Wanting to stub out one’s last cigarette ever may seem a daunting task to an avid smoker. Where do you start? How do you start? People smoke for all kinds of reasons, such as to relieve stress, but when you read the facts it’s easy to see that the benefits of quitting smoking outweigh the perceived release associated with tobacco. According to the American Cancer Society, most smokers begin their smoking habits in their teens, reportedly stating that they thought it “looked cool” or knew others who smoked. A 2014 Surgeon General’s Report states that about three out of four high school smokers will turn into adult smokers. This addictive habit can lead to not only adverse health risks but to deadly diseases such as cancer. The American Cancer Society reports that:
- Each year more than 480,000 people in the United States die from tobacco-related illnesses.
- Smoking kills more Americans than alcohol, car accidents, guns and illegal guns combined.
- Smoking causes cancer and can damage nearly every organ in the body.
Even with these facts many people struggle to quit smoking because of the addictive substance nicotine found in cigarettes. This naturally occurring drug is found in tobacco and travels to the brain a few seconds after taking a drag on a cigarette. Over time, the body grows accustomed to nicotine and experiences negative symptoms of withdrawal when someone tries to quit. The American Cancer Society says that two out of three smokers say they want to quit smoking and half try to quit each year.
If you are serious about quitting, make a plan of action and employ all helpful tactics available. There are several nicotine replacements, prescriptions and therapies available to help in the quitting process, but be aware of possible side effects.
Side effects of Quitting
Part of the reason it is so difficult to stop smoking are the side effects. These begin usually within a few hours and grow to be more extreme within two to three days. Withdrawal symptoms are not life threatening, but can be uncomfortable. Symptoms of nicotine withdrawal include:
- Dizziness (can last up to two days after quitting).
- Frustration, impatience, anger.
- Trouble sleeping.
- Trouble with concentration.
- Hunger and weight gain.
- Decreased heart rate.
- Constipation and gas.
- Cough, dry mouth, sore throat and nasal drip.
Withdrawal symptoms can last up to several weeks, but will ease as the body adjusts to the change. Work with your doctor to find the best plan to quit that works for you.
The negative side effects of quitting smoking may seem intense, but your body will thank you for the positive side effects it will produce. According to the American Cancer Society, early positive side effects of quitting include:
- 20 minutes after you quit: Heart rate and blood pressure drop.
- 12 hours after you quit: The carbon monoxide level in the body drops to normal.
- 2 to 3 weeks after you quit: Circulation and lung function improve.
- 1 to 9 months after you quit: A decrease in coughing and shortness of breath. The cilia (hair-like structures that push mucus out of the lungs) begin to function regularly again, so they can clean the lungs properly and reduce infection.
- 1 year after you quit: Risk of cancer in the mouth, throat, esophagus, and bladder is cut in half, along with the risk of a stroke.
Other benefits include:
- Food tastes better.
- Sense of smell increases to normal.
- Teeth and fingernails stop yellowing.
- You don’t become winded during normal activities, such as climbing stairs.
Smoking does not only lead to serious health risks but can affect your sex life. Tobacco can cause damage to the female reproductive system, and lower a woman’s chances of becoming pregnant. As for men, smoking damages arteries and constricts blood flow, affecting part of the process of getting an erection. Men who smoke are more likely to experience erectile dysfunction, along with reduced fertility, than those who don’t.
Ways to Quit
So how do you quit? The American Cancer Society suggests choosing a specific date as your “quit day’’, informing friends and family and creating a plan of action. It recommends the following tips to prepare for your quit day/quit night:
- Get rid of all smoking paraphernalia (cigarettes, ashtrays etc).
- Stock up on oral substitutes (gum, carrots, hard candy).
- Settle on your nicotine replacement plan.
- Set up a support system with your friends and family or program group.
- Ask friends and family to not smoke around you.
- On quit day: Stay active, avoid alcohol and drink lots of water and juice.
Replacements and Therapy
There is no one way to stop smoking, and it may take trial and error to find what works best for you.
- Nicotine Replacement Therapy: Going cold turkey from nicotine can be difficult and cause uncomfortable side effects. This form of therapy provides small doses of nicotine through gums, lozenges, patches and sprays. NRT relieves some of the nicotine withdrawal.
- Prescription Drugs: Some doctors may recommend prescription drugs to aid in the quitting process. This method is used only for extreme dependence, where the person is smoking more than one pack a day, within five minutes of waking up, while sick, or in the middle of the night. If you think you suffer from a severe case of addiction to cigarettes, talk to your doctor about finding the appropriate prescription drug.
- Hypnosis: This may seem a radical method but some people choose this According to the American Cancer Society, there is no concrete proof that this works, but some people have said it helps. If you are interested in this method, talk to your doctor about finding a licensed therapist who specializes in hypnotherapy.