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How to Quit Smoking

Congratulations! You've decided to quit smoking. If you have tried to quit before, you know how hard it can be. For some people, according to the Office of the Surgeon General and the American Cancer Society, nicotine can be as addictive as heroin or cocaine. More often than not, it takes a person several tries before he or she is finally able to quit smoking completely. But with each try, you learn more about what helps you and what hurts you.

While quitting smoking is not easy, it is possible. Whether it's your first attempt or your fifth, here is some information that can help you quit once and for all.

Good Reasons to Quit

  • You'll live longer. According to the American Cancer Society, about half of all smokers who continue to smoke will end up dying from a smoking-related illness. Not only can smoking can cause lung cancer, but it can also lead to cancer of the mouth, throat, esophagus, bladder, kidney, pancreas, cervix, and stomach. Based on data collected in the late 1990s, the Centers for Disease Control estimated that adult male smokers lost an average of 13.2 years of life and female smokers lost 14.5 years of life because of smoking.

  • You'll lower your risk for diseases like pneumonia, emphysema, and chronic bronchitis. Smoking can also lead to peripheral vascular disease, a narrowing of the blood vessels that carry blood to the leg and arm muscles, as well as cerebrovascular disease that can cause strokes. Smokers are also twice as likely to die from heart attacks than non-smokers.

  • You'll feel better. Ex-smokers enjoy a higher quality of life with fewer illnesses from cold and flu viruses, better self-reported health status, and reduced rates of bronchitis and pneumonia. Food will even start tasting better, and your sense of smell will return to normal.

  • You'll look better. Smoking causes premature wrinkling of the skin, bad breath, smelly clothes and hair, stained teeth, and yellow fingernails. Just think, once you quit you'll have all kinds of extra money to spend on a trip to the mall or the salon instead of on cigarettes!

  • You'll have healthier children. Smoking by mothers is linked to a higher risk of their babies developing asthma in childhood, especially if the mother smokes while pregnant. It is also associated with sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) and low-birth weight. What's more, children raised in smoking households have more ear infections, colds, bronchitis, and other respiratory problems than children in non-smoking families. Secondhand smoke can also cause eye irritation, headaches, and nausea. If for no other reason, quit smoking to ensure the people you live with, especially your children, stay as healthy as possible.

Benefits Over Time

Almost immediately after your last cigarette, your body begins to heal itself from the effects of smoking. This timeline of healing comes from the official Web site of the American Cancer Society.

  • 20 minutes after quitting: Your heart rate and blood pressure drops.

  • 12 hours after quitting: The carbon monoxide level in your blood drops to normal.

  • 2 weeks to 3 months after quitting: Your circulation improves and your lung function increases.

  • 1 to 9 months after quitting: Coughing and shortness of breath decrease; cilia (tiny hair-like structures that move mucus out of the lungs) regain normal function in the lungs, increasing the ability to handle mucus, clean the lungs, and reduce the risk of infection.

  • 1 year after quitting: The excess risk of coronary heart disease is half that of a smoker's.

  • 5 to 15 years after quitting: Your stroke risk is reduced to that of a nonsmoker's.

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

  • 15 years after quitting: The risk of coronary heart disease is that of a nonsmoker's.

There are so many benefits to quitting smoking, why wouldn't you want to quit?

How to Quit

With the wide range of counseling services, self-help materials, and medicines available for smokers today, you have more tools than ever to help you quit successfully. Studies have shown there are five steps that can help you quit and quit for good.

According to the Surgeon General, you will have the best chance of success if you use them together. They are described below.

  1. Prepare yourself - Set a quit date. Give yourself a little time to make some changes to your environment before the big day. Throw away your cigarettes. Get rid of any ashtrays in your home and car. When you have company over, do not allow them to smoke inside your house. Think about your past attempts to quit. What worked and what didn't? Once you quit, don't smoke at all - not even a puff.

  2. Get help from your friends and family - Studies have shown that smokers have a better chance of being successful quitters when they have the support and encouragement of others. There are several ways to get help. Tell your family, friends and co-workers that you are going to quit smoking and would like their support. Ask them not to smoke around you. Talk to your doctor, as well. She'll be thrilled that you're trying to quit and she can offer suggestions that might help. In addition, consider seeking out individual or group counseling. Your local hospitals and health centers have programs like these that can help. Call your local health department for information about programs in your area.

  3. Practice new behaviors - Keep yourself busy in order to distract yourself from urges to smoke. Call someone, go for a walk, or engage in some other activity to keep your mind off of it. Take a warm shower, or read a book. When you first try to quit, alter your routine. Eat breakfast in a different place. Drink juice instead of soda. Drive a different way to work. Do something every day that you enjoy.

  4. Try medication - There are several medications, available both over-the-counter and by prescription, that can help you stop smoking. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the following types of medication for this purpose:

    Bupropion SR - a prescription antidepressant in an extended-release form that reduces symptoms of nicotine withdrawal; available only by prescription

    nicotine gum & lozenges - a fast-acting form of nicotine replacement that acts through the mucous membrane of the mouth; available over-the-counter

    nicotine inhaler - a plastic tube with a nicotine cartridge inside which provides a nicotine vapor; available only by prescription

    nicotine nasal spray - delivers nicotine quickly to the bloodstream as it is absorbed through the nose; available only by prescription

    nicotine patches - provide a measured dose of nicotine through the skin; as nicotine doses are lowered, the smoker is weaned off nicotine; available by prescription and over-the-counter

    All of these medications will more or less double your chances of quitting successfully. Ask your doctor which form of medication she thinks is right for you. If you are pregnant, trying to become pregnant, nursing, or smoking fewer than 10 cigarettes per day, talk to your doctor before taking any of these medications.

  5. Be prepared for difficulties - Most relapses occur within the first three months after quitting. If you start smoking again, don't be discouraged. Recognize what went wrong and try again. A few things to remember:

  6. Avoid drinking alcohol. According to the American Cancer Society, drinking lowers your chances of quitting successfully.

    Steer clear of other smokers, as being around smoking can make you want to smoke, too. Later on you will be able to handle these situations with more confidence.

    Eat a healthy diet and stay active. Many smokers will gain a few pounds when they quit. If you're one of these people, don't let weight gain distract you from your main goal.

    Don't give up and start smoking again because you're in a bad mood or under a lot of stress. Find a healthy alternative to smoking in order to lift your spirits.

    To get through the hard times without relapse, try the following:

    Think about your reasons for quitting and all the benefits to your health, your finances, and your family.

    Ride out the desire. It will go away, but don't fool yourself into thinking you can have just one.

It is hard to stop smoking, but it is possible. More than 46 million Americans have quit smoking and quit for good. There are many organizations that offer information, counseling, and other services to help you quit. Other resources where help can be found include your doctor, dentist, and local hospitals and health centers.



Featured Sites:

Cord Blood Registry
March of Dimes
Susan G. Komen

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