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Guide to Quitting Smoking


Introduction
The US Surgeon General has stated, "Smoking cessation (stopping smoking) represents the single most important step that smokers can take to enhance the length and quality of their lives."

Quitting smoking is not easy, but you can do it. To have the best chance of quitting successfully, you need to know what you’re up against, what your options are, and where to go for help. You'll find this information here.

Why Is It So Hard to Quit Smoking?

Mark Twain said, "Quitting smoking is easy. I've done it a thousand times." Maybe you've tried to quit, too. Why is quitting and staying quit hard for so many people? The answer is nicotine.

Nicotine

Nicotine is a drug found naturally in tobacco. It is highly addictive -- as addictive as heroin or cocaine. Over time, a person becomes physically and emotionally addicted to, or dependent on, nicotine. Studies have shown that smokers must deal with both the physical and psychological dependence to be successful at quitting and staying quit.

Where Nicotine Goes and How Long it Stays

When you inhale smoke, nicotine is carried deep into your lungs, where it is absorbed quickly into the bloodstream and carried throughout your body. Nicotine affects many parts of the body, including your heart and blood vessels, your hormonal system, your metabolism, and your brain. Nicotine can be found in breast milk and even in cervix mucus secretions of smokers. During pregnancy, nicotine freely crosses the placenta and has been found in amniotic fluid and the umbilical cord blood of newborn infants.

Several different factors can affect how long it takes the body to remove nicotine and its by-products. In general, a regular smoker will have nicotine or its by-products, such as cotinine, in the body for about 3 to 4 days after stopping.

How Nicotine Hooks Smokers

Nicotine produces pleasant feelings that make the smoker want to smoke more. It also acts as a kind of depressant by interfering with the flow of information between nerve cells. As the nervous system adapts to nicotine, smokers tend to increase the number of cigarettes they smoke, and therefore the amount of nicotine in their blood. After a while, the smoker develops a tolerance to the drug, which leads to an increase in smoking over time. Over time, the smoker reaches a certain nicotine level and then smokes to maintain this level of nicotine. In fact, nicotine, when inhaled in cigarette smoke, reaches the brain faster than drugs that enter the body intravenously (IV).

Nicotine Withdrawal

When smokers try to cut back or quit, the lack of nicotine leads to withdrawal symptoms. Withdrawal is both physical and mental. Physically, the body reacts to the absence of nicotine. Mentally, the smoker is faced with giving up a habit, which calls for a major change in behavior. Both must be addressed in order for the quitting process to work.

If a person has smoked regularly for a few weeks or longer and suddenly stops using tobacco or greatly reduces the amount smoked, they will have withdrawal symptoms. Symptoms usually start within a few hours of the last cigarette and peak about 2 to 3 days later. Withdrawal symptoms can last for a few days to up to several weeks.

Withdrawal symptoms can include any of the following:

dizziness (which may only last 1-2 days after quitting)
depression
feelings of frustration, impatience, and anger
anxiety
irritability
sleep disturbances, including having trouble falling asleep and staying asleep, and having bad dreams or even nightmares
trouble concentrating
restlessness
headaches
tiredness
increased appetite

Why Should I Quit?

Your Health

Health concerns usually top the list of reasons people give for quitting smoking. This is a very real concern: About half of all smokers who continue to smoke will end up dying from a smoking-related illness.

Cancer

Nearly everyone knows that smoking can cause lung cancer, but few people realize it is also a risk factor for many other kinds of cancer as well, including cancer of the mouth, voice box (larynx), throat (pharynx), esophagus, bladder, kidney, pancreas, cervix, stomach, and some leukemias.

Lung Diseases

Pneumonia has been included in the list of diseases caused by smoking since 2004. Smoking also increases your risk of getting lung diseases such as emphysema and chronic bronchitis. These diseases are grouped together under the term COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease). COPD causes chronic illness and disability, and worsens over time - sometimes becoming fatal. Emphysema and chronic bronchitis can be found in people as young as 40, but are more commonly diagnosed later in life, when the symptoms are more severe. Long term smokers have the highest risk of developing severe COPD.

