact on the smoking cessation debate. However it's hoped that by confronting smokers with the damage that smoking will do to their faces we will continue to see a further reduction in the rate of smoking in Australia.
The research, which involved 304 smokers also found that in order to slow the ageing process, Australian smokers are happy to review various strategiesiii including exercising more (61 per cent), changing diet (50 per cent), using cosmetics (31 per cent) and even cosmetic surgery (12 per cent).
Amazingly, almost two in three (62 per cent) smokersiv recognised the dangers of smoking saying that they would quit smoking to slow the ageing process. Despite this, almost one in fivev (17.4 per cent) people continue to smoke.
Dr Raymond Seidler, a General Practitioner and addiction specialist supports the findings saying that smoking has such a noticeable effect on the skin that it's often possible to detect whether or not a person is a smoker simply by looking at their face.
"Smoking reduces the skin's ability to regenerate, slows the rate at which wounds heal, and increases the chances of scarring,vi "says Dr Seidler.
Another consequence of smoking is that it upsets the process the body uses to maintain skin by damaging the blood flow and reducing the amount of collagen present in the skin.vii
"As a result of smoking, the skin on a person’s face may take on a dry, tough and leathery appearance. A blotchy, slightly reddened, orange and purple complexion may also occur because of inadequate oxygenation of the blood," says Dr Seidler.
"On other occasions, a smoker's complexion may develop a grey, unnatural tone because it is wasting away due to the effects of nicotine decreasing blood flow by constricting blood vessels which are essential for healthy skin."
Dr Seidler believes that it's this kind of confronting message that could demonstrate a real benefit in helping Australians think about the kind of damage they are doing to themselves when smoking.
"There are more than 4,000viii chemicals in tobacco smoke including nicotine, tar and carbon monoxide. Nicotine is the addictive chemical that keeps you coming back for more," says Dr Seidler.
"The worst problem for health caused by nicotine is that it is so addictiveix, which means that many smokers continue to smoke, even though they would prefer not to."
Smoking is an important risk factor for the three diseases that cause most deaths in Australia: heart disease, stroke and lung cancer. It is responsible for around 80% of all lung cancer deaths and 20% of all cancer deathsx.
"Imaging technology such as the software being applied here could be a powerful tool in allowing smokers to visualise what a lifetime of smoking damage looks like and then to take steps to get help in making a quit attempt," says Dr Seidler.
"Quitting smoking is no easy feat, so it is crucial that Australians who are serious about quitting develop a support network of people and resources, to give themselves the best chance for success," says Dr Seidler.
"Support networks can be made up of family, friends, employers or colleagues as well as GPs, pharmacists and additional resources – it is vital that smokers recognise that networks exist to help them through the challenge and will be there to support them throughout."
One resource available to smokers is the www.outsmartcigarettes.com.au website, which gives smokers an opportunity to personally calculate the amount of money and time they spend each year and over their lifetime on smoking.
"With commitment to quitting, as well as a clear path to success, Australian smokers who want to quit will soon have made the best decision they can for their future health," says Dr Seidler.i National Tobacco Campaign – Australian Government - http://www.quitnow.info.au/
ii Galaxy Research Quit Smoking Study, August 2009
iii Galaxy Research Quit Smoking Study, August 2009
iv DGalaxy Research Quit Smoking Study, August 2009
v Olver I. Challenges in cancer control in Australia. MJA 2007:186(11):556–557. Accessed August 2009
vi Rayner R. Effects of cigarette smoking on cutaneous wound healing. Primary Intention 2006: 14(3):100-102,104. Accessed August 2009
vii Quit Victoria – Smoking and skin http://www.quit.org.au/article.asp?ContentID=6601 Accessed August 2009.