Smoking is not only a physical addiction, but also a psychological habit. The temporary high that smokers get from tobacco is extremely addictive.
Smoking severely damages your lungs, specifically your alveoli which are tiny sacs found within the lungs. Smoking is the #1 cause of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). According to American Lung Association, over 16.4 million people are diagnosed with COPD, yet millions more have COPD without being aware of it. Smokers also have a greater chance of getting cancer, especially in the lungs.
Based on information collected from the US Department of Health and Human Services, cigarette smoking is responsible for over 480,000 fatalities in the United States every year. Over 41,000 of these deaths are caused by exposure to secondhand smoke. To put these statistics in perspective, that is 1 in 5 deaths yearly, or 1,300 deaths per day. According to the New England Journal of Medicine, smokers’ lifespans are typically 10 years shorter than nonsmokers. Below are helpful steps to quit smoking.
Step 1: Realize Why You’re Quitting
This reason is usually health related, and quitting smoking will help you live a healthier and longer life. Another reason might be stopping for your loved ones. Living to see your kids or grandchildren grow up is a great motivator to extend your lifespan by quitting smoking. Whatever your reason may be, quitting will give you more time to do the things you love, and will eliminate the anxiety that comes with wondering when you will get to smoke next. You will look better, smell better, and most importantly feel better after quitting.
Step 2: Tell Others
Sharing that you are planning to quit smoking with your loved ones will give you the encouragement and support you need to stop. They will be able to hold you accountable for you dedication to quitting and can be constant reminders of your reason to quit.
Step 3: Get Rid of Cigarettes and Paraphernalia
Dispose of all cigarettes, ashtrays, lighters, or anything that reminds you of smoking. Not having easy access to cigarettes would cost you a trip to the store to buy another pack, and will remind you of your reason for quitting.
Step 4: Consider Alternatives
Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) is a safe and efficient way to help smokers with nicotine withdrawal. NRT gives you the nicotine that your body is craving in a form other than a cigarette. Cigarettes contain thousands of chemicals when inhaled, including toxic ones found in rat poison and nail polish remover. Although nicotine is an addictive chemical, just taking in nicotine is much safer than smoking cigarettes. The more cigarettes you smoked per day, the higher dose of nicotine you will need starting out.
There are many options when it comes to NRT, and one of the most common is a nicotine patch. There are also other options such as gum, inhalers, nasal spray and lozenges. Some NRT is available over-the-counter, but others you need a prescription for. The goal of NRT is to gradually decrease your dose until you can get off nicotine altogether.
Other types of NRT can be prescribed in pill form as well. These do not contain any nicotine, but they work by cutting cravings and block nicotine receptors in your brain. Talk to your doctor to determine which quitting aid is best for you.
Joining a support group can be very helpful to connect with others that are struggling with the same problems. Support groups can either be online or in person.
Nicotine addiction rehabilitation centers are also available if you feel that you will not be able to quit on your own. These rehab centers offer full-time help along with other people who are going through the same thing as you. There are multiple options available, such as outpatient and residential programs.
Step 5: Keep Busy
You may be irritable, anxious and experience headaches for a few days after quitting suddenly, so keep this in mind if you are around others. Use this time to grow as a person by trying new things, picking up new hobbies and filling your time with activities. This will keep your mind occupied on things other than the need to smoke. Below is a list of ideas to keep yourself entertained.
- Cook or bake
- Shoot photography
- Call a friend or family member
- Adopt a pet
- Try a new food or restaurant
- Read a book, write or paint
- Take a class to learn something new
Remember that half of quitting smoking is the psychological aspect.
Step 6: Know and Avoid Your Triggers
Realize what triggers you to smoke a cigarette. Triggers can range from smelling cigarette smoke to finishing a meal, but everyone has different triggers. Avoid the triggers when you can, but it’s a given that not all will be avoidable. For example, if your routine was to wake up and smoke with a morning cup of coffee, go to a coffee shop instead of making your own. This way you won’t be tempted because you can’t smoke inside.
What To Do if You’re Triggered
If you’re thinking about getting more cigarettes, go to a public indoor place such as the mall or a museum where smoking is prohibited instead. This will shift your focus off cigarettes for the time being.
If it’s the feel of the cigarette in your mouth that you are craving, have some gum or mints on hand to fight this urge and keep your mouth busy. Having a glass of water around at all times can be beneficial to drink since your body was used to the motion of moving your hand to your mouth and back.
Step 7: Reap the Benefits
By not smoking anymore, you are saving money which you can use to treat yourself for your hard work. You are also improving your quality of life by having more energy to perform your daily acts of living.
Quitting now will prevent any more damage from being done to your body. Even if you have been smoking for 40 years, you will be able to gain a great portion of your health back.
The American Cancer Society suggests that not smoking for just 12 hours will return your carbon monoxide levels to normal. Around 3 months after, circulation improves, and you will have better lung function. Anytime between 1 and 9 months after quitting, your shortness of breath will decrease along with your coughing. After a year, you will cut your risk of heart disease in half. The longer you go without smoking, the more benefits will come, such as lowering your risk of cancers and diseases.
We wish you the best of luck on your journey to quitting. It may not be easy, but quitting smoking is a great accomplishment and something to be extremely proud of. You are doing this to set yourself up for a healthier lifestyle, and taking this initiative shows how strong of a person you are.