The Steam Room is broadcast on GaySA Radio every Wednesday from 19:00 to 21:00, and is brought to you by the National Department of Health’s Phila programme.

The Phila programme encourages all South Africans to be inspired to live, and is about keeping fit, knowing about your health and body, eating well and taking action about your health in general.

In episode 8 of the Steam Room, we talk about a habit that you might have first-hand knowledge of: smoking. All smokers know that smoking isn’t conducive to good health, but knows just as well that this habit is difficult to quit.

What are the health implications of being a smoker?

The impact smoking has on one’s health goes far beyond the warnings that are printed on cigarette packs. Dr Ezio Baraldi, a Pretoria-based family physician, says that one obvious risk is lung damage, due to the deposition of tar in the lungs. In addition, the highly addictive nicotine found in cigarettes can lead to the narrowing of blood vessels and long-term damage to the inner lining of the arteries, which can lead to high blood pressure, cardiac issues and strokes.

Wendy Gidlow is affiliated with Smokenders, a six-week programme that helps smokers to quit. Gidlow echoes Dr Baraldi’s sentiments, adding that smoking also affects brain function, oxygen levels, memory, eyesight and skin elasticity, not to mention the psychological effects associated with nicotine addiction.

“Smokers use cigarettes to reward themselves, to motivate themselves. They use cigarettes when they’re angry, to suppress emotions, they use cigarettes as company… there’s a very, very strong emotional attachment to cigarettes,” says Gidlow.

Does smoking have an influence on the sexual health of men?

Dr Baraldi explains that the damage that smoking causes to blood vessels start with smaller blood vessels first. As the blood vessel leading to the penis is a third of the size of the one leading to the heart, the blockage of arteries leading to the penis may lead to erectile dysfunction, also signalling possible heart problems in the future. Wendy Gidlow also warns of the damage that nicotine may cause in terms of hormone levels, and especially testosterone levels.

Can hypnosis help you to quit smoking?

Arno Stadler is a qualified member of the South African Institute of Hypnotism and has a practice in Nigel in Gauteng. According to Stadler, the British Medical Association has recognised hypnosis as the best way to stop smoking.

With a 92% success rate, non-medical hypnosis aims to align the conscious and unconscious minds. While the conscious mind is able to handle 5 to 9 tasks a minute, the unconscious mind has the ability to do thousands of things every second, explains Stadler. The conscious mind might recognise the dangers associated with smoking and want to kick the habit, while the unconscious mind holds onto the habit, due to the emotional connection people have with smoking. Through hypnosis, conscious/unconscious alignment can help the unconscious mind to come to terms with letting go of the habit.

Stadler says that because hypnosis and smoking are both trigger-based activities, smokers are very good candidates for treatment. However, before commencing any type of hypnosis-based treatment, Stadler first establishes whether a person is truly committed to stop smoking. People might feel that they want to quit because of societal pressures, but unless they have made a personal, conscious decision to stop, hypnosis might not prove as effective. This is because hypnosis cannot suggest a decision or course of action – it can only strengthen a decision that a person has already been made.

Using non-medical hypnosis to help a person quit smoking entails a number of sessions, during which a smoker is empowered with tools to help them quit the habit permanently. Once a person realises that they are being controlled by a substance that they do not find the same enjoyment in and which doesn’t give them the same feeling of confidence as they had when they started, they can start letting go of it.

In addition to helping people to quit smoking, hypnosis can also be used to treat stress, anxiety and anger, and can help to cultivate motivation to help with procrastination, and with confidence and sports performance. Overall, it can be a great tool to experience more joy and greater fulfilment.

Where to look for help

If you’ve come to the realisation that you want to stop smoking, there are a few avenues that can help you to quit the habit permanently.

• Wendy Gidlow of Smokenders can be contacted on 072 896 5166, or send her an email at wendy@smokenders.co.za.

• Dr Ezio Baraldi can assist people who want to quit smoking with various medical treatments. Contact him by calling 012 342 5704, or by sending an email to doc@edmc.qu.co.za. Remember to visit men2men for information relating to other issues faced by men who have sex with men.

• To find a qualified hypnotherapist to help you quit smoking, visit www.hypnotherapy.co.za, or contact Arno Stadler directly by calling 011 814 2910 or by sending an email to jhb@hypnotherapy.co.za.

Click on the player below to listen to our full discussion about smoking on Episode 8 of the Steam Room, brought to you by the National Department of Health’s Phila programme.