Our Tuesday series today features how to best quit smoking any substance via any method. Smoking anything at all is quite harmful to the human body and when it comes to cigarette smoke, it’s truly detrimental to an individual’s overall health. But there is also harm beyond just cigarettes! Smoking any other substance, including marijuana, similarly harms the lungs. And since we are addressing the health benefits of quitting smoking of any type, we should also include vaping. Prolonged engagement in vaping can do rapid damage to any individual’s lungs, especially teenagers and young adults.
With the ease of obtaining information these days, most people already know the dangers of smoking and vaping, but what I find interesting is that the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) have conducted studies in which they’ve found that 70% of all smokers wish they could quit their habit!
So, with this in mind, today’s series will look at strategies for quitting smoking and vaping rather than simply talking about nicotine and the deep and severe damage to health that can accumulate via prolonged usage. Many health professionals and large corporations encourage citizens to stop smoking and vaping. For cigarette smokers in particular, there are many benefits to quitting smoking, which take effect very quickly upon the cessation of the habit. The motivation to quit can often be driven by the health benefits that can be achieved. Let’s look at what can be achieved along with some strategies on how to kick the habit:
—A good start is to note that within a scant few days of quitting smoking, the risk of a heart attack begins to drop, and the senses of taste and smell begin to steadily improve. A year after quitting smoking, the risk of developing heart disease drops by half. And after roughly 15 years of not smoking, an ex-smoker will have virtually the same heart disease risk that a lifetime nonsmoker would have. This alone is a great reason to make an immediate change to your habits.
—Exercise will become easier to tolerate and stamina will quickly improve as well.
—An ex-smoker will be much less susceptible to many diseases in general, particularly cancer.
—How to do this? There are many different strategies and therapies that can assist a person to ease off smoking. A popular strategy is nicotine replacement therapy, which comes in a variety of forms, with most available without a prescription. These therapies include patches, inhalers, gum, lozenges and even hard candy. The patches and inhalers are designed to reduce withdrawal symptoms as they provide the body with only a small amount of nicotine while eliminating the harmful chemicals that are found in tobacco.
—Speaking of over-the-counter products, many of the nationwide “big-box stores” like Costco and Walmart offer a variety of specifically designed lozenges, patches and gum products for this purpose. A bit of online browsing will get you current on what is available these days.
—Beyond patches and substances like lozenges is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). The National Library of Medicine defines this as a therapeutic approach for treating problematic behaviors that primarily focuses on identifying and changing maladaptive thought and behavior patterns. When CBT is provided for smoking cessation, it often includes problem-solving and coping skills rooted in relapse prevention theory, along with cognitive restructuring for maladaptive thoughts. CBT is considered a more intensive intervention than brief counseling, as participants often meet with a provider over multiple sessions for 50 minutes to two hours (if in a group setting). Intervention intensity is positively associated with smoking cessation. This is obviously more intense but does have worthwhile success rates, so do some research on your own should you be among the 70% of individuals who would like to quit smoking but have not yet been able to do so.
In conclusion, there are more smokers by far who wish to quit than there are those that wish to smoke and not be concerned with quitting. For most of that majority to succeed, education and proactive steps forward are needed. It’s always easy to think “I’ll quit someday,” but why not use the attitude of making quitting a priority by saying instead, “I’ll quit soon, because I’m going to make it a priority right now to get started on quitting.”
This does not mean you’ll be quitting “cold turkey” tonight or tomorrow morning, but rather you’ll commit yourself to begin the process of looking into quitting. Read websites. Go see what Costco and Walmart and other stores have these days in terms of products that can help you. Speak to your medical professional. Tell a friend about your plan to quit soon so that you’ll have accountability to someone on your side too. Looking into CBT if that may be an option for you. The key is to take action! Start small but steady and build momentum. Keep a journal or notebook to monitor both your progress and how you feel about this process. Doing nothing but daydreaming about quitting will not help you. Taking small, steady and ongoing steps forward will help you to achieve your goal. Get started today; your body deserves it.
Dr. Robert Wallace welcomes questions from readers. Although he is unable to reply to all of them individually, he will answer as many as possible in this column. Email him at [email protected] To find out more about Dr. Robert Wallace and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.
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