Tips on... Quitting Smoking

by Rich O’Boyle, Publisher
More About Rich…

Cigarette smoking causes 1,000 Americans to die each day. It is the single most important preventable cause of death in the United States. One of every six deaths in the United States is related to smoking. Smoking is a proven health hazard, and there are clear benefits to quitting. There is no safe cigarette and no safe level of smoking.

If you are among the estimated 25 million Americans who smoke, you are increasing your risk of death from many major diseases. For example, you have double the risk of dying from coronary heart disease as do those who never smoked. You also greatly increase your risk of lung cancer and several other cancers--mouth, throat, bladder, pancreas, and kidneys. Stomach and duodenal ulcers are more likely to occur, less likely to heal, and more likely to cause death in smokers than nonsmokers. Diabetics who smoke greatly increase the risk of poor circulation to their hands and feet, which may lead to gangrene.

If that doesn’t scare you, I don’t know what will.

The point of this article is to provide you with positive suggestions for improving your success of quitting smoking. Quitting smoking will be one of the most positive changes that you ever make in your life. It will have ripple effects that you will feel almost immediately and for years to come. I know that because I quit smoking after being a heavy pack-a-day smoker. I also know that it’s possible because someone close to me quit after being a FOUR-pack-a-day smoker – if she could do it, so can you!

Electronic cigarettes are gaining in popularity. You may have heard about vaping (Check Twitter profile of DavinciVaporizer.com to learn more) or seen those vaporizers for sale. It's unclear whether "vaping" or inhaling a mixture of nicotine, water vapor and flavorings is any healthier than traditional cigarette smoking. It's also unclear whether using these types of products is a helpful way to quit smoking.

This is not going to be easy. But I can promise you that when you do reach your smoke-free goal, you will look back proudly on the hard work that got you there.

+ Start by seriously thinking about quitting, then set a Quit Date

Smoking is a part of the smoker's life. To stop smoking, you must first decide to quit. To remain smoke-free, you should use two techniques: 1) avoid tempting situations and 2) do something else when the urge to smoke arises.

In the days and weeks leading up to your Quit Date, try to reduce the number of cigarettes that you smoke, eliminate one situation where you commonly smoke (such as while driving or drinking coffee), or switch to a low-tar brand. Low-tar or “light” cigarettes are not safer than standard cigarettes. Collect all of your cigarette butts into a clear glass jar and add a little water.

+ Accentuate the positive: the benefits of quitting

Quitting smoking is a serious lifestyle change. Be prepared for improved well-being, vitality, and general health. If you have any questions about whether quitting smoking is right for you, review the health risks associated with smoking from the introduction. Then take a look at these benefits:

- Reduced risk of heart attack, cancer, and stroke
- Feeling more in control of your life
- Better smelling hair, breath, clothes, house, and car
- More stamina when walking or exercising
- Less coughing, colds, and flu

+ Save the money you would have spent on cigarettes

It’s been several years since I quit smoking. In 1988, a pack cost $2.00 (and that was down South in Virginia!). I just checked today, and here in New York you can get a pack of smokes for only $10.00. How much do you smoke daily? Do the math and see how much you spend weekly and monthly. Then calculate it yearly.

From the first day that you quit, take the money that you would have spent and put it into a clear glass jar. Put this jar next to your jar of nasty cigarette butts. After one week, count the money. Put it back in the jar and then count it again after a month. Think long and hard about how you are going to spend that money after you cross the six-month mark.

+ Get past the cravings

The hallmark of nicotine addiction is the intense craving to light up and inhale the smoke. You know what it’s like to not be able to smoke. The key to quitting is not gritting your teeth to resist the urge to smoke. That doesn't work. The key is to be active in distracting yourself from thinking about smoking.

Withdrawal symptoms usually occur within 24 hours of stopping smoking or reducing the number of cigarettes smoked per day. Symptoms can include irritability, headache, anxiety, or coughing. These symptoms are signs that the body is recovering from your smoking addiction. Some symptoms decrease sharply after the first few days. Most symptoms end within two to four weeks.

You can get past the cravings by sipping water, breathing deeply, moving around, and keeping your hands busy. The immediate urge will fade after about three or four minutes. A smoker can choose to undergo nicotine addiction treatments if he wants his efforts to quit smoking to have better chances of success. Treatments may include nicotine gum, patches, and e-cigs. You may want to see if there are box mods for sale to improve your e-cig and keep your mind off smoking.

