What is the first thing you do in the morning? If you’re a smoker, lighting up as soon as you wake up is probably one of your daily morning routines. But did you know that the sooner you smoke upon waking up in the morning, the more likely you will develop lung, head, neck and oral cancer?
Researchers at Penn State University have found that smokers who light up right after waking up in the morning have higher levels of nicotine and possibly other tobacco toxins in their body. This makes them more vulnerable to chronic diseases, particularly cancer. In the study 4,775 lung cancer patients were compared with 2,835 smokers who didn’t have cancer. The Penn State team found that those who smoke within 31 to 60 minutes after waking up are 1.3 times more likely to develop lung cancer than those who wait for at least an hour. Meanwhile, those who light up within 30 minutes are 1.79 times more vulnerable to lung cancer.
The risk of morning smoking does not end with lung cancer. In a separate analysis, the researchers compared 1,055 smokers who had head and neck cancer with 795 smokers who don’t have any of these diseases. They found that those who smoked were 1.42 times more likely to develop head and neck cancer than those who waited for at least an hour. Furthermore, those who light up within half an hour of waking up were 1.59 times more likely to develop the disease.
According to the researchers, one possible reason for this is that people who smoke sooner after waking tend to inhale more deeply and more thoroughly. This also explains the higher levels of carcinogenic compounds found in the blood samples of early-morning smokers.
Their findings suggest that the timing of the first cigarette may be an important factor in identifying high-risk smokers, and in the development of treatments or interventions toward early-morning smokers.
The study does not suggest that smokers should wait for at least an hour before lighting up. It only indicates a much higher health risk for early-morning smoking. Quitting smoking today is still the best way to significantly cut one’s risk of developing deadly diseases, including heart disease.
If you are used to smoking after waking up in the morning, try the following tips and techniques:
- Practice deep breathing. Deep breathing is one of the best exercises you can perform in the morning, as soon as you wake up. There’s no need to jump out of bed. This technique has been scientifically proven to ease anxiety and help reduce nicotine cravings. Make deep breathing a part of your morning routine and you will notice a significant reduction in your cigarette cravings.
- Replace your morning coffee with freshly prepared smoothie drink. Toss in your favorite fruits and veggies in a blender or juicer. One study suggests that smokers who light up after consuming fresh fruits or vegetables find the taste of cigarette bitter and less pleasurable. On the other hand, coffee intensifies nicotine craving.
- Exercise. Go out for a 30 minute jog or fast walk. Or, do some jumping jacks before heading out of your bedroom. Exercise stimulates your brain to produce feel-good chemicals that ward off nicotine cravings, ease anxiety and drowsiness, and amp up your energy levels.
- Put a quit smoking sign on your wall. Place a gross picture of a smoker’s body (featuring the lungs, heart, brain and other organs that are affected by smoking). This will discourage you from lighting up in the morning.
- Seek professional help. You may want to cut out smoking entirely, not just your early-morning smoking habit. In this case, consider joining a quit smoking program or seeking help from a professional smoking cessation specialist.