by: Dr. Charmagne Anne Sunico
Did you know that in a cigarette there are chemicals that are found in lighter fluid, industrial solvents, insecticides, rocket fuel and toilet cleaner, among others? Smoking also may lead to several forms of cancer like laryngeal, lung, oral cavity, esophageal, bladder and pancreatic cancers? Smoking may also lead to hardening of the arteries and to a subsequent myocardial infarction or a heart attack. The moral here is if you don’t smoke, don’t start.
However, if you do smoke, there are benefits to quitting that outweigh continuing the habit: after 20 minutes, your blood pressure returns to normal, after 8 hours, the Carbon Monoxide in your bloodstream is cut by half, after 3 days, breathing is easier, after 2 months, circulation improves and lung function increases up to 30%, and after a year, the risk of heart attack is reduced by 50%.
So, how does one quit smoking?
First, you got to have a plan, a quit plan. There are different strategies that are available to the future non-smoker, including quitting cold turkey, behavioral therapy, nicotine replacement therapy, medications and various combinations of the previously mentioned techniques.
About 90% of people who try to quit smoking do it cold turkey or without outside support -- no aids, therapy, or medicine. Tips to help do this method effectively include starting on the weekend where you can get plenty of extra rest, avoid stressful situations that may trigger the urge to light up, stay away from coffee and alcohol but drink lots of water to keep hydrated, change your routine so you will not be exposed to the same triggers you usually encounter, and clean your house to get rid of things that remind you of your smoking habit – like ashtrays, lighters, etc.
Behavioral Therapy involves working with a counselor to find ways not to smoke. Together, you'll find your triggers (such as emotions or situations that make you want to smoke) and make a plan to get through the cravings. Nicotine Replacement Therapy works by giving you the nicotine (the addictive portion of smoking) without the use of tobacco. These are usually in the forms of gum, patches, inhalers, sprays and lozenges with nicotine. One may be more likely to quit with this therapy, but it works best when combined with behavioral therapy and lots of support from friends and family. There are a few prescription medications available to help with cravings and symptoms from withdrawal. Bupropion and varenicline are some options. Please ask your attending physician about them.
Using a combination of treatment methods might increase your chances of quitting. For example, using both behavioral therapy and nicotine replacement therapy; prescription medication used together a nicotine replacement therapy patch; and a nicotine replacement therapy patch and nicotine spray. Although, the USFDA and our own BFAD have not approved using 2 types of nicotine replacement therapies at the same time, so be sure to talk with your doctor first to see if this is the right approach for you.
Secondly, one must keep busy. It is a great way to stay smoke-free on your quit day. Being busy will help keep your mind off smoking and distract you from cravings. Some of the activities you may try include exercising, walking outdoors, chewing gum or hard candy, and spending time with non-smoking friends and family.
Thirdly, avoid smoking triggers. These are the people, places, things, and situations that set off your urge to smoke. It would be wise to throw away all your cigarettes, lighters and ash trays. It is also good to spend time with non-smokers and go to places where smoking is not allowed. Make sure to get plenty of rest and eat healthy, because being tired can trigger you to smoke.
Fourth, stay positive. True, quitting smoking is difficult but it happens one minute, one hour then one day at a time, but the benefits!
Lastly, you can always ask for help. You don’t need to rely on willpower alone to remain smoke-free. Tell your family and your friends when your quit day is and ask them for support for that day and the days to follow. Let them know exactly how they can support you. Don’t assume that they’ll know.
Quitting smoking can be quite a struggle, but it can be overcome. Do try out our tips and make sure to ask your attending doctor about what he/she may do for you to help you on your smoke-free journey!