Monday, May 25, 2009

Four Basic Strategies for Quitting

I am a pack rat. I always have been, although I am trying to stop. I have a hard time throwing things never know when you might need something! I was cleaning out my closet yesterday, making some room for some of the baby's things and came across a bag full of literature that I picked up from the annual health fair we had a work last November. I threw out most of it, but found a brochure that is full of good and interesting information for those that are planning on quitting smoking. See, you never know when you might need something. Back in November I was only thinking about quitting and not really serious about it yet. Now that I am seriously quitting smoking, I found that I could use it. And I thought I would share some of the information with all of you. The brochure is titled Smoking Cessation: New Ways To Quit and was written by Harvard Medical School.

The Hazards of Smoking

  • Tobacco is responsible for 1 of every 5 deaths in the United States. That adds up to over 435,000 lives lost each year.
  • The average non-smoker lives about 14 years longer than the average smoker.
  • Smoking is a major cause of chronic illness in over 8.5 million Americans. It is also a major cause of cardiovascular disease, including heart attacks, strokes, and peripheral artery disease.
  • About 20% of all cardiac deaths are caused by smoking.
  • At least 90% of all patients with emphysema owe their lung disease to smoking.
  • Chronic bronchitis and pneumonia are among the other lung diseases are that increased in smokers.
  • Smoking contributes to many other health problems ranging from cataracts, sinusitis, and dental disorders to aging skin, heartburn, osteoporosis, and poor pregnancy outcomes.
  • "Light" and "low tar" cigarettes are no safer than high-test brands. The only truly safe dose of tobacco is zero.

The Benefits of Quitting

  • Within days of quitting, your blood vessels will regain as much of the normal functions that are damaged by smoking.
  • Within weeks of quitting, