Smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in the U.S. (about 20%) and possibly anywhere in the world where smoking is common. Half of all smokers who don’t quit will end up dying from smoking-related ailments. Harmful chemicals contained in cigarette smoke number in thousands and some of them are carcinogenic and can be linked with many types of cancers developed by smokers. Smoking affects the health negatively in numerous ways.
- Smoking causes cancer: This is the most common health issue connected with smoking. Asides from lung cancer, many fail to realize that other types of cancers such as cancer of the mouth, liver, kidney etc can be as a direct result of smoking cigarettes.
- Cardiovascular diseases: Not only unhealthy eating habits can negatively affect the heart and blood vessels. The chances of a smoker dying from a heart attack or stroke are double that of a non-smoker.
- Lifespan: According to research conducted by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, adults lose well over a decade of their lifespan due to smoking. This means their life expectancy is automatically reduced by ten years as a result of smoking.
These are just a few of the terrifying statistics on why smoking is dangerous but despite these facts, a lot of people continue to smoke knowing full well the risks involved. So why is this the case? What is it about tobacco smoke that makes people risk their lives for it? The answer is nicotine.
Smokers are not actually addicted to smoking itself. They are addicted to the nicotine which is found in tobacco smoke. Their brains have reprogrammed itself to compulsively crave smoking which is a means of getting the nicotine it wants. The addiction is so ingrained that even habits become associated with smoking and smokers will often find themselves in need of a smoke first thing when they wake up in the morning.
Nicotine has been said to be every bit as addictive as heroin or cocaine. A regular smoker is physically and psychologically addicted to nicotine and this is why it is so hard for smokers to quit despite knowing all the dangers smoking poses to their health. When smokers don’t smoke for a while, even without any intention of quitting, they start to feel irritable and unpleasant. These feelings of discomfort are called withdrawal symptoms which manifest physically, psychologically and emotionally. Physical reactions to a drop in or lack of nicotine in the blood make a smoker start to exhibit symptoms like insomnia, dizziness, headaches etc. Mentally, the habit that has been cultivated over a long period of time suddenly stopped makes the smoker edgy, frustrated and sometimes depressed.
The Benefits of Smoking Cessation
One of the best things about giving up smoking is that the beneficial effects are almost instantaneous and over time, the body can make a full recovery from the harmful effects of smoking to the point that it is identical to someone who has never smoked before.
Some of the most immediate benefits of quitting smoking include:
- Better appearance
- Better breath and whiter teeth
- Appetite for food is rediscovered
- An improved sense of smell
- Better lung capacity
If one quits smoking for a longer period of time, the benefits include:
- Money saved. A smoking habit can cost anywhere around $2000 a year
- Lungs and other organs of the body heal themselves and after some years, your body will become like someone who had never smoked before
- Social acceptance: Smoking is no longer fashionable and they are looked upon with disapproval
These and much more are the likely benefits of giving up smoking. It is non-debatable that this is a goal that every smoker should strive for.
How to Successfully Quit Smoking — An Overview of the Different Methods
To quit smoking takes a lot of dedication and commitment. Rarely do people succeed on their first try but a determination to quit smoking, if strong enough, is almost certain to succeed. Most people first try to quit smoking by going cold turkey but they often fail because they have underestimated the enormity of their task. Quitting smoking is something that should not be taken for granted and it takes much more than a desire to quit to be successful. The problem with some smokers trying to quit is that they don’t even know that there is help out there for them. They believe it’s either one gives up smoking or one continues but there is help out there, lots of it and some are more effective than others. There have been many innovations, products, and programs that have been devised to help smokers quit this harmful habit. We will now take a broad look at the most common ones among them.
- Tobacco Quitlines: These quitlines are telephone hotlines where people who are trying to quit smoking can call for help and get assistance from trained counselors. Sometimes this help comes in the form of advice or as a referral to a more suited smoking cessation program that will assist the caller to quit smoking. National quitlines have been to have excellent success rates at about 30% to 50% better chance of success than programs conducted under controlled conditions. All states of the U.S. have established their own quitlines because of its effectiveness.
- Nicotine Replacement Therapy: Nicotine replacement therapy or NRT for short is a method of quitting smoking by weaning the smoker slowly off the nicotine addiction while getting rid of the far more dangerous act of smoking. Smoking and the thousands of harmful chemicals that come with it are by far the most dangerous aspect of smoking rather than the nicotine itself. Nicotine replacement therapy seeks to allow the smoker to control and eventually taper off nicotine consumption and this can take up to three months to achieve. Meanwhile, smoking itself is no longer required in order to get the nicotine that the body and brain craves. Nicotine replacement therapy exists in various creative forms which include: nicotine patches, nicotine gums, nicotine lozenges, nicotine nasal spray and nicotine inhalers. All these products allow the user to get a daily dose of nicotine and stave off the withdrawal symptoms from the lack or reduction of nicotine in the blood. Then, the nicotine consumption is gradually lowered till the user no longer needs the product as well and can then be considered smoke-free. Electronic cigarettes might be considered as a form of NRT but since they are not recognized as drugs by the U.S. government, this might not be technically correct but there is no denying that their function is similar to other NRT products. It should be noted that these products are to be used strictly in the prescribed form by the product manufacturers in conjunction with advice from a physician.
- Acupuncture: This highly controversial method of quitting smoking has mixed receptions especially from the scientific community. However, despite this fact, a lot of people put their trust in its efficacy and have been positively rewarded. This is why there are many centers that offer this type of smoking cessation program. Acupuncture, when used in a bid to quit smoking, usually involves the piercing of several points in the ear that are responsible for the functioning of some of the organs in the body like the liver, lungs and kidneys. When these points are stimulated correctly, it may lead to much reduced cravings to smoke tobacco and this ultimately helps in the battle against smoking.
- Online Help: This is a method offered by websites which seek to guide the smoker through the steps and actions to take in order to quit smoking. Part of the program may include customized exercises, critical information about smoking, forums and expert advice by an experienced counselor. It is a good way to get help while remaining relatively anonymous and some of them are in the form of free quit smoking programs/websites.
- Support Groups: This method explores the power of collective affirmation which helps the members to stay strong in their quest to quit smoking. They are often led by a professional who is versed in smoking cessation counseling. They usually share stories and experiences of how smoking has affected them negatively or how quitting smoking has shown an upturn in their fortunes in several parts of their lives. These types of support can go a long way in helping someone quit smoking.
- Nicotine Anonymous: Borrowing heavily from the 12-step process used with Alcohol Anonymous, this program provides a non-judgmental safe haven for random people to share their experiences and draw comfort from other people battling addiction just like them.
All these methods of quitting smoking are not guaranteed to work, especially the first time around. What is paramount is a real desire to quit smoking as many people fail in their first attempt and many people are not successful at all, preferring to continue the habit rather than face the task head on. Many of these programs work better in tandem with one or more other smoking cessation program. The combined effect can lead to a higher chance of a successful quit. The famous writer, Mark Twain, put it so well when he said it is easy to quit smoking and he had done is thousands of times himself which signifies the difficulty involves in quitting. Despite his famous saying, he almost certainly did not have any of the wide arrays of smoking cessation help available today and the chances of success are much higher now. Take the first step and you can be smoke-free in a matter of weeks.