Heart Attacks, Strokes, and Blood Vessel Diseases

Smokers are twice as likely to die from heart attacks as are non-smokers. And smoking is a major risk factor for peripheral vascular disease, a narrowing of the blood vessels that carry blood to the leg and arm muscles. Smoking also affects the walls of the vessels that carry blood to the brain (carotid arteries), which can cause strokes. Men who smoke are more likely to develop erectile dysfunction (impotence) because of blood vessel disease.

Blindness and Other Problems

Smoking also causes premature wrinkling of the skin, bad breath, bad smelling clothes and hair, yellow fingernails, and an increased risk of macular degeneration, one of the most common causes of blindness in the elderly.

Special Risks to Women and Babies

Women have some unique risks linked to smoking. Women over 35 who smoke and use birth control pills have a higher risk of heart attack, stroke, and blood clots of the legs. Women who smoke are more likely to have a miscarriage or a lower birth-weight baby. Low birth-weight babies are more likely to die or have learning and physical problems.

Years of Life Lost Due to Smoking

Based on data collected in the late 1990s, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimated that adult male smokers lost an average of 13.2 years of life and female smokers lost 14.5 years of life because of smoking. And given the diseases that smoking can cause, it can steal your quality of life long before you die. Smoking-related illness can limit your activities by making it harder to breathe, get around, work, or play.

Why Quit?

No matter how old you are or how long you've smoked, quitting will help you live longer. People who stop smoking before age 50 cut their risk of dying in the next 15 years in half compared with those who continue to smoke. Ex-smokers enjoy a higher quality of life with fewer illnesses from cold and flu viruses, better self-reported health, and reduced rates of bronchitis and pneumonia.

Quitting smoking has major and immediate health benefits for men and women of all ages. Benefits apply to people with and without smoking-related disease.

Former smokers live longer than people who keep smoking.

Quitting smoking decreases the risk of lung cancer, other cancers, heart attack, stroke, and chronic lung disease.

Women who stop smoking before pregnancy or during the first 3 to 4 months of pregnancy reduce their risk of having a low birth-weight baby to that of women who never smoked.

Immediate Rewards of Quitting

Kicking the tobacco habit offers some benefits that you'll notice right away and some that will develop over time. These rewards can improve your day-to-day life a great deal.

Cost

The prospect of better health is a major reason for quitting, but there are other reasons, too.

Smoking is expensive. It isn't hard to figure out how much you spend on smoking: multiply how much money you spend on tobacco every day by 365 (days per year). The amount may surprise you. Now multiply that by the number of years you have been using tobacco and that amount will probably shock you.

Social Acceptance

Smoking is less socially acceptable now than it was in the past.

Almost all workplaces have some type of smoking rules. Some employers even prefer to hire non-smokers. Studies show smoking employees cost businesses more to employ because they are out sick more. Employees who are ill more often than others can raise an employer’s need for expensive short-term replacement workers. They can increase insurance costs both for other employees and for the employer, who often pays part of the workers’ insurance premiums. Smokers in a building also can increase the maintenance costs of keeping odors down, since residue from cigarette smoke clings to carpets, drapes, and other fabrics.

Smokers may also find their prospects for dating or romantic involvement, including marriage, are largely limited to other smokers, who make up only about 21% of the adult population.

Health of Others

Smoking not only harms your health but it hurts the health of those around you. Exposure to secondhand smoke (also called environmental tobacco smoke or passive smoking) includes exhaled smoke as well as smoke from burning cigarettes.

Studies have shown that secondhand smoke causes thousands of deaths each year from lung

cancer and heart disease in healthy non-smokers.

Setting an Example

If you have children, you probably want to set a good example for them. When asked, nearly all smokers say they don't want their children to smoke, but children whose parents smoke are more likely to start smoking themselves. You can become a good role model for them by quitting now.

Help Is Available

With the wide range of counseling services, self-help materials, and medicines available today, smokers have more tools than ever to help them quit smoking for good.

Remember, tobacco addiction has both a psychological and a physical component. For most people, the best way to quit will be some combination of medicine, a method to change personal habits, and emotional support. The following sections describe these tools and how they may be helpful to you.Help With Psychological Addiction

 

 

 

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