Posted on November 16, 2015
Be a Quitter: Join the Great American Smokeout!
The American Cancer Society’s Great American Smokeout takes place November 19.
Sad news: An estimated 42 million Americans still smoke and an additional 15 million people smoke tobacco in cigars or pipes. Tobacco use remains as this country’s single largest preventable cause of disease and premature death. If you’re a smoker, quitting can be the single most important step you take to protect your health and the health of your loved ones. Smoking causes immediate damage to your body and threatens your future.
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.
Find Your Motivation and Make a Plan
Every year, on the third Thursday of November, smokers across the nation take part in the American Cancer Society’s Great American Smokeout. They may use the date to make a plan to quit—or plan in advance—and then quit smoking that day. The event challenges people to stop using tobacco and helps people know about the many tools they can use to help them quit and remain nonsmokers.
Many friends and family have probably urged you to quit smoking already, but quitting can be hard. 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.
- Drink water.
- Take a walk or ride your bike.
- Listen to a favorite song or play a game.
- 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.
Coastal Carolina Health Care (CCHC) offers a FREE Tobacco Cessation Class, presented by Dr. Ronald A. Preston, to help you quit smoking. This is an opportunity you won’t want to miss! The one-day course has limited availability, so sign up today! Call Stacie Barnett at 252-672-9690 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. The next class will take place December 5, 2015.
Quitting is Tough, Be Prepared for a 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:
- Dry mouth;
- Strong cravings to smoke;
- Constipation; and
As a rule, people who have smoked for a longer period of time and those who smoke at a higher volume (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 without the assistance of a smoking-cessation aid (sometimes known as quitting “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 smoke. Then, as your body becomes accustomed to not having the nicotine, symptoms of withdrawal will subside.
Some smokers are fearful of these withdrawal symptoms and choose to quit nicotine in a milder manner. This can be done with the help of low-nicotine cigarettes or smoking-cessation aids, such as gums, patches, and prescription medicine.
No matter how you do it, you will likely encounter withdrawal symptoms at some point. You don’t have to give in to these symptoms and give up your quest to be smoke-free. Here are a few tips for coping with your withdrawal symptoms.
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.
What Happens to Your Body When You Quit?
Twenty minutes after you quit: The effects of quitting begin immediately. Less than 20 minutes after your last cigarette, your heart rate will already start to drop back toward normal levels (CDC, 2004).
Two hours after you quit: Your heart rate and blood pressure will have decreased to near normal levels. Your peripheral circulation may also improve. The tips of your fingers and toes may start to feel warm. Nicotine withdrawal symptoms—intense cravings, anxiety or frustration, drowsiness, or increased appetite—usually start about two hours after your last cigarette.
Twelve hours after you quit: Carbon monoxide, which can be toxic to the body at high levels, is released from burning tobacco and inhaled as part of cigarette smoke. Because carbon monoxide bonds so well to blood cells, high levels of the substance can prevent these cells from bonding with oxygen, which in turn causes serious cardiovascular problems. In just 12 hours after quitting smoking, the carbon monoxide in your body decreases to lower levels and your blood oxygen levels increase to normal (CDC, 2004).
Twenty-four hours after you quit: The heart attack rate for smokers is 70% higher than for nonsmokers. But, believe or not, just one full day after quitting smoking, your risk for heart attack will already have begun to drop.
Forty-eight hours after you quit: It may not be life-threatening, but deadened senses—specifically, smell and taste—are one of the more obvious consequences of smoking. Luckily, after 48 hours without a cigarette, your nerve endings will start to re-grow, and your ability to smell and taste is enhanced (Cleveland Clinic, 2007). In just a little while longer, you’ll be better appreciating the finer things in life.
Three days after you quit: At this point, the nicotine will be completely out of your body. Unfortunately, that means that the symptoms of nicotine withdrawal will generally peak around this time. You may experience physical symptoms such as headaches, nausea, or cramps.
Two to three weeks after you quit: After a couple of weeks, you’ll be able to exercise and perform physical activities without feeling winded and sick. This is due to a number of regenerative processes that will begin to occur in your body; your circulation will improve, and your lung function will also improve significantly. After two or three weeks without smoking, your lungs may start to feel clear, and you’ll start breathing easier (AHA, 2012). For most smokers, withdrawal symptoms dissipate about two weeks after quitting.
One to nine months after you quit: Starting about a month after you quit, your lungs begin to repair. Inside them, the cilia—the tiny, hair-like organelles that push mucus out—will start to repair themselves and function properly again. With the cilia now able to do their job, they will help to reduce your risk of infection. With properly functioning lungs, your coughing and shortness of breath may continue to decrease dramatically. Even for the heaviest smokers, withdrawal symptoms will go away no more than several months after quitting.
One year after you quit: The one-year mark is a big one. After a year without smoking, your risk for heart disease is lowered by 50% compared to when you were still smoking (CDC, 2004). Another way to look at it is that a smoker is more than twice as likely as you are to have any type of heart disease.
Five years after you quit: A number of the substances released in the burning of tobacco—carbon monoxide chief among them—cause your blood vessels to narrow, which increases your risk of having a stroke. After five to 15 years of being smoke-free, your risk of having a stroke is the same as someone who doesn’t smoke (CDC, 2004).
Fifteen years after you quit: Fifteen years of non-smoking will bring your risk of heart disease back to the same level as someone who doesn’t smoke (CDC, 2004). You’ll no longer be at a higher-than-normal risk for a wide range of conditions like heart attack, coronary artery disease, arrhythmias, angina, infections of the heart, or conditions that affect your heart’s beating rhythms.
Long-term benefits: The long-term benefits of quitting smoking are fantastic. According to the American Heart Association, non-smokers, on average, live 14 years longer than smokers (AHA, 2011). Quit today, and you’ll extend your life span and live those extra years with a functional cardiovascular system, while being active and feeling great.
Cigarettes are slowing you down—affecting your endurance and even how quickly you heal. Lighten your load and quit today!
(Sources: American Cancer Society, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Healthline Networks, National Public Health Information Coalition.)