The single largest preventable cause of disease and premature death in the United States is smoking. From way back when the Surgeon General’s Report on Smoking and Health was first released in 1964, there have been more than 21 million deaths due to tobacco.
Cigarette smoking creates so many health issues. It increases the risk of cancers of the mouth and throat, lung, esophagus, pancreas, cervix, kidney, bladder, stomach, colon, rectum, and liver, as well as acute myeloid leukemia. There are studies that also link smoking to breast cancer and advanced-stage prostate cancer.
Over and above cancers, smoking also greatly increases the risk of debilitating, long-term lung diseases like emphysema and chronic bronchitis. Smoking raises the risk for heart attack, stroke, blood vessel diseases, and eye diseases. Fifty percent of all smokers who refuse to quit will eventually die from a smoking-related illness.
The good news is that no matter how old you are or how long you’ve smoked, quitting can help you live longer and be healthier. Yes, quitting is hard, mostly because nicotine, a drug found naturally in tobacco, is so addictive. However, millions of Americans have quit smoking after taking advantage of some type of help.
There are many different methods available to help people quit smoking:
There is a great deal of research that shows using a medication to help you quit smoking can increase your chances of being successful.
The FDA has approved a variety of medications to safely and effectively help people quit smoking. Choosing which one to use is a matter of personal choice and should be discussed with your pharmacist or health care provider.
These three types of medications are available over-the-counter at most pharmacies and can be helpful in easing the symptoms of nicotine withdrawal when used as directed:
• Nicotine gum
• Nicotine patches
• Nicotine lozenges
There are other medications that are only available by prescription:
• Nicotine inhalers
• Nicotine nasal sprays
• Zyban (bupropion) – an antidepressant
• Chantix (varenicline) – a drug that blocks the effects of nicotine in the brain
When counseling is combined with medication it can increase the chances that you can quit smoking and stay away from tobacco for good.
Help to quit smoking can be as close as an app on your smartphone. However, it’s important to choose a program that’s based on quit-smoking recommendations proven through research to be effective.
The National Cancer Institute has a quit-smoking app that allows users to set quit dates, track financial goals, schedule reminders, and more. It also offers a text messaging service that provides round-the-clock encouragement and advice to people trying to quit. You can sign up by texting “QUIT” to iQUIT (47848) and entering the date of your Quit Day – the day you will stop smoking.
When someone goes “cold turkey” it means that they stop smoking all at once. People have a better chance of success if they make a plan and prepare for nicotine withdrawal. A gradual plan of smoking fewer cigarettes each day can help reduce nicotine withdrawal symptoms and make it easier for some people to quit “cold turkey”.
Smokers need to know that one of the most important things researchers have learned about quitting smoking is that the persons needs to persevere and keep on trying. It may take several serious attempts before a smoker can quit forever. Rather than looking at a slip back to smoking as a failure, it should be considered an opportunity to learn from experience and be better prepared to quit the next time.