Are you a smoker contemplating the decision to quit? Perhaps you’ve quit before, but started again, as many people do. In any case, if you want to succeed at becoming a lifelong non-smoker, there are a few things you would first do well to consider.
Smoking and Your Health
Tobacco use plays a role in many diseases that ultimately lead to death or disability. Given that over 400 of the 4000 chemical compounds present in the smoke inhaled from cigarettes are known carcinogens, it's no wonder that smoking is so bad for your health. According to the Canadian Cancer Society, tobacco use is the leading cause of premature death in Canada, causing approximately 30 per cent . More than 45,000 Canadians die each year from tobacco-related causes. The effects of smoking hold additional risks for women. Those who smoke throughout their pregnancies increase the risk of complications and premature births, and cause risks to the fetus.
The ingredient in tobacco that hooks smokers and makes quitting so difficult is nicotine. Most smokers inhale about 1 milligram of nicotine with each cigarette - a daily dose of only 5 milligrams is enough to addict most people. Addiction is defined as the compulsive physiological and psychological need for a habit-forming substance. None of us started to smoke thinking we'd lose our right to choose, but that's exactly what nicotine addiction does to us. Once we become addicted, we are accustomed to its presence and effects in the body, so feeling normal depends on continued use.
Over time, we develop strong associations between smoking, the effects we find pleasant or calming, and the various activities in our lives. Smoking becomes such an integral part of our daily routines, that eventually we can't imagine life without cigarettes. A landmark report issued back in 1988 by Surgeon General C. Everett Koop warned that "cigarettes and other forms of tobacco are addicting in the same sense as are drugs such as heroin and cocaine." Breaking free from the physiological and psychological addiction to nicotine requires commitment, planning, determination, and support, and many people quit more than once before they ultimately succeed. So, if you've tried to quit smoking before, and are thinking about quitting again, you are that much closer to achieving your goal.
Nicotine Withdrawal: Recovery in Disguise
The first stage in your recovery from the smoking habit is nicotine withdrawal, which probably won’t feel much like recovery. Physical symptoms are temporary, but might make you uncomfortable and uneasy. They could last for a week or two but, for some people, they disappear within a few days.
The following list contains commonly reported symptoms of nicotine withdrawal. Most people experience some of these, but rarely all of them. Each person’s experience is unique, so be sure to check with your doctor if you're concerned about a physical reaction you're having to smoking cessation, or if uncomfortable symptoms persist.
Nicotine Withdrawal Symptoms
Cravings to smoke
Inability to Concentrate
Cough, tightness in chest
Constipation, gas, stomach pain
Sore tongue and/or gums
Post nasal drip
Since nicotine itself has antidepressant effects, you might find yourself feeling blue when you quit. If your mood interferes with your ability to function, or continues for more than a couple of weeks, discuss it with your doctor.
Rewards of Quitting
Consider what you gain by quitting. Are these gains worth the short-term discomforts?
Immediate health improvements
Improved circulation and skin tone
Financial savings – calculate the increase in your available cash!
Fresher breath, whiter teeth
Improved senses of taste and smell
Cleaner smelling clothing, car, and home
Protection of others from second-hand smoke
Time gained from “smoke breaks”
Quitting: What Works?
There are many tools available to help you quit smoking for good. According to the Society for Research on Nicotine and Tobacco, the most effective methods include:
Working with your physician to greatly increase your chances of success.
Telephone counseling support through free 800 numbers providing access to counseling and quitting resources, have been shown to increase quit rates.
Behavioral support, with multiple sessions of individual or group counseling, aids smoking cessation.
Both nicotine replacement therapies and non-nicotine medications aid smoking cessation.(Using either of these tools can double your chances of quitting, according to the American Cancer Society.)