Do you have a smoking problem and need the motivation to finally kick the habit? You're not alone. Quitting smoking is a worthwhile goal if you want to start living a healthier life.
Health Risks Associated with Smoking
Smoking is one of the most dangerous habits, resulting in a massive amount of negative health issues such as:
- Cancer - Various cancers are associated with tobacco use, namely lung cancer, throat cancer, esophageal cancer, and pancreatic cancer.
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) - This group of respiratory illnesses obstructs airflow from the lungs and makes it tough to function in day-to-day life. Both smoking and exposure to large amounts of cigarette smoke lead to illnesses like emphysema.
- Heart Disease - Smokers are more likely to experience heart issues than non-smokers, and a prevalent health issue tied to smoking is coronary heart disease.
If these reasons are not enough to convince you to quit, here are 12 more from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
What You Need to Know About Quitting Smoking
While quitting smoking is important, it is not easy. According to the CDC, there are two main reasons that smoking cessation is a challenge:
- Daily routines based on smoking habits - Smoking can be ingrained as a daily ritual. For example, people often smoke during breaks, while drinking coffee, or when they’re spending time with friends at a bar. Over time, it becomes an automatic response to smoke in these situations, and these small parts of your routines become “triggers.”
When trying to quit, it’s helpful to identify your triggers – the people, places, or things that make you want to smoke. Knowing your triggers will help you understand the best ways to deal with them.
- Brain chemistry interlinked with heavy nicotine use - Along with daily routines that conjure up the desire to smoke, nicotine dependency is the primary cause of cravings.
Nicotine is the chemical in tobacco and the driving force behind the addictive aspect of smoking that makes it so hard to quit.
When you avoid smoking, you deprive your body of the chemical it has become used to, which causes irritability. Other withdrawal symptoms include sleeping problems and mood swings.
Despite these (and other) challenges, millions of people have quit smoking and are enjoying healthier lives because of it.
Start Your Journey to Quit Smoking Today
Using the following steps can significantly increase the chances of quitting smoking successfully. You can quit for good, even if you have tried before and haven’t succeeded. Choose the quit plan that works best for you.
Before you quit…
- Know your reasons for quitting
- Make a decision to quit
- Take steps to quit
- Build your quit plan
Quitting “Cold Turkey” versus Setting a Quit Date
Although tricky, many people can quit smoking without any outside help. Everyone's different, however, so quitting cold turkey may simply not work for some. For example, someone who goes through multiple cigarette packs a day will likely have a more challenging time quitting than someone who has a few cigarettes each week.
Learn how to manage your quit day here.
Treatments for Smoking Cessation
There are effective treatments to help you quit smoking.
- Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) - This helps smokers wean their brains off of nicotine. NRT aims to make the transition from smoker to non-smoker as easy and withdrawal-free as possible. The key is that NRT gives patients nicotine without the extremely harmful chemicals found in cigarettes. Different forms of NRT include skin patches, gum, and throat lozenges.
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) - Since smoking cessation involves identifying triggers that make you crave a cigarette, knowing those triggers and how to deal with them is vital. Counseling via CBT is an effective way to learn various helpful methods to actively deal with triggers. Patients will learn coping strategies to better deal with cravings and irritability.
- Medication - Various prescription medications assist people in quitting.
- Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) - This is a new treatment for smoking cessation that benefits some patients in their journey to reduce tobacco use. TMS is a noninvasive medical procedure (used primarily in patients with depression) where nerve cells in the brain experience magnetic pulses.
MANAGING YOUR QUIT PLAN
- Slips are common, so don’t be too hard on yourself. A slip doesn’t make you a failure or mean you're relapsing. It doesn’t mean you can’t quit for good.
- Feel proud of the time you went without smoking cigarettes. Think about ways you avoided your triggers and beat cravings. Try to use those ways to cope again.
- It’s important to restart quitting right away—today or tomorrow at the latest. Don’t give up on your goal of no cigarettes at all.
Build support to stay off cigarettes
- Join the Smokefree community to connect with others and grow your support network through social media resources:
- Facebook: SmokefreeUS and Smokefree Women
- Twitter: SmokefreeUS
- Instagram: SmokefreeUS
- Pinterest: SmokefreeUS
Give your social circle a boost by connecting with other people who share your interests. Think about the things you like to do. Then start a conversation with someone new. Chances are, you’ll find you have things in common.
Get the support you need
- Here are some tips for getting support, either in person or online.
Ask for help
- You might like to solve problems on your own, but everyone can use a little help from time to time. It doesn't mean you're weak. If you’re not sure how to ask, text a friend or send an email. You might say, “I want to quit smoking. Can you help?” Know an ex-smoker? Ask them why and how they quit.
Prepare to stay smoke-free
If you have a quitting plan in place, along with a support group and treatments, you could find yourself quitting in no time. We have Tobacco Treatment Specialists at Summit Health who can help and guide you through this effort. For more information on smoking cessation, visit Summit Health’s Stop Smoking Now Program, or call 908-273-4300.
“Smoking cessation is not just about prescribing a nicotine gum or a patch,” says Raghunandan Loganathan, MD, a Summit Health pulmonologist. “Quitting smoking requires a comprehensive assessment and a personalized management plan in conjunction with a health care provider. As a pulmonologist and Tobacco Treatment Specialist, this aspect of patient care is extremely important to my patients, as it directly affects the health of their lungs.”
For additional information, see the CDC’s Guide for Quitting Smoking.