Why do people smoke? The cost alone, as much as $6 for a pack of 20 cigarettes, might be enough reason to quit. Half of smokers will die from the habit. Smokers have a harder time getting jobs; many employers won’t hire smokers. Smokers pay more for life insurance and also have a harder time getting dates. If you haven’t been living under a rock for the past five years, you already got the message that smoking is bad for your health.
When you give up tobacco, the benefits start immediately. Eight hours after your last cigarette, the carbon monoxide level in your blood drops to normal. Within 24 hours, your risk of a heart attack decreases; in a year, it is cut in half. Each tobacco-free year, your risks of stroke, cancers and even ulcers drop.
But quitting is not that simple. If quitting were, more smokers would have quit long ago. People quit when the stars align. They quit when the benefits of quitting are greater than the benefits of smoking and they believe their quit efforts will work. It often takes a trigger, such as a bad bout of bronchitis, a new partner, a smoking ban at work or a friend getting lung cancer, to motivate the smoker to quit.
The nicotine in tobacco is a powerful drug, more addictive than heroin. When you quit, you get the benefits, but you also go through nicotine withdrawal. Quitting can make you grumpy. You might crave tobacco and sweets. Most symptoms disappear within a month, but the tobacco cravings can last much longer.
Central Floridians have many options for quitting. Nicotine replacement gum and patches give you nicotine in gradually lower doses. Medications such as the antidepressant Zyban® and Chantix® require a prescription. These change your brain chemistry and reduce the craving.
The best value for the money (no cost to Florida residents) is the Florida Quitline program. Visit www.floridaquitline.com or call 877-U-CAN-NOW. Funded from the tobacco lawsuit settlement, the Florida Quitline provides great online resources, telephonic counseling and support for quitters, and nicotine patches and gum.
Beware of ineffective smoking cessation aids. Laser therapy costs about $400 but has not been shown to work. Hypnosis also lacks evidence of effectiveness. Someone who is ready to fork over $400 is motivated to quit, and that may be the reason it works for some.
Quitting tobacco is a process. It is in your hands, and your mind. No magic bullet can do it. The starting point is your decision to quit. You have to want to quit, not merely try because someone wants you to. You can try these steps:
- Decide if you are ready. Plan how you will do it.
- List your reasons for quitting. Think also about what you are giving up and why you like to smoke. Plan how you will replace the role of tobacco in your life.
- Call the Florida Quitline. If you plan to use medication to help you, make an appointment with your nurse practitioner.
- Set a quit date.
- Get rid of your cigarettes and their residue. Clean out the car and home.
- On your quit date, keep a positive mind and work your plan.
- Reward yourself for each smoke-free day. Put a picture of what you want to buy with that money you are saving on a jar. Put your daily savings in the jar.
- Celebrate your success. If you start to smoke again, go back to the first step.
Who is Lugo? The Maitland resident is a nurse practitioner and President of Health Action, offering workplace health consulting and nurse coaching. Visit www.healthaction.biz