Smoking is known to be a true addiction with both psychological and physical addiction components. Smoking increases the risk of many health problems, such as heart disease, stroke, cancers, lung disease, and problems with pregnancy, to name a few.
Many people think that smoking causes physical damage that can't be changed. The good news is that when someone stops smoking, many of these problems can improve dramatically, for example:
- After 10 years of abstinence, quitters have 30% - 50% of the risk of lung cancer as compared to smokers.
- After just one year of quitting, there is a 50% reduction in the risk of premature coronary heart disease.
- Eventually, after quitting, the risk of stroke decreases to equal that of a person who never smoked.
Other problems of smoking include the negative image (it's now considered "gross" rather than "cool"), the inconvenience, the expense, and the problems of second hand smoke on others.
"To cease smoking is the easiest thing I ever did; I ought to know because I've done it a thousand times." - Mark Twain
Most people who quit smoking require several attempts before they are successful. In fact, even though about 70% of smokers want to stop, less than 10% are able to quit successfully each year.
If there have been several failed attempts at quitting, it is important to make a plan that combines several methods into a comprehensive quitting strategy. Smoking is both a biological and psychological addiction, and the best results for stopping come from using behavioral techniques combined with medication, all with professional counseling and supervision.
Behavioral treatments for smoking include:
The use of medication can often help smokers stop. In the past there were only nicotine products such as patches or gum, which work by substituting another form of nicotine in place of cigarettes, and then slowly lowering the use of the substitute. Another product is now available, which appears to decrease the actual craving for smoking. This product (Zyban) must be prescribed, and should be used along with a full quitting program.
Often smoking is related to anxiety or other psychological issues. It is important to consider counseling or psychotherapy when trying to make a complete quitting program.
Though quitting can be quite difficult, if one is motivated and willing to use a full program including support, behavior change, counseling or therapy, and medication, we can increase the odds and have a great shot at quitting!