We all know the bad news about smoking, including health risks, expense and even criticism from non-smokers. But, for many people, scare tactics are not helpful when it comes to quitting. To put a positive spin on smoking cessation, let’s look at the benefits of living tobacco-free and how to go about quitting.
The greatest benefit to kicking the habit is dramatically improving your health. According to a report from the Surgeon General, as soon as you take that last puff, your body is busy repairing itself. Just one day after stopping, the heart rate and blood pressure drop and the carbon monoxide level drops to normal. By nine months, coughing and shortness of breath decrease; lungs start to regain normal function, increasing the ability to handle mucus, clean the lungs and reduce the risk of infection. At one year, the risk of coronary heart disease is half that of a smoker, and by five years, the report says the risks of cancer of the mouth, throat, esophagus and bladder are cut in half. After 15 years of living smoke-free, the risk of coronary heart disease and many cancers is that of a non-smoker.
Other benefits of living nicotine-free include:
How to quit
Those most successful at quitting are those who make a firm commitment, have a plan and work hand in hand with their physician to tailor a program to meet their unique needs. So:
Nicotine replacement therapy
Nicotine replacement therapy involves replacing cigarettes with other nicotine substitutes. Therapies work by delivering small and steady doses of nicotine into the body to relieve some of the withdrawal symptoms without the tars and poisonous gases found in cigarettes. This helps smokers focus on breaking their psychological addiction and learn new behaviors and coping skills.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved five types of nicotine replacement therapies: gum, lozenges and patches, which can be purchased over the counter; and nasal sprays and inhalers, which require a prescription. These products can be very helpful in the initial stages of quitting and withdrawal. However, nicotine is addictive and a person can transfer their dependence from cigarettes to the other therapy, particularly the fast delivery of nasal spray. Use only as prescribed by your doctor.
These oral medications help you stop smoking by reducing cravings and withdrawal symptoms without the use of nicotine. Some can be used along with nicotine replacement therapies, and some must be started before your planned quit day.
Varenicline (Chantix) is a prescription medicine developed to help people stop smoking by interfering with nicotine receptors in the brain. It has a duel effect: It reduces the pleasure a person gets from smoking, and reduces the symptoms of nicotine withdrawal. It is typically started before your quit date. Bupropion (Zyban) is another effective prescription smoking cessation medicine. Several studies have shown taking medication can more than double the chances of quitting compared to taking no medicines at all. Medications are most effective when used as part of a comprehensive cessation program monitored by your physician.
Kicking the habit is hard work but it can be done. With a plan tailored to your needs, you can break the addiction, manage your cravings and join the millions of people who have quit smoking for good. If you are ready to quit, talk to your physician.