Cigarette smoking is one of the worst habits for health and one of the most difficult to quit. But remember: you can do it! It begins with a plan, determination and a little help from your friends.
The decision to stop smoking is one of the most important you’ll ever make. Numerous chemicals and toxic gases are inhaled in tobacco smoke. Of those, nicotine and carbon monoxide are the most dangerous. When nicotine is inhaled it causes high blood pressure, reduced blood flow to the heart and an increased heart rate. Carbon monoxide, like nicotine, competes with oxygen in the body and slowly suffocates lung tissue.
Cigarette smoking is the most significant cause of lung cancer. It is also responsible for most cancers of the larynx, oral cavity and esophagus. It is also highly associated with several other cancers. Cigarette smoking greatly increases the risk of stroke and heart attacks. Smokers are at higher risk of emphysema and osteoporosis.
The good news is that the majority of this damage can be fixed by quitting. Surveys have consistently shown that at least 70 percent of smokers would like to quit. Almost nine out of 10 want to quit for health reasons, with financial reasons being the second greatest concern. But the physical addiction to tobacco is powerful, and smoking becomes an ingrained habit.
Tips for Helping Yourself Quit Smoking
- Most people fail at their first attempt to stop smoking and give up. But don’t give up. Go into it knowing that it will be a challenge, but be confident you can do it. Choose a ‘quit date’ and then prepare for it. Aids such as nicotine replacement therapy can double your chances of successfully quitting, so consider using a nicotine patch or gum. Remove ashtrays from the house and make it a non-smoking area.
- Examine your smoking-related habits, and try to find ways to change them that will equip you to win the battle for a smoke-free life. Think about why and when you smoke – every smoker has particular times of the day, or particular situations when they have a cigarette. Being aware of your personal triggers will help enormously when you’re trying to quit. It enables you to recognize, avoid, or prepare for them.
- Try to come up with ideas for substitute activities. Focus on your reasons for quitting and on the benefits you’ll gain, and write them down too. Reasons can range from “I don’t want to die young” to “I want to be able to play soccer without getting wheezy.” So make a list and be sure to get every reason down, no matter how small.
- Aim to broaden your everyday experiences and take the focus away from quitting smoking. Try new types of exercise or social activities, experiment with new drinks and foods, listen to different music, get some new clothes or a haircut or treat yourself to a day at a gym or health spa. Bear in mind you’re gaining a new, healthier existence, free of cigarettes.
- Many smokers often feel alone in their struggle to quit smoking. Increase your chances of success by surrounding yourself with supportive and encouraging people. Consider joining a quit-smoking group either in your local community or online.
The good news is that the human body has an amazing ability to heal itself. Once you stop using tobacco, your body benefits immediately. On the first day, your blood pressure and heart rate will drop. After two days, your senses of taste and smell improve. By three months, your circulation and breathing improve, making exercise easier. One year after quitting, your risk of heart attack drops to about half that of current smokers and continues to drop. Five years later, your risk of stroke is the same as a nonsmoker’s. At 10 years, your risk of developing lung cancer has halved.
There may be initial withdrawal symptoms, including cravings, irritability or aggression, depression, restlessness, poor concentration, increased appetite, and light-headedness. If you remind yourself that these will pass eventually and think of the health benefits you will receive from quitting, it will make the process easier.
The Great American Smokeout
The American Cancer Society marks the annual Great American Smokeout every November, nationally recognized as a platform to educate the public on the dangers associated with tobacco use and to encourage smokers to quit for a lifetime by starting with just one day.
Now that many more Americans understand the dangers associated with tobacco use, cigarette smoking among adults aged 18 and older has declined by nearly half between 1965 and 2005 — from 42% to 21%. An estimated 45 million adults are now former smokers, and per-capita cigarette consumption is currently lower than at any point since the start of World War II.
Nonetheless, roughly 1 in 4 adults and 1 in 5 teenagers in the U.S. are current smokers, and lung cancer remains the number one cancer killer among men and women. This year alone, approximately 213,380 new cases of lung cancer will be diagnosed in the US, and an estimated 160,390 people will die from the disease. Smoking is also associated with increased risk for cancers of the mouth, larynx, pharynx, esophagus, kidney, bladder, pancreas, and cervix and has more recently been associated with colorectal cancer, myeloid leukemia, as well as cancers of the liver, stomach, and nasal sinuses. Smoking is also a major cause of heart disease, cerebrovascular disease, chronic bronchitis, and emphysema.
Need Help in Quitting?
Visit the Great American Smokeout website for additional information and free quit-smoking resources.