Mark Twain knew how hard it is to quit smoking. “Quitting smoking is easy. I’ve done it a thousand times,” he once said. It’s not easy to quit when nicotine withdrawal sets in within hours of the last cigarette. Coping with dizziness, depression, anxiety, irritability, headaches, tiredness, increased appetite, weight gain and sleep disturbances can be quite difficult. But those symptoms are much easier to manage than the alternative health problems caused by smoking.
Long-term risks related to smoking range from lung cancer and heart disease, to stomach ulcers, acid reflux, gum disease and serious breathing problems. The negative health impact of smoking can not only steal quality of life, but also shorten a person’s lifespan. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, men and women who smoke lose an average of 14 years of life.
Quitting smoking is a multi-step process that requires ongoing commitment. Some smokers may find themselves going two steps forward and three steps back. But keep trying. Approximately 46 million Americans have been able to kick the habit.
Step One. Make the decision to stop smoking and set a quit date. Write down the reasons why to you want to quit and keep that list with you when you get the urge to light up. Throw away all cigarettes, matches, lighters and ashtrays at home, work or in the car. Forbid smoking by others in your home.
Step Two. Ask your friends, family and co-workers for their motivation and support. Check with your physician about a smoking cessation class or counseling program.
Step Three. Change your routine so you won’t be tempted to smoke. If you do have an urge to smoke, talk to someone, go for a walk or start a task. Reduce stress by taking a hot bath, exercising or reading a book.
Step Four. Use medications or nicotine replacement products if necessary to help lessen nicotine cravings and reduce withdrawal symptoms. Nicotine gum, patches and lozenges can be bought over-the-counter. Nicotine inhalers and nasal sprays are available by prescription. Two medications, varenicline and bupropion SR, can be prescribed to help some people quit. Nicotine replacement products should not be used if you are still smoking.
Step Five. Don’t give up. Relapses most commonly occur within the first three months after quitting. The majority of smokers have to try several times to quit before they are successful.
The immediate benefits of not smoking can help reinforce your commitment to quit. You will notice that your:
- Breath smells better and stained teeth look whiter.
- Yellow fingers and fingernails begin to disappear.
- Sense of smell returns and food tastes better.
- Hair and clothes smell better.
Quitting smoking is hard, but you can stop. Many organizations, including the American Cancer Society, American Lung Association, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and National Cancer Institute offer information on their Web sites that can help you in your fight to kick the habit.