When it comes to quitting tobacco, the important thing is never give up trying. Each time you try to quit and are not successful, you will learn something that can be applied to your next quit attempt.
The 40th annual observance of the American Cancer Society’s Great American Smokeout on Thursday is a challenge to the 43 million smokers in the United States to stop for at least 24 hours. The ultimate goal, of course, is to get smoke out of our lives for good.
According to Lawrence Memorial Hospital Community Education Coordinator Aynsley Anderson, a registered nurse and certified Mayo Clinic wellness coach, one of every five Americans is a smoker, and one in five deaths in the country can be attributed to smoking.
The Kansas Tobacco Quitline provides free coaching to help smokers create an individualized plan to quit tobacco and fight cravings. Reach them at KSquit.org or 1-800-QUIT-NOW.
For more information and tools to help quit tobacco use, go to:
American Cancer Society: cancer.org/smoking
American Heart Association: heart.org/GettingHealthy/QuitSmoking
American Lung Association: lungusa.org/stop-smoking
U.S. Government: smokefree.gov
“Many of today’s smokers started during their teenage years, and they have tried several times to quit,” she said. “As Mark Twain put it: ‘Quitting smoking is easy. I’ve done it a thousand times.’”
Although some people are able to quit on their own, most need help. A free program at LMH called “The Steps to Successfully Quitting Smoking” will be offered in recognition of the Great American Smokeout Thursday from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at the hospital if there are five registered participants. For information or to enroll, call LMH ConnectCare at 505-5800 or visit lmh.org.
LMH’s free program will highlight how to break the smoking habit, pharmaceutical and nicotine replacements, preventing weight gain after quitting and dealing with stress during the quitting process.
According to Dr. Krishna Rangarajan, a board-certified pulmonologist with Lawrence Pulmonary Specialists, most individuals who start smoking don’t realize that nicotine is a highly addictive drug.
“It causes physical dependence with unpleasant withdrawal symptoms such as irritability, anxiety, headaches, sleep problems and trouble concentrating,” Rangarajan said. “And it is also emotionally addictive, making it difficult to break the habit.”
He notes that for most smokers, nicotine replacement therapy can help with the withdrawal symptoms and cravings that make it so difficult for them to quit.
“Nicotine is not a harmless substance,” Rangarajan said. “So if you are pregnant or have heart or circulatory disease, you should talk with your doctor before you start using an over-the-counter product.”
Medications that can be used in conjunction with nicotine replacement include buproprion (Zyban, Wellbutrin, Aplenzin) and varenicline (Chantix). You will need a prescription for either one.
Talk with your doctor to determine whether you might be a candidate for medications to help you quit. Many medications take two to three weeks to work, so make an appointment well in advance of your proposed quit date. And Rangarajan does not recommend electronic cigarettes for smoking cessation.
“The use of e-cigarettes is controversial due to concerns about their long-term effects and their ability to help people quit,” he said.
Rangarajan points out that although lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) get most of the publicity for smoking-related disorders, smoking is also a major factor in cancers of the larynx, mouth, sinuses, throat, esophagus, bladder, pancreas, cervix, ovaries, colon/rectum, kidney and stomach.
“Smoking also has a negative effect on your heart and blood vessels, brain, eyes, hormones and metabolism,” he said. “And smokers are twice as likely as non-smokers to die of a heart attack.”
There are many benefits to quitting tobacco. According to the Centers for Disease Control, quitters may:
- Reduce their risk of coronary heart disease. One year after quitting smoking, the risk drops to half that of a smoker’s.
- Decrease their risk of lung cancer. Ten years after quitting, the death rate from lung cancer is half that of a smoker’s.
- Reduce their risk of a stroke. Within five to 15 years of quitting, stroke risk is reduced to that of a nonsmoker.
- Decrease the risk of getting COPD or COPD worsening. Lungs can begin to heal themselves as soon as you stop harming them with more smoke.
- Save money. A pack-a-day smoker can save around $150 per month (almost $2,000 per year).
Like any addiction, it’s not easy to stop smoking. Anderson said the important thing is to never give up trying.
“Each time you try to quit and are not successful, you will learn something that can be applied to your next quit attempt,” she said. “Be persistent, patient and forgive yourself if you backslide.”
For the majority of those trying to quit, eventually success happens. Most then say it was the best thing that they ever did.
— Janice Early is vice president of marketing and communications for Lawrence Memorial Hospital, which is a major sponsor of WellCommons.