November is a great time to talk about quitting smoking, since it is Lung Cancer Awareness month. Having lost a grandfather to lung cancer who was a heavy smoker, I know the pain of seeing someone go through lung cancer. While not all lung cancer is caused by smoking – and we will have more on that in this month’s NFD magazine – the focus of this article IS on smoking and resources for those who do smoke and want to quit.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are over 7,000 chemicals in tobacco smoke. Hundreds are harmful, and about 70 can cause cancer. We know that smoking increases the risk for serious health problems, many diseases, and can also lead to death. Many smokers I have met know the risks and want to quit smoking. The CDC says 7 out of 10 adult smokers in the United States reported wanting to quit smoking.
Instead of focusing on the risks, which most of us know, let’s talk about the health benefits of quitting. Keep in mind, you are NEVER too old to quit!
Stopping smoking is associated with the following health benefits:
- Lowered risk for lung cancer and many other types of cancer.
- Reduced risk for heart disease, stroke, and peripheral vascular disease (narrowing of the blood vessels outside your heart).
- Reduced heart disease risk within 1 to 2 years of quitting.
- Reduced respiratory symptoms, such as coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath. While these symptoms may not disappear, they do not continue to progress at the same rate among people who quit compared with those who continue to smoke.
- Reduced risk of developing some lung diseases (such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, also known as COPD, one of the leading causes of death in the United States).
- Reduced risk for infertility in women of childbearing age. Women who stop smoking during pregnancy also reduce their risk of having a low birth weight baby.
So what do you do if you want to quit and can’t? Here is what research shows works (or what we public health professionals call “evidence-based practice”):
- Brief help by a doctor (such as when a doctor takes 10 minutes or less to give a patient advice and assistance about quitting)
- Individual, group, or telephone counseling
- Behavioral therapies (such as training in problem solving)
- Treatments with more person-to-person contact and more intensity (such as more or longer counseling sessions)
- Programs to deliver treatments using mobile phones
Medications that have been proven effective include those below. It should be noted that using both counseling and medication together have been shown to be more effective than using either one alone.
- Nicotine replacement products
- Over-the-counter (nicotine patch [which is also available by prescription], gum, lozenge)
- Prescription (nicotine patch, inhaler, nasal spray)
- Prescription non-nicotine medications: bupropion SR (Zyban®),varenicline tartrate (Chantix®)
A great place to start is with your doctor or healthcare provider or by calling your state quitline. Anyone can call 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669) if you want help quitting and get help for free. Callers will be directed to their state quitlines, which offer several types of quit information and services which may include:
- Free support, advice, and counseling from experienced quitline coaches
- A personalized quit plan
- Practical information on how to quit, including ways to cope with nicotine withdrawal
- The latest information about stop-smoking medications
- Free or discounted medications (available for at least some callers in most states)
- Referrals to other resources
- Mailed self-help materials
Please make a step today towards quitting smoking, or share with a friend or loved one who may be struggling. There are plenty of resources to help. A nation-wide “smokeout” event where smokers put down their cigarettes for a day or longer – the Great American Smokeout takes place every third Thursday in November. This year’s event is on November 17th. The event is sponsored by the American Cancer Society and has been taking place since the 1970’s. The hope is that people who quit for a day, will continue on and stay quit. For more great information on this event – and to learn more about its history, visit http://www.cancer.org/healthy/stayawayfromtobacco/greatamericansmokeout/history-of-the-great-american-smokeout.
To read more from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention about smoking cessation, visit http://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/. You will find tips for quitting, additional resources, and great information on the new “it” thing – e-cigarettes and vaping, which may have health risks of their own. There are also CDC tobacco tweets and Facebook posts you can use to encourage friends and family who want to quit.
Whether you or your loved one choose November 17th or another day to put down cigarettes, you are to be commended for trying! The first step is taking that first step!