The facts on smoking
If you are a smoker, the single most important thing you can do for your health is to quit. Not only can you enhance the quality of life by quitting, but you can extend the length of your life. The facts are simple: half of all smokers who don’t quit will die from a smoking-related illness. Research shows that even ex-smokers live longer than people who continue to smoke. Tobacco use, which includes smoking, is the number one preventable cause of disease and death in the U.S. Quitting smoking greatly reduces the risk of developing tobacco-related diseases and improves overall health and wellness. About 8.6 million people suffer from a smoking-related disease, and one in five deaths in the U.S. is linked to a smoking-related illness.
Health benefits of quitting smoking
Quitting has both immediate and long-term health benefits. Plus, quitting smoking benefits the health of those around you, as secondhand smoke can cause health problems in others as well.
Smoking symptoms like these are some that will quickly improve when you quit:
- Being out of breath for simple activities
- Yellow fingernails
- Bad smell in house and in clothes
- Bad breath
- Poor taste buds and sense of smell
Smokers are not only at risk for symptoms such as yellow fingernails and bad breath, but they put themselves at serious risk for serious illnesses. Quitting can drastically reduce the risk of developing diseases such as:
- Cancer. It is obvious that smoking can cause lung cancer, but it can cause plenty of other types of cancer too, from throat cancer to cancer of the bladder, kidney, stomach and more.
- Heart disease. Smoking can cause narrowing of blood vessels and trigger heart disease and stroke. Smokers are two times more likely to die of a heart attack than non-smokers.
- Lung disease. Smoking increases the risk of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), which encompasses diseases such as chronic bronchitis and emphysema.
Smoking can also cause potential threats to women in particular. Women who smoke, are over the age of 35 and who use birth control have an increased risk of blood clots, heart attack and stroke. They also have an increased risk of having a miscarriage when pregnant.There are plenty of other reasons to quit smoking beyond reducing the risk of serious diseases. They include:
- Saving money. Have you ever added up the cost of buying cigarettes? It may shock you to see what you spend per day…per week…per month…per year. Especially when you multiply that by how many years you have smoked. Imagine all the other things you could do with that money.
- Health of those around you. Smoking not only increases the risk of serious illness for the smokers, but also those around the smoker. Inhalation of secondhand smoke causes lung and heart disease and is also responsible for thousands of deaths each year.
- Being a positive role model. Smoking in front of children only sends the message that it is okay to smoke. And children whose parents smoke are much more likely to smoke than children of parents who don’t smoke.
- Social acceptance. More and more, smoking is becoming less socially acceptable. Friends don’t want their cars or homes smelling of smoke; hotels and restaurants don’t want people smoking in them, workplaces are banning smoking…it’s becoming very commonplace for smoking bans to appear in public places.
How to quit smoking
It doesn’t matter how old you are: your health will benefit from quitting smoking. However, it can be very difficult to quit smoking. Nicotine, the drug in cigarettes, is very addictive, and many smokers actually come to depend on nicotine in order to function. For this reason, it often times takes professional help to quit smoking, though plenty of people quit on their own. A nicotine addiction is both mental and physical, so the best way to quit may be a combination of different methods, as some methods are focused on the mental part, and some on the physical part. Not every method will work for every person who is trying to quit smoking, so each person may have to try different ones before he or she finds one that works.
The following are ways that help with the mental aspect of quitting smoking:
- Phone-based programs. Sometimes, talking to an expert can help provide the guidance and support you need to quit smoking. There are a number of hotlines such as 1-800-QUITNOW that you can call to talk to an expert.
- Help from national organizations. Organizations such as the American Cancer Society and the American Lung Association can also provide assistance with quitting smoking.
- Create a network of family and friends. People who can offer encouragement and support can be very beneficial to the person quitting smoking.
These are methods used for the physical part of quitting smoking. They can become very beneficial when used in tandem with a smoking support program, so both the mental and physical aspects of quitting smoking are targeted.
- Nicotine replacement therapy. With nicotine replacement therapy, a small amount of nicotine is given in low doses, without the other harmful chemicals found in tobacco. Once a person quits smoking, they tend to go into nicotine withdrawal, and nicotine replacement therapy helps. Studies show that pairing nicotine replacement therapy with a smoking program can double the chances of successfully quitting smoking. However, nicotine therapy should only be used for a limited period of time. Different types of nicotine replacement therapy include:
- Gum. Nicotine gum delivers a small dosage of nicotine orally through a piece of gum that is chewed. It is available over the counter and can be purchased in different strengths.
- Nasal spray. Nicotine nasal spray delivers nicotine to the bloodstream, as it is absorbed through the nose. It is available via prescription only.
- Patch. A nicotine patch delivers a dose of nicotine through the skin. Over the course of a few weeks, you change patches that have lower doses as to wean the body off the nicotine addiction. Patches are available both over-the-counter and with a prescription.
- Prescription drugs. Certain prescription drugs have also been used to help people quit smoking. These drugs include:
- Varenicline (Chantix™). This is a prescription medication that reduces the pleasure a person gets from nicotine and help reduce symptoms of withdrawal. The medication works by interfering with certain receptors in the brain.
- Bupropion (Zyban®). A prescription, non-nicotine anti-depressant that helps to reduce symptoms of nicotine withdrawal.
- Cold turkey. This means a person just stops smoking all together. It is a very popular method, but can also be difficult. There is no nicotine replacement or drugs involved.