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Introduction to Quit smoking

If you are a smoker, the single most important thing you can do to improve your health and wellbeing is to quit smoking. It is definitely not easy, but you can do it, if you decide you want to.

Why is smoking bad for you?

Most people already know that smoking is bad for them. The list of health problems that it causes is quite remarkable for a government-regulated, legal product. Many smokers are focused on the fear of developing lung cancer. While it is true that the risk of death from lung cancer is 12 times greater that if you do not smoke, it turns out that your increased risk of dying from smoking is largely attributed to heart disease, because if you smoke, your risk of dying from heart disease is 6 times greater than the relatively high risk among non smokers.

Another major tragedy from smoking is the rate of chronic lung disease, including chronic bronchitis and emphysema (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease , or COPD). These chronic lung conditions rob sufferers of health and happiness, because they leave sufferers struggling to breathe, and prevent them from doing anything active (like taking a walk). Finally, there is a host of other problems that smokers face — from premature aging and wrinkling of the skin, to cold hands and feet caused by poor circulation, to depression, to a series of lesser known cancers that also can kill. Sadly, the rates of mouth, throat, laryngeal, and bladder cancers are all much higher in smokers than non smokers.

It is worth noting also that smoking is expensive, and so it is a powerful drain on your monthly budget. Have you added up how much smoking costs you? You may be surprised.

Why it is hard to quit

There is a quote attributed to Mark Twain: "Quitting smoking is easy, I've done it hundreds of times." The fact is that quitting smoking is very hard, because smoking is highly addictive. The Surgeon General C. Everett Koop in 1990 famously noted that it is harder to give up cigarettes than it is to beat a cocaine habit. The powerful drug in tobacco that addicts people to cigarettes is nicotine.

Smokers develop both a physical and a psychological addition to smoking, largely because of the nicotine. If you want to be successful at quitting smoking, you must address this physical addiction, as well as the psychological dependence.

Benefits of quitting

There are huge benefits to quitting smoking. They include

  • Warmer hands
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Less or no coughing
  • Improved stamina
  • Greater energy
  • Improved self-image
  • You will feel happier
  • You will stop feeling guilty
  • You will enjoy your health
  • You stop smelling of smoke
  • You enjoy your meals more
  • You will save money
If you decide you want to quit smoking, you should create a plan that addresses both your psychological dependence, and your physical addiction.

Psychological addiction

It is hard for many smokers to break the patterns of behavior and social interactions that build up around smoking. If you ignore these powerful patterns and triggers to smoke, you are likely to have trouble staying off the tobacco.

Studies have shown that the chance of success goes up sharply with intensive counseling support. It can be one-on-one or group counseling, but it should involve regular and intensive meetings.

One approach to figuring out a plan to break your habit is to seek telephone-based guidance. The American Cancer Society's Quitline is a tobacco cessation help line that links smokers trying to quit with trained counselors. Try 1 (800) 227-2345. The quitline also can help you find a stop smoking program that is convenient to you. If you are joining a group counseling program, look for a minimum 2-4 week duration that includes sessions of at least a half hour, twice a week or more.

You are online at Wellsphere now. If you haven't already done so, check out the Quit smoking community at http://www.wellsphere.com/viewGroup.s?id=388 , and look for tobacco cessation resources at http://www.wellsphere.com/searchResources.s?bt.id=20 .

Creating a support network can give you additional help you need to quit and stay quit. Enlist your family, friends, coworkers, and your doctor.

Physical addiction

Nicotine addiction leads to withdrawal when you stop. The symptoms are unpleasant, and more to the point, they drive you to want to smoke again. One way to taper the nicotine withdrawal is to slowly reduce the amount of cigarettes you smoke. With gradual reductions, there are minimal symptoms of withdrawal. The problem is that it is very difficult for a long time smoker to cut down progressively on the amount smoked.

Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT)

NRT give you the opportunity to stop smoking cold turkey, and not suffer from nicotine withdrawal at the same time. The very best quit smoking results are among those who seek guidance, create a plan, join a counseling program, and use NRT during the first 2 weeks after quitting.

NRT is available in multiple forms - from the continuous nicotine patch, to lozenges, gum, nasal spray, and inhalers. Many recommend using the patch in conjunction with one of the intermittent forms for use if needed when a craving hits.

NRT should not be used if you are continuing to smoke, as you can overdose on nicotine. Also, NRT should not be used for more than a few weeks — once you are off the cigarettes, you can taper the dosage to wean your body from the drug.

Finally, there are specific prescription medicines that help people get off and stay off cigarettes. Buproprion ( Zyban ) is perhaps the best known anti depressant that has demonstrated that it helps smokers to quit. A newer medicine called varenicline (Chantix) has recently come to market, and studies suggest it has a higher success rate than buproprion. See your doctor to discuss either of these prescription medicines, and NRT.

Other aids that people have tried to use to help quit smoking include acupuncture (but there is no good evidence it is effective), hypnosis (which may work in selected people, but is not generally effective) and various herbs and supplements (again, with little or no evidence of effectiveness).

How to quit

You probably already know that it can be a real challenge to quit. You should prepare yourself and learn what it will take to succeed. Give yourself an advantage by lining up resources and help that will get you through a challenging period. The good news is that there is lots of help available to you if you seek it out.

There are several factors that are essential for you to address

  • Have you made the decision? Have you decided that it is important enough to do what it takes to quit and stay off tobacco? You must have that firm commitment in order to succeed.
  • Set a date to quit, and create a plan of action
  • Manage the withdrawal
  • Have a plan to stay off the tobacco
As mentioned above, get guidance, find a stop smoking plan that involves one on one or group counseling, and talk to your doctor about possible NRT or other medications to help you quit.

Good luck!

Additional resources that can help, from the American Cancer Society

Wellsphere's Quit smoking community
http://www.wellsphere.com/viewGroup.s?id=388

Wellsphere's directory of tobacco cessation resources
http://www.wellsphere.com/searchResources.s?bt.id=20 .

American Heart Association & American Stroke Association
Telephone: 1-800-AHA-USA-1 or 1-800-242-8721
Telephone: 1-888-4-STROKE or 1-888-478-7653
Internet address: www.amhrt.org
Internet address: www.strokeassociation.org

American Lung Association
Telephone: 1-800-LUNG-USA (1-800-548-8252)
Internet address: www.lungusa.org Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Office on Smoking & Health
Telephone: 1-800-CDC-INFO (1-800-232-4636)
Internet address: www.cdc.gov/tobacco

National Cancer Institute
Cancer Information Service
Telephone: 1-800-4-CANCER (1-800-422-6237)
Internet address: www.cancer.gov

Nicotine Anonymous
Telephone: 1-877-879-6422
Internet address: www.nicotine-anonymous.org

Smokefree.gov
(Online materials, including info on state telephone-based programs)
Telephone: 1-800-QUITNOW (1-800-784-8669)
Internet address: www.smokefree.gov

Smoking Cessation Leadership Center
Telephone: 1-800-QUITNOW or 1-800-784-8669
Internet address: http://smokingcessationleadership.ucsf.edu/