It is a baffling question; we all know those cigarettes are no good for our health. We’ve been hearing about it again and again with diagrams, pictures and horror stories. We all heard that second hand smoking is dangerous, that smokers are killing themselves and the rest of us, and still people are smoking. What’s more alarming; the young generation, those who have been exposed to the most anti-smoking propaganda, still start smoking, even though in lesser numbers.
“Cigarettes smoke contain over 4,800 chemicals, 69 of which are known to cause cancer. Smoking is directly responsible for approximately 90% of lung cancer deaths and approximately 80-90 percent of COPD (emphysema and chronic bronchitis) deaths. It is also a cause of coronary heart disease, stroke and host of other cancers and diseases”. So say the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics and the National Health Interview Survey Raw Data, 2008.
Still, cigarette smoking in the USA, among adults ages 18 and older, stood at 20.6%, in 2009. One in five adults in the USA smokes cigarettes.
The ingredient in cigarettes that causes the addiction is called Nicotine. Users get physically addicted to nicotine, but that is not all. Smoking cigarettes is linked to social activities, to habits, to nervousness. Quitting often requires multiple attempts.
So why don’t people quit?!
Because smoking provides psychological comfort to some people. Because they are afraid to gain weight and because they know that quitting smoking is a very hard thing to do. Research and businesses have been formed around the act of quitting: there are support groups and programs, telephone based help, hypnosis, acupuncture, miracle injections and anti-addiction medicine. Help should be gotten in two fronts: the physical addiction and the mental one.
Ways to Quit Smoking
Cold turkey – just stop smoking one day. About 90% of people who tried to quit smoking did it this way. Although it doesn’t involve any expenses or money exchange, this method was found to be not very effective. Only about 10% succeed this way for the long run.
For the physical addiction – there are products approved by the Food and Drug Administration to aid in quitting and help combat the need for nicotine. Over time the amount of nicotine absorbed is reduced, until it stops all together.
Over the counter medication
– Nicotine patch
– Nicotine gum
– Nicotine lozenges
Each of those is used a bit differently and explanation is available on the package.
Nicotine sprays and inhalers.
Zyban – Bupropion is the generic name that includes another medication called Wellbutrin. It is an anti-depressant that reduces symptoms of withdrawal from Nicotine. It works best if started 1 or 2 weeks before quitting. Some doctors found that it works best with a combination of nicotine patch or other forms of oral additive.
Chantix – it works by interfering with nicotine receptors in the brain. It lessens the pleasure effects a person gets from smoking and it reduces the symptoms of withdrawal. It should be started a week before the quitting date.
Off label drugs – medications that were treating other conditions but found to be effective in controlling cravings; Nortriptyline an older anti-depressant that was found to be effective for heavy smokers that could not quit any other way, and Clonidine, a high blood pressure medication. In one study a group that was given the medication had twice the success rate than the control group.
For the mental addiction
The mental addiction is sometimes more difficult to overcome and there are no drugs to help in the process. Quitting has to start with a conviction that smoking is bad for you and it is time to quit. Time to get rid of the shortness of breath, time to get rid of the smell, time to start taking good care of yourself.
Here’s a plan that might help you:
- List all the things you like about smoking. Draw a line in the middle of a page and on the left write down what you feel and why you like smoking. Leave the other side empty.
- List all the things you don’t like about smoking. If you are brave, ask your family and friends how they feel when you light up a cigarette.
- List all the things you are trying to avoid by not quitting, and why quitting is not going to be easy. On the other side try to find a replacement for those obstacles. For example: you can write “I’m addicted to nicotine” and on the opposite side write “nicotine replacements: patch, gum etc.” If you write “I smoke because I’m stressed”, think about replacing the cigarette break with a 5 minute walk. The more you anticipate the challenges and find solutions when you are not in withdrawal, the better your chances to succeed.
- Set a date. You don’t have to announce it to the world. It’s an agreement between you and yourself. Some people find it stressful to wait for the date, but if this is your goal and you ready yourself to the challenge you have better chances to kick the habit.
- When you’ve quit, re-read the first list and see what have you replaced the things you liked about smoking with.
Of course you don’t have to do it alone. It has been proven that some peer support is very helpful. Think long term. You are doing it for yourself and for your loved ones.
Things to avoid when quitting:
- Know your triggers and stay away from temptations which normally make you feel like smoking. Stay away from the bar for 3 months if you crave a cigarette with your drink.
- Know that the first few days may be rough, if you quit cold turkey, but it gets better very quickly.
- Don’t give in to the cravings. They pass. Look at every one of them as winning a little battle.
Some say, jokingly, that you have to find a replacement for your addiction. Replace smoking with an addiction to physical activity for example. Walking, surfing, jogging, exercise are a much better alternative to achieve the stress calming effect you used to get from smoking.