Kicking the smoking habit for good

A resolution easier said than done, but not impossible

With the holidays behind us, we stand at the threshold of another New Year. In an effort to improve our lives over the next 12 months, we’ll make resolutions that if achieved would make a difference for the better. If yours is to get healthy, fantastic! But be more specific. If you or someone you love currently smokes, then becoming tobacco free is a huge step in the direction of that “get healthy” resolution.

One cigarette contains over 4,000 chemical compounds, 200 of them are poisonous. So how do you quit smoking if 20 of these ingredients are carcinogens?

Lisa Schlagel, RN, at Winter Haven Hospital points out ways to kick this habit to the curb once and for all. “Nicotine is highly addictive. Kicking the habit is absolutely possible – but I would be less than honest to say that it is easy. However and very fortunately, there are a number of options available today to help support cessation efforts. Not every intervention necessarily works for every person. A health care provider can help develop a plan that will best support the individual, taking into consideration general health, any special health issues, and other factors. There are even prescription medications that can help a person quit. If the patient and physician determine one of these to be appropriate, a health care provider must write the prescription.”

Getting the facts

The statistics are insurmountable. Smoking is one of the few things that affect every single area of the body from lack of circulation to a weakened immune system. In 2000, 1.69 million premature deaths happened from smokers who contracted cardiovascular disease. The number incidentally is lower for lung cancer at 850,000. Dr. Sergio Seoane, a pulmonologist in Lakeland and Polk County Medical Association member states, “Smoking harms nearly every organ system in the body. Smoking causes many diseases and harms the health of smokers and non-smokers. Compared to people who do not smoke, smoking increases the risk of coronary heart disease by two to four times, stroke by two to four times, and increases the risk of men developing lung cancer by 23 times! It increases the chance of women developing lung cancer by 13 times and dying from chronic obstructive lung diseases (such as chronic bronchitis and emphysema) by 12 to 13 times.”

Schlagel agrees, “Smoking and tobacco use also contributes to the risk of cancer in the mouth, lips, nasal cavity (nose) and sinuses, larynx (voice box), pharynx (throat), esophagus (swallowing tube), stomach, pancreas, kidney, bladder, uterus, cervix, colon/rectum, ovary, and acute myeloid leukemia. Even if a smoker is fortunate enough to avoid coronary heart disease or cancer, all smokers will eventually develop chronic lung disease (emphysema). This is a very debilitating, very devastating disease that is not curable and often very difficult to manage.”

When a person decides to start the habit, even as a “social smoker,” the effects are immediate. Blood pressure and heart rate increases, meaning the heart is working much harder than it should and blood flow to the extremities is reduced. Other symptoms include bad breath, stained teeth, and weakened immune system, which causes you to contract a cold or flu easier. Also decreased fertility in women and erectile dysfunction in men can occur, to name just a few of the consequences, according to Dr. Seoane.

Resolution resources

Dr. Seoane suggests counseling such as individual, group, or telephone counseling and behavioral cessation therapies like training in problem solving. Treatments with more person-to-person contact and intensity, such as more time with counselors, will improve the chances of quitting smoking.” He continues, “The addition of nicotine replacement products (i.e., over-the-counter nicotine patch, gum, lozenge) and prescription (i.e., nicotine inhaler, nasal spray) have both been shown to improve the chances of quitting smoking. Also, there are other prescription non-nicotine medications, such as bupropion SR (Zyban®) and varenicline tartrate (Chantix®), which have shown to help people stop smoking.”

Quitting cold turkey is an option that some have tried at one time or another, but help is out there, especially if you want to establish a healthy lifestyle. Dr. Seoane points out, “It is important to mention that nicotine is the psychoactive drug in tobacco products that produces dependence and tolerance. Most smokers are dependent on nicotine. Without nicotine a smoker develops cravings for cigarettes and symptoms of the nicotine withdrawal syndrome. Nicotine dependence is the most common form of chemical dependence in the United States! Nicotine withdrawal symptoms include irritability, anxiety, difficulty concentrating, depressed mood, increased appetite, and weight gain. All nicotine replacement therapies provide nicotine to a smoker without using tobacco, thereby relieving withdrawal symptoms as the smoker breaks the behavior of cigarette smoking.”

Making the commitment

When faced with the reality of any one of these numerous diseases, quitting seems like the best option, right? It’s easier said than done, but not impossible. “The most important first step is for the smoker to make the decision to quit!” Schlagel observes. “This can’t be someone else’s decision – to be successful, it must come from the smoker. Once you decide you want to quit, a good second step is to discuss it with your health care provider (physician or nurse practitioner). Discuss and consider all options – nicotine replacement therapy, prescription medication (i.e., bupropion or varenicline), smoking cessation classes – there are a number of options to help you quit. Typically, using as many of these options in combination will help increase your success rate.”

You can get lots of information and support from the Florida Quit Line, 1-877-U-CAN-NOW (1-877-822-6669), including free cessation counseling and even free nicotine replacement supplies. “It is an incredible resource to support Floridians in their cessation efforts,” adds Schlagel. “They can also direct you to a local smoking cessation class.”

What can your body recover once you’ve managed to kick that habit? For starters, the chance to be that individual you always wanted to be, reducing your chance of a debilitating disease, and maybe even living to a ripe old age.

“Fortunately, people who stop smoking will significantly reduce their risk for disease and premature death,” confirms Dr. Seoane. “Although the health benefits are much greater for people who stop at earlier ages, cessation is beneficial to all people at all stages of life.”



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