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Tips to Stop Smoking

Achiev­ing a com­plete­ly smoke-free lifestyle

While most peo­ple are aware of the health risks asso­ci­at­ed with smok­ing tobac­co, it remains the lead­ing cause of pre­ventable death in the Unit­ed States today. Accord­ing to the Amer­i­can Lung Asso­ci­a­tion, tobac­co use, includ­ing e‑cigarettes, and expo­sure to sec­ond-hand smoke are respon­si­ble for as many as 480,000 deaths each year. Decid­ing to quit smok­ing is the first step towards achiev­ing a longer, health­i­er life. How­ev­er, quit­ting smok­ing isn’t a one-time event, it’s an ongo­ing process that will require an indi­vid­u­al­ized quit plan. To be suc­cess­ful, you will need to change some of your dai­ly habits and iden­ti­fy ways to man­age crav­ings and any with­draw­al symp­toms. Oncol­o­gist, Samir Desai, MD, shares the health ben­e­fits of quit­ting and tips to help you achieve a smoke-free life.

In recent years, while not orig­i­nal­ly intend­ed to be a smok­ing ces­sa­tion aid, e‑cigarettes have become increas­ing­ly pop­u­lar for those try­ing to stop smok­ing. This is because e‑cigarettes were intro­duced as a less-addic­tive, safer alter­na­tive to cig­a­rettes. Despite their pop­u­lar­i­ty, using e‑cigarettes to stop smok­ing can actu­al­ly have the oppo­site effect. In fact, near­ly 40 per­cent of teen smok­ers nev­er smoked cig­a­rettes pri­or to using e‑cigarettes.

Along with being addic­tive, e‑cigarettes are not as health risk-free as you may think. Research has shown that the chem­i­cals found in e‑cigarettes can be just as harm­ful to your health as cig­a­rette smoke. They can cause DNA dam­age, raise your blood pres­sure and heart rate and lead to oth­er heart and lung con­di­tions. In gen­er­al, any­thing that is inhaled into your lungs can affect the health of your lungs. Whether you want to stop smok­ing cold-turkey or plan to grad­u­al­ly wean your­self off, com­mit­ting to a com­plete­ly smoke-free lifestyle pro­vides you with the most health benefits.

The pos­i­tive effects of a smoke-free lifestyle begin in as lit­tle as min­utes after you quit and your health con­tin­ues to improve as each addi­tion­al smoke-free day pass­es. Imme­di­ate and long-term health ben­e­fits of a tobac­co-free lifestyle include:

With­in the first day:

Your heart rate and blood pres­sure low­er and the car­bon monox­ide lev­el in your blood returns to normal.

With­in the first few days:

Your sen­so­ry nerve end­ings begin to repair them­selves, improv­ing your sense of smell and taste.

With­in the first few months:

Your lung func­tion and cir­cu­la­tion improves.

With­in the first five years:

You reduce your risk of devel­op­ing heart dis­ease and cer­tain can­cers by 50 percent.

Quit­ting smok­ing is often a long jour­ney filled with ups and downs. Try to stay focused on the future and all you are look­ing for­ward to with a smoke-free lifestyle rather than the phys­i­cal act of giv­ing up smok­ing or vap­ing. Your doc­tor can rec­om­mend addi­tion­al ces­sa­tion meth­ods includ­ing med­ica­tions, sup­port groups and behav­ior mod­i­fi­ca­tions to help you along the way.

Regard­less of the method you choose, you will expe­ri­ence crav­ings and will have to work to over­come these urges in order to stay on track. Some behav­ior mod­i­fi­ca­tions have been proven to be effec­tive in reduc­ing crav­ings, including:

Build­ing a sup­port system

Don’t rely on willpow­er alone. Lean on fam­i­ly and friends, reach­ing out when you feel like smok­ing. Not only can it help you get through your crav­ings, you also get the added bonus of stay­ing con­nect­ed to the peo­ple you care about.

Chew­ing gum or eat­ing a crunchy snack

When you expe­ri­ence a crav­ing, try snack­ing on hard can­dy, car­rots or a hand­ful of nuts. For more per­sis­tent crav­ings, chew­ing gum may be more satisfying.

Estab­lish­ing a new routine

With­out smoke breaks, you free up time to par­tic­i­pate in oth­er activ­i­ties. Even some­thing as sim­ple as going for a walk out­side can be more enjoy­able as your lung capac­i­ty improves.

Keep­ing your­self busy

Tobac­co with­drawals can leave you feel­ing antsy. Keep a rub­ber ball at work to squeeze when­ev­er you find your­self fid­get­ing and dis­tract your­self with puz­zles or games.

Mak­ing rest and relax­ation a priority

Stress and fatigue can be a trig­ger when you’re try­ing to stop smok­ing. Give your­self enough time to rest and lim­it your stress as much as pos­si­ble. Dur­ing stress­ful moments, focus on your breath­ing, tak­ing a few deep, calm­ing breaths. Estab­lish­ing an exer­cise rou­tine, med­i­ta­tion or yoga can also help.

Reward­ing yourself

Start a mon­ey jar, deposit­ing mon­ey every time you resist the urge to smoke or would have bought tobac­co prod­ucts. This serves as a great visu­al reminder of all the mon­ey you are sav­ing and the progress you are making.

Prepar­ing for set-backs

It’s impor­tant not to get dis­cour­aged if you expe­ri­ence a set-back. It takes most peo­ple mul­ti­ple attempts to quit smok­ing before they are suc­cess­ful. After a set-back, think about the rea­sons you decid­ed to quit smok­ing in the first place.

Your pri­ma­ry care physi­cian can pre­scribe nico­tine replace­ment ther­a­pies (gum, lozenges or skin patch­es), as well as non-nico­tine med­ica­tions to help you wean your­self off smoking.

Uti­liz­ing a sup­port group or ces­sa­tion pro­gram can also be a help­ful way to stay account­able and com­mit­ted to your new smoke-free lifestyle. Through the Courage to Quit® pro­gram devel­oped by the Res­pi­ra­to­ry Health Asso­ci­a­tion, six week ces­sa­tion class­es are avail­able free-of-charge. Each ses­sion pro­vides infor­ma­tion to help you with:

  • Addic­tion and withdrawal
  • Avoid­ing triggers
  • Ces­sa­tion medications
  • Iden­ti­fy­ing addi­tion­al resources
  • Man­ag­ing cravings

Quit­ting smok­ing is an on-going deci­sion you make each day. It can be a dif­fi­cult addic­tion to over­come, but com­mit­ting to a com­plete­ly smoke-free lifestyle will pro­vide you with sig­nif­i­cant health ben­e­fits and improve the longevi­ty and over­all qual­i­ty of your life. Quit­ting smok­ing allows your body to begin to heal itself, and over­time, dras­ti­cal­ly reduces your risk of smok­ing (and vap­ing) relat­ed ill­ness­es, includ­ing sev­er­al pre­ventable types of can­cer. Learn more about our upcom­ing smok­ing ces­sa­tion classes. 

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