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Clear the Smoke this November: Join the Great American Smokeout!

The American Cancer Society’s 42nd Annual Great American Smokeout takes place November 16.

Unfortunately, an estimated 36.5 million Americans still smoke and tobacco use remains this country’s single largest preventable cause of disease and premature death. We all know tobacco is a killer. Those who smoke or use other forms of tobacco are more likely to develop disease and die earlier than are those who don’t use tobacco.

If you smoke, you should worry about what it’s doing to your health. You probably worry, too, about how hard it might be to stop smoking. Nicotine is highly addictive, and to quit smoking—especially without help—can be difficult. In fact, most people don’t succeed the first time they try to quit…it may take more than one attempt, but you can stop smoking.

It’s important you take that first step: Decide to stop smoking. Set a quit date and take advantage of all available resources to help you successfully quit smoking. Quitting is the most important step you take to protect your health and the health of your family and friends.

What You’re Risking

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death for men and women. Approximately 87% of lung cancer deaths in men and 70% in women are thought to result from smoking. Smoking also causes cancers of the larynx (voice box), mouth, sinuses, pharynx (throat), esophagus (swallowing tube), and bladder. It has also been linked to the development of cancers of the pancreas, cervix, ovary (mucinous), colon/rectum, kidney, stomach, and some types of leukemia.

As you can see, smoking leads to disease and disability and harms nearly every organ of the body. It’s the leading cause of preventable death. Learn the facts about diseases that can be caused or amplified by tobacco use:

• Numerous types of cancer;
• Asthma;
• Gum disease;
• Heart disease and stroke;
• Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD);
• Vision loss and blindness;
• Depression and anxiety;
• And so many more.

According to Cliff Douglas, the American Cancer Society’s Vice President for Tobacco Control and Director of the Society’s Center for Tobacco Control, the difference between not smoking at all and smoking just a little bit is dramatic. He says, “It may be easy to rationalize smoking a few cigarettes a day if you’re not educated about the relative risks, but the risk of cancer and other debilitating and life-threatening illnesses are still significant even with ‘low-intensity’ smoking.”

Getting Started

Of course, quitting is not easy, but a good plan can help you get past symptoms of withdrawal and these five steps from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) can help.

Set a quit date. Choose the Great American Smokeout or another quit day within the next two weeks.

Tell your family and friends about your quit plan. Share your quit date with the important people in your life and ask for support. A daily phone call, e-mail, or text message can help you stay on course and provide moral support. Try SmokefreeTEXT for 24/7 help via your mobile phone.

Be prepared for challenges. The urge to smoke is short—usually only three to five minutes. Surprised? Those moments can feel intense. Even one puff can feed a craving and make it stronger. Before your quit day, write down healthy ways to cope, such as: Drink water, take a walk or ride your bike, listen to a favorite song or play a game, or call or text a friend.

Remove cigarettes and other tobacco from your home, car, and workplace. Throw away your cigarettes, matches, lighters, and ashtrays. Clean and freshen your car, home, and workplace. Old cigarette odors can cause cravings.

Talk to your pharmacist, doctor, or quit line coach about quit options. Nicotine patches, gum, or other approved quit medication can help with cravings.

Prepare for the Fight

Nicotine dependence causes an addiction to tobacco products. Once you’ve created a plan to quit and picked a day to put that plan in action, you may face any number of nicotine withdrawal symptoms. Most people who try to quit deal with at least one of these symptoms, which include:

• Fatigue;
• Headache;
• Dry mouth;
• Cough;
• Irritability;
• Depression;
• Strong cravings to smoke;
• Constipation; and
• Anxiety.

As a rule, people who have smoked longer and those who smoke a larger number of cigarettes in a day have the greatest likelihood of nicotine withdrawal symptoms. Symptoms may also be made worse at certain times of day or in certain places. Your mind may unconsciously associate a variety of places, people, or times with smoking and set off a trigger to smoke.

The physical withdrawal from nicotine is only temporary, but it can be difficult to cope with your body’s reaction. If you choose to quit cold turkey, withdrawal usually begins two to three hours after you last smoke, and the symptoms are likely to get worse for several days. Peak withdrawal occurs about three days after your last cigarette. Then, as your body becomes accustomed to not having the nicotine, symptoms of withdrawal will subside.

Coping with Withdrawal

Exercise. Nicotine can improve mood and may give you a false sense of well-being. Without the drug you may begin to feel slightly depressed. Thirty minutes of exercise each day can help beat the sagging feeling of fatigue and depression by boosting natural “feel-good” endorphins in your body. Exercise may also help you sleep better.

Sleep and rest. Your body is going through a lot of change as it works to rid itself of the nicotine dependence. If you feel more tired or sleepy, it’s okay to take a nap or go to bed a bit earlier. Your body still detoxes while you’re asleep.

Distract yourself. If you replace your cravings for nicotine with food, you may see the number on the scale increase. This is another reason people put off quitting—fear of gaining weight. Find a distraction other than food when you begin craving a cigarette. You might try playing a game, reading your favorite website, or going for a run.

Make your life smoke free. Ask friends and family members to respect your new lifestyle and refrain from smoking around you. This may mean asking them to smoke only outside and not in your house or car. You remove your temptation, and you may also encourage them to rethink their habit. It can be a win-win.
Manage stress. In the past, you turned to cigarettes as a quick pick-me-up when times were stressful—but no more. Now you must find techniques to deal with everyday stress in a healthier way. Physical activity—walking, cleaning the house, or gardening—can help you reduce stress while keeping your mind off any cravings. Deep-breathing techniques or meditation can help you find calm and avoid taking stress out in less constructive ways.

Turn to Your Accountability Partner. Be honest, and tell them about your withdrawal. Also, let them know the rationalizations you’re making: “Just one cigarette won’t set me back too much” or “I’ll smoke a cigarette just this once to get through this craving.” Your partner can help you identify ways you are sabotaging your quit-smoking plan, and can provide the support and encouragement to get through the craving.

Celebrate Milestones. Congratulations! You have reached a milestone. You made it a whole day without smoking. Reward yourself when you reach your goals—a day, a week, a month, six months of being cigarette-free. That way, when you are telling yourself “one cigarette won’t hurt,” you can focus on the prize you have set up as celebration for being strong. Treat yourself to some downtime—maybe indulge in a bubble bath, slip away to watch your favorite TV show, or take yourself out to a movie. And plan for tomorrow’s mini celebration so you will have something to look forward to when a craving sets in.

Hope on the Horizon

The American Medical Association (AMA) adopted new anti-tobacco policies in 2016 to strengthen and reaffirm the organization’s stance against tobacco usage. The policies ask the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to require tobacco companies to add color, graphic warning labels to all cigarette packages, and call for raising the minimum legal purchase age of all tobacco products to 21.

AMA Board Member William E. Kobler, M.D. commented, “As part of the AMA’s effort to improve the health of the nation, the policies adopted today further our longtime commitment to keeping all harmful tobacco products out of the hands of young people. California and Hawaii have already raised the minimum legal purchase age of tobacco products to 21, and we encourage all states to follow suit.”

According to a recent study by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, raising the minimum legal purchase age of tobacco products to 21 could result in a 12% decrease in smoking prevalence among this nation’s young people.

If you have questions about any healthcare issue, contact the primary care providers at Coastal Carolina Health Care by calling (252) 633-4111 or visiting www.cchchealthcare.com.

(Sources: American Cancer Society; Tobacco-Free Collage Campus Initiative; American Medical Association; Military Health System; Defense Health Agency; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Healthline Networks; Tobacco Free California; and National Public Health Information Coalition.)