Pocket guide to being a former smoker

Quitting smoking may be one of the hardest things for a smoker to do. Whether you’re a half-a-pack a day smoker or a three pack a day smoker and your thinking about quitting, American Cancer Society has guidelines to help you succeed.

Mark Twain said, “Quitting smoking is easy. I’ve done it a thousand times.” Why is quitting and staying quit hard for so many people? The answer is nicotine. Nicotine is a drug found naturally occurring in tobacco. It is addictive, as addictive as cocaine or heroin.

Help Is Available

Remember, tobacco addiction has both a psychological and a physical component. For most people, the best way to quit will be some combination of medicine, a method to change personal habits, and emotional support. With the wide range of counseling services, self-help materials, and medicines available today, smokers have more tools than ever to help them quit successfully:

• Will you use nicotine replacement therapy (the patch or gum)? Will you attend a smoking cessation class? If so, sign up now.

• Help With Psychological Addiction-- both formal and informal.

• Telephone-based Help to Stop Smoking

• Support of Family, Friends, and Quit Programs

• What to Look for in a Stop Smoking Program

• One-on-one or group counseling, intensity of counseling and the success rate. Not all programs are ethical.

• Help With Physical Addiction: Nicotine Replacement Therapy and Other Medicines

• Which Type of Nicotine Replacement May Be Right for You?

A Word About Quitting Success Rates

The truth is, quit smoking programs, like other programs that treat addictions, often have a fairly low success rate. But that does not mean they are not worthwhile or that you should be discouraged. Your own success in quitting is what really counts, and that is under your control.

About 5 percent to 16 percent of people are able to quit smoking for at least six months without any medicine to help with withdrawal.

How to Quit

Smokers often say, “Don’t tell me why to quit, tell me how.” There is no one right way to quit, but there are some key elements in quitting with success. These four factors are key:

• Making the decision to quit 

• Setting a quit date and choosing a quit plan 

• Dealing with withdrawal 

• Staying quit (maintenance)

Dealing with Withdrawal

Withdrawal from nicotine has 2 parts -- the physical and the psychological. The physical symptoms, while annoying, are not life-threatening. Nicotine replacement can help reduce many of these physical symptoms. But most smokers find that the bigger challenge is the mental part of quitting.

Staying Quit (Maintenance)

Remember the quotation by Mark Twain? Maybe you, too, have quit many times before. So you know that staying quit is the final, and most important, stage of the process. You can use the same methods to stay quit as you did to help you through withdrawal. Think ahead to those times when you may be tempted to smoke, and plan on how you will use alternatives and activities to cope with these situations.

The Health Belief Model says that you will be more likely to stop smoking if you:

• Believe that you could get a smoking-related disease and this worries you.

• Believe that you can make an honest attempt at quitting smoking.

• Believe that the benefits of quitting outweigh the benefits of continuing to smoke.

• Know of someone who has had health problems as a result of their smoking.

Here are some steps to help you prepare for your quit day:

• Pick the date and mark it on your calendar.

• Tell friends and family of your quit date.

• Stock up on sugarless gum, cinnamon sticks, carrot sticks, hard candy.

• Practice saying, “No thank you, I don’t smoke.”

• Set up a support system. This could be a group plan, Nicotine Anonymous, or a friend who has successfully quit and is willing to help you.

On your quit day follow these suggestions:

• Do not smoke.

• Get rid of all cigarettes, ashtrays, etc.

• Keep active– try walking, exercising or doing other activities or hobbies.

• Drink lots of water or juice.

• Begin using the patch or gum if that is your choice.

• Attend stop smoking class or follow a self-help plan.

• Avoid high-risk situations where the urge to smoke is strong.

• Reduce or avoid alcohol.

Your smoking habits are directly linked to your daily activities– waking up in the morning, eating, reading, watching TV, drinking coffee, etc. It will take time to “un-link” smoking from these activities.

Use these ideas to help you keep your commitment to quitting:

• Avoid. People and places where you are tempted to smoke. Later on you will be able to handle these with more confidence.

• Alter habits. switch to soft drinks or water instead of alcohol or coffee. Take a different route to work; take a brisk walk instead of a coffee break.

• Alternatives. Use oral substitutions such as sugarless gum or hard candy, raw vegetables such as carrot sticks or sunflower seeds.

• Activities. Exercise or hobbies that keep your hands busy can help distract you from the urge to smoke.

Here are the benefits of quitting smoking:

• Twenty minutes after quitting: Heart rate and blood pressure drops. Temperature of hands and feet increase to normal.

• Eight hours after quitting: carbon monoxide level in the blood drops to normal.

• Two weeks to three months after quitting: circulation improves, lung function increases up to 30 percent.

• One to nine months after quitting: coughing, sinus congestion, fatigue and shortness of breath decrease; cilia regain normal function in the lungs, increasing the ability to handle mucus, clean the lungs and reduce infection.

• One year after quitting: excess risk of coronary heart disease is half that of a smoker’s.

• Five years after quitting: stroke risk is reduced to that of a nonsmoker 5-15 years after quitting.

• Ten years after quitting: lung cancer death rate about half that of a continuing smoker’s; risk of cancer of the mouth, throat, esophagus, cervix, bladder and pancreas decrease.

Fifteen years after quitting: risk of coronary heart disease is that of a nonsmoker.

Think that you’re one of the lucky ones? Maybe you are…but then again, maybe you’re not. Think about it.

Cigarettes can cause lung cancer and contributes to many other cancers, emphysema, and heart disease. About half of all smokers end up dying of a smoking related illness.

Smokers are twice as likely to die from heart attacks as are nonsmokers.

Smoking also causes premature wrinkling of the skin, bad breath, bad smelling clothes and hair, and yellow fingernails and hair, yellow fingernails and an increased risk of macular degeneration, one of the most common causes of blindness in the elderly.

In 1990, the Surgeon General concluded:

Quitting smoking has major and immediate health benefits for men and women of all ages. Benefits apply to people with and without smoking-related disease.

Former smokers live longer than continuing smokers.

Quitting smoking decreases the risk of lung cancer, other cancers, heart attack, stroke, and chronic lung disease.

Women who stop smoking before pregnancy or during the first 3 to 4 months of pregnancy reduce their risk of having a low birth weight baby to that of women who never smoked.

The health benefits of quitting smoking far exceed any risks from the less than 10-pound weight gain or any adverse psychological effects that may follow quitting.

Free help available for smokers who are ready to quit

If you are ready to say goodbye to smoking, the Yavapai Tobacco-Free Partnership offers free tobacco cessation classes in the Prescott area. throughout the year. The eight-session course deals with learning how to quit using different tools and techniques. Participants also learn about health and nutrition, the effects of smoking and how to deal with stress. A two-week supply of nicotine replacement gum or lozenges is also provided.

For information on the classes or just to get some For help quitting, call (928) 649-5063 in the Verde Valley area, or (928) 442-5572 in the Prescott area.

Get help in your area by calling from the American Cancer Society at 1-800-ACS-2345 (1-800-227-2345).

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