Posted on November 16, 2016
There’s Nothing to Lose When You Quit: Join the Great American Smokeout!
The American Cancer Society’s Great American Smokeout takes place November 17.
Unfortunately, an estimated 42 million Americans still smoke and an additional 15 million people smoke tobacco in cigars or pipes. Tobacco use remains 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.
Get Motivated and Devise 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.
Colleges across the country are also hosting 1Day Stand events urging students to adopt a tobacco-free policy for one day—with the ultimate goal of quitting altogether. The Tobacco-Free Collage Campus Initiative believes students are the greatest stakeholders in this issue, so the student voice needs to be heard even louder. They feel leadership can inspire peers to action and also influence decision-makers hesitant to implement policy changes.
Of course, 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.
1. Set a quit date. Choose the Great American Smokeout or another quit day within the next two weeks.
2. 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.
3. 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.
4. 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.
5. 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 monthly 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 3, 2016.
E-Cigarettes are NOT the Answer
If you’re a fan of e-cigarettes, you might think you’re using a safe substitute for the real thing. E-cigarette makers say the product is safe, but can provide no scientific data to back these claims. There’s no solid information about how these products will affect the health of users now, or in the long run. Many health experts would like to pull the plug on the nicotine devices until the long-term health effects can be studied.
Because e-cigarettes are not made under the same strict standards as pharmaceutical products, such as nicotine inhalers, you can’t be sure of what you are getting in each puff. Tests of several brands showed they delivered different amounts of nicotine. In some cases, e-cigarettes produced less nicotine than cigarette smoking or nicotine replacement medicines, but not enough to provide much relief of tobacco urges. Several brands have had wrong, missing, or confusing labels that, for example, listed the wrong strength of nicotine.
Some manufacturers of e-cigarettes claim their products deliver a hit of nicotine without the harmful chemicals and toxins in tobacco. However, the Food and Drug Administration warns that e-cigarettes may contain toxic ingredients.
Worst of all, e-cigarettes may actually inspire smokers to keep using nicotine. Those who might normally try to quit smoking can continue to feed their nicotine addiction with e-cigarettes. Health officials also worry about the impact of e-cigarettes on our youth. With a variety of sweet flavors, such as chocolate and strawberry, e-cigarettes may attract a whole new generation of nicotine users. E-cigarettes might also entice kids to try other tobacco products, including conventional cigarettes, which are known to cause disease and lead to premature death.
If you’re considering using e-cigarettes to quit tobacco, be sure to check out both sides of the e-cigarette debate.
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:
– 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 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.
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?
After just a year without smoking, the CDC reports that your risk for heart disease is lowered by 50% compared to when you were still smoking. 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. After five to 15 years of being smoke-free, your risk of having a stroke is the same as someone who doesn’t smoke.
Fifteen years of non-smoking will bring your risk of heart disease back to the same level as someone who doesn’t smoke. 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.
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. 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.
(Sources: American Cancer Society; Tobacco-Free Collage Campus Initiative; Military Health System; Defense Health Agency; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Healthline Networks; Tobacco Free California; and National Public Health Information Coalition.)