BENEFITS OF QUITTING
Smoking cessation has major and immediate health benefits for men and women of all ages. The earlier you quit, the greater the benefits. People who quit smoking before age 50 reduce their risk of dying over the next 15 years by one-half, as compared to those who continue to smoke. Smoking cessation is also important to those who do not smoke since being exposed to second-hand cigarette smoke is responsible for a number of serious health conditions.
Generally, any risks of smoking cessation are far outweighed by the benefits. Nevertheless, it is reasonable to prepare for the discomforts of stopping smoking:
Symptoms of withdrawal are common while attempting to stop smoking. Symptoms generally peak in the first three days and decrease over the next three to four weeks. Withdrawal symptoms can include difficulty sleeping, irritability, frustration or anger, anxiety, difficulty concentrating, and restlessness. Episodic cravings for cigarettes, which can be intense, may persist for many months. Cravings may be brought on by situations associated with smoking, by stress, or by drinking alcohol. These cravings are a common time for ex-smokers to relapse. The cravings will go away if ignored.
PREPARING TO QUIT
Smoking is recognized as a chronic addictive disease. Smokers, however, can differ greatly in the way in which they smoke. A few may not be addicted, although it is estimated that 85 percents of smokers in the United States are addicted. Even among those who are addicted, there may be vast differences in success, symptoms that occur when you try to quit, and factors that may lead to relapse. Discuss any prior attempts to quit with your counselor to improve your chances of successfully quitting.
Steps that may help in preparing to quit include the following:
- Tell family, friends, and coworkers about the plan to quit and ask for their support.
- Avoid smoking in the home and car and other places where you spend a lot of time.
- Review other quit attempts. What worked? What did not work? What contributed to relapse?
- Prepare to deal with nicotine withdrawal symptoms, including anxiety, frustration, depression, and intense cravings to smoke. Recalling previous quit attempts may help anticipate these symptoms. Withdrawal symptoms usually become manageable within a few weeks of stopping completely.
- Prepare to deal with things that trigger smoking. Examples include having smokers in the household or workplace, stressful situations, and drinking alcohol. A vacation from work may be an easier time to quit, particularly if you smoke during work breaks.
- Talk with us about ways to quit smoking. Changing behaviors and taking a medication are the two main methods of quitting smoking. You are more likely to quit if you use both methods together.
Most smokers make many attempts to quit before they are able to quit completely. Smoking is a “relapsing” condition, and relapse should not be thought of as failures. Each quit should be regarded a victory, and the longer it lasts, the better.
However, if relapse occurs, it is important to understand why so that your next attempt will be more successful. Keep this in mind when attempting to quit for the first time. If you have success for a while, you can learn what helped and what did not and try again. Try to figure out the reasons that led to start smoking again, and determine if you used the methods (medication, counseling) correctly. Then explore solutions to use next time. Consider trying different methods or combinations of methods.
Most relapses occur in the first week after quitting, when withdrawal symptoms are strongest. Try to mobilize support resources (eg, family, friends) during this critical time. Consider rewards for not smoking; use the money saved on cigarettes for a special treat such as a massage, a movie, a new outfit, or a special dinner.
HOW DO I START?
The following steps are recommended to start the process of quitting smoking:
- Talk to a counselor about the method you plan to use to quit.
- Pick a date to quit smoking. Tell friends and family about your plan.
- Seek support and join a Smoking Cessation Group.
- Begin making changes in your behavior — avoid situations that lead you to smoke.
- Deal with withdrawal symptoms as they develop. Consider using nicotine replacement therapy (such as nicotine patch, gum, or lozenge) to help manage withdrawal symptoms. Do not “smoke just one” to get through a rough day.