+ Visualize your body healing itself

Print off an anatomical picture of the body, lungs, and heart (see http://www.diseases-explained.com/listoftitles.html). Study it. Visualize the inside of your body (it looks just like this, except with some blackish soot). After you stop smoking, the carbon monoxide level in your blood will decrease, and the oxygen level will increase to normal. That grayish tint to your skin will turn pinker. Your heartbeat will slow down to a normal pace. Your lungs will begin to clear and repair themselves. The black soot will dissolve and your internal organs will become fresh and pink again.

Any withdrawal symptoms that you may experience are actually signs that your body is repairing itself and fighting off the nicotine addiction. Within days of stopping smoking, you will start to feel better. After one to two years of not smoking, your risk of a heart attack will drop sharply and gradually return to normal after about 10 years. Try using some whitening toothpaste to remove those years of stains from your teeth.

+ Substitute the bad behavior with something positive or benign

Each time you feel an urge to smoke, do the following quickly:

(1) Say, "Stop!" to yourself, even out loud.
(2) Repeat the reasons why you are quitting. Tell yourself that you can wait out the urge. Remember that the urge will pass in a few minutes.
(3) Put something in your mouth. Sip water, chew sugarless gum or ice, eat fruit or a low-calorie snack, brush your teeth, or use a toothpick. Keep your hands busy: try beads, paper clips, doodling, crossword puzzles, or handling a coin. Move. Get up and walk. Call or see a helpful friend. Yawn, sigh, or breathe deeply.

+ Ways to cope with withdrawal symptoms

You will not necessarily experience all of these symptoms, although you will likely feel some of them over the next few weeks.

Craving for Cigarettes:
Do something else; take slow deep breaths; tell yourself, "Don't do it."

Anxiety:
Take slow deep breaths; don't drink caffeine drinks; do other things.

Irritability:
Walk; take slow deep breaths; do other things. 

Trouble sleeping:
Don't drink caffeine drinks in the evening; don't take naps during the day; imagine something relaxing
like a favorite spot.

Lack of Concentration:
Do something else; take a walk.

Tiredness:
Exercise; get plenty of rest.

Dizziness:
Sit or lie down when needed; know it will pass.

Headaches:
Relax; take mild pain medication as needed.

Coughing:
Sip water.

Tightness in chest:
Know it will pass.

Constipation:
Drink lots of water; eat high fiber foods like vegetables and fruits.

Hunger:
Eat well-balanced meals; eat low-calorie snacks; drink cold water.

+ Tell a Friend

At the time that I quit, I was a fairly heavy smoker for my age. I would go through a full pack every day, and even more on weekends. All of my friends knew that I was a “professional smoker.” On the day that I quit, I told all of my friends. Some laughed, others looked at me kind of strangely, and a few dared me to actually follow through with it. This bit of a challenge helped me to get through it: Now I had something to prove to others, not just myself.

You may also find a friend who is interested in quitting. Team up with him/her and support each other. If you are married, ask your spouse for some extra consideration and support. If they also smoke, ask them to be considerate and limit their smoking in front of you. Try to quit together!

+ Avoid places or activities that encourage smoking

Destroy all cigarettes the night before Quit Day. Throw away all ashtrays, matches, and lighters. Avoid people who smoke in front of you. Avoid those places where you smoked, when you can. Do not drink alcohol for at least the first two weeks after you quit. Ask family members and friends not to offer you cigarettes or leave them lying around.

One of life’s little rituals is the morning cup of coffee and the first smoke of the day. Caffeine and nicotine seem to go together all too well. This is going to be a hard one to knock. Prepare yourself for it. Remember to find something that is going to keep your hands busy. Try working a crossword puzzle or a word search game. (These are available at all levels of difficulty.) You might put your coffee in a “go-cup” and head out for a 20-minute walk around the block. Pick a pretty place to walk and breathe deeply.

+ Combat possible weight gain with exercise and healthy eating

Many (but not all) former smokers gain weight after quitting. The average weight gain for ex-smokers found in most studies is about 5-10 pounds. Some gain more, some less, and some do not gain any weight. Focus on quitting smoking now and then tackle any weight gain later. Don’t allow this concern to keep you from quitting.

You can help prevent weight gain or keep it small by eating low-fat foods and exercising. Quitting smoking is a lifestyle change. Now is a good time to substitute healthy habits for your unhealthy smoking. Sensible eating and moderate exercise can help you to control your weight for years to come. You get two benefits for the price of one!

+ Ask your doctor or dentist for nicotine gum or patch

Nicotine gum or the nicotine patch may be useful, so check with your doctor or dentist. Some products are available by prescription, and some are available over-the-counter at your drug store. Ask your pharmacist or doctor which one is right for you. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved five medications to help you stop smoking and lessen the urge to smoke. They are:

  - Bupropion SR (Zyban): available by prescription
  - Nicotine gum: available over-the-counter
  - Nicotine inhaler: available by prescription
  - Nicotine nasal spray: available by prescription
  - Nicotine patch: available by prescription and over-the-counter

Using one of these medicines will more or less double your chances of quitting for good.

Nicotine replacement therapy may help you stay off smoking by reducing your withdrawal symptoms so you can concentrate more fully on the behavioral aspects of smoking cessation. Nicotine from any source is addictive and there is no guarantee that these products will work for you. Therefore, nicotine replacement should be used carefully. It is not designed to be used alone. It should be used with other smoking cessation programs and materials (including booklets and videos). Do not continue to smoke while using one of these therapies.

Some researchers believe that smoking cessation therapies may be less effective for women than for men. The same researchers believe that anti-depressant medications may be more effective for women than men. Use this insight to help you choose the approach that works best for you. Prescription drugs may have serious side effects or interact with other medications that you are already on. Ask your doctor if a prescription drug may help you to quit.

+ Reward yourself for achieving your goal

Take all of that money that you have been stashing away in your jar (and some extra cash) and give yourself some real respite. Hire a full-time aide for the weekend and get out to a nearby bed and breakfast. You can also reward yourself with some new clothes, new interior draperies (that don’t smell like smoke), a carpet cleaning, or a new paint job.

+ If you decide not to quit, or if you relapse

If you slip and smoke, don't be discouraged. Many people try several times before finally quitting. Don't be too hard on yourself. One slip doesn't mean you're a failure or that you can't be a nonsmoker, but it is important to get yourself back on the nonsmoking track immediately. Identify the trigger: Exactly what was it that prompted you to smoke? Be aware of the trigger and decide now how you will cope with it when it comes up again.

Look at the positive side: Maybe you have already significantly reduced the amount that you smoke. Or perhaps you now have greater insight into what makes you smoke. You might even have begun to adopt healthy habits such as exercise. Remember, just attempting to quit is a positive thing: it shows that you are getting greater control over your life. Give it some time. Set another date. And quit once and for all.

Related Articles:

  - Exercising Care
  - Proper Nutrition 40+
  - Identifying and Reducing Stress in Your Life
  - Walking Tips for Seniors
  - Respite: What It Is, What It Isn’t

Recommended Reading:

  - 1440 Reasons to Quit Smoking: One for Every Minute of the Day by Bill Dodds
  - The Last Puff: Ex-Smokers Share the Secrets of Their Success by Gene Spiller
  - Cigarettes: What the Warning Labels Don't Tell You by Elizabeth M. Whelan
  - How to Quit Smoking and Not Gain Weight Cookbook by Mary Donkersloot
  - KIT: Quit Smart Stop Smoking Guidebook, Hypnosis Tape, and Cigarette Substitutes by Dr. Robert H. Shipley
  - If Only I Could Quit: Recovering from Nicotine Addiction by Karen Casey
  - More Books on Quitting Smoking from Amazon.com...

Online Resources:

  - National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov
  - Check Your Smoking IQ from NIH http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/public/lung/other/smoking.html
  - Centers for Disease Control and Prevention http://www.cdc.gov
  - Food and Drug Administration http://www.fda.gov
  - “Quitting Smoking Harder for Women than for Men:” Press release from the National Institute on Drug Abuse http://www.nida.nih.gov/MedAdv/01/NR5-1a.html
  - “Clearing the Air: How to Quit Smoking… and Quit for Keeps” from the National Cancer Institute http://dccps.nci.nih.gov/TCRB/Clearing_the_Air/clearing.html
  - “Choosing a Safe and Successful Weight-Loss Program” from the National Institute of Diabetes & Digestive & Kidney Diseases http://www.niddk.nih.gov/health/nutrit/pubs/choose.htm
  - Weight Loss and Control Resources from NIH http://www.niddk.nih.gov/health/nutrit/nutrit.htm
  - Tobacco Cessation Guidelines from the U.S. Surgeon General http://www.surgeongeneral.gov/tobacco/

Sources: “Nurses: Help Your Patients Stop Smoking,” National Institutes of Health, National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, January 1993; U.S. Food and Drug Administration; U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

 

 

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