Ok. On our New Year’s resolutions list, we’ve covered diet and exercise. Now what? Of course. Several of you have promised me that you would stop smoking for the new year. (I’ve made my list and am checking it twice.) The thing about smoking is there really is no time like the present to stop.
You’ve all been asked what things you’d take with you on a desert island. I’ll pose and answer the opposite question, but not on an island but regarding your life. Getting you to stop smoking is certainly one of the three gifts I’d offer you if it was within my power. This post won’t be about the dangers of smoking. (I’ll continue to hit you over the head with those at every opportunity.) Given that I’m into producing positive outcomes, I’m going to discuss with you effective means to stop smoking and the benefits of stopping.
The question on your mind is obviously how to stop. Personally, I’m of the Yoda mindset. You know, when he was teaching Luke Skywalker, he famously said, “Do or Do not. There is no try.” I can hear you now, “But Doc, I’m addicted!” Sure you are. There are many things in medicine about which I’m absolutely sure. One of these is the most effective way to stop smoking is to quit. Cold turkey. The moment you’re motivated. Not only is this premise supported by the data, which I’ll discuss momentarily, but here’s the benefit of over 20 years in clinical emergency medicine practice and having seen hundreds of people stop, stay stopped, and letting me know months and years later that they stayed stopped. Despite being addicted, people are amazingly able to quit cold turkey, and they will do it in one of five circumstances.
When they develop the will
After the birth of their first child
After their first heart attack
After their first stroke
When they die
For those of you convinced that you can’t, here’s a fact: Today there are more former smokers than current smokers.
I want to point out that I appreciate the difference between cigarette smoking and nicotine dependence. My particular concern for your health lies in the delivery of smoke (containing over 7,000 other toxins, approximately 70 of which can cause various cancers) into the airway system that is supposed to deliver oxygen throughout your body for the maintenance and health of your organ systems. Still, I want you to know I understand and appreciate the difficulty of smoking cessation.
- Nicotine dependence in the most common chemical dependence in the U.S.
- Quitting smoking often requires multiple attempts.
- Nicotine withdrawal produces bothersome symptoms (e.g., irritability, reduced concentration, increased appetite with possible weight gain and anxiety).
The good news is more than two-thirds of smokers profess a desire to stop smoking, and yearly over half of smokers attempt to stop. That’s likely a result of knowing that no matter when you stop, you will improve your health outcomes. Each incremental inhalation of cigarette and cigar smoke produces damage better left unproduced. Let’s just hope you don’t wait until it sets up permanent damage. Consider a sampling of the following benefits that are sitting there waiting for you.
- Reduction of the risk for cancers of the lung, esophagus, larynx (voice box), mouth, throat, kidney, bladder, pancreas, stomach and cervix, as well as certain leukemias
- Reduction of the risk for heart disease, stroke and peripheral vascular disease
- Reduction of the risk for COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease)
- Reduction of the risk for infertility
In a subsequent post, I’ll review specific methods and tips to help you and/or your loved one stop. Today’s as good of a day as any.
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