By: Pamela Egan, FNP-C CDE
Strategies to help you quit smoking
Bad breath, yellow teeth, smelly clothes — not to mention the risk of cancer and heart disease. This laundry list proves that smoking costs us way more than $6 a pack.
So why do we do it? It’s addictive, plain and simple. We reach for a cigarette or a cigar for lots of reasons-maybe stress or peer pressure. And we keep smoking because, well, it’s easier than quitting.
But nicotine is a smoking gun. Smoking increases the risk for cardiovascular disease and cancer. Fortunately, there are now several drugs and products to help you kick the habit.
The first step is to talk to your clinician about quitting smoking. He or she can prescribe drugs that lessen the urge to smoke. These include buproprion hydrochloride (known as Zyban), nicotine inhalers, and nicotine nasal sprays- all which are available by prescription only. Make sure you follow the directions exactly.
Two types of stop-smoking products are available without a prescription: nicotine patches and nicotine gum. Both work equally well, so the choice comes down to personal preference.
We have found that when you combine the above products with a support group or behavioral counseling, you get much better results. Some support groups can be found on the internet. I know several nurses who have quit smoking with hypnosis.
The people around you also can become your support network. Tell your family and friends that you’re giving up cigarettes, and ask them not to smoke around you. Try to quit with a buddy at work-and take a walk during your normal smoke-and-gab sessions. Ask people you know who have quit for suggestions on coping with the urge to smoke.
You may find that changing your routine helps you break the habit. If you always light up after dinner, run an errand or hit the gym instead. Take up fencing, yoga or kickboxing. Get rid of ashtrays, lighters and other smoking paraphernalia in your house and car. Never keep an extra pack around just in case.
If you find yourself reaching for a cigarette when you’re tense or upset, take a few minutes to address what’s bothering you. Call a friend, read a book or busy yourself with a task to distract yourself from the urge to smoke. Some people find it helps to do something with their hands, such as knitting.
Nicotine patches and nicotine gum can increase your odds of successfully quitting, but they’re not foolproof. Certain situations, like drinking alcohol or socializing with people who smoke, can trigger old urges. You may also feel depressed or irritable after you quit and miss the “lift” you got from smoking. Start an exercise program. Regular workouts will help improve your mood and reduce stress and anxiety-all of which make you less likely to light up.
Most important, if you’ve tried to quit smoking before and failed, don’t let that stop you from trying again. It takes most people more than one shot before they succeed. Think about the reasons to quit. You’ll reduce your risk of heart disease, lung disease, and you’ll save money. You’ll avoid walking around with an oxygen tank. Most of all, you’ll live longer and have more time to spend with the people you love.
This article was originally published January 20, 2003 in The St. Tammany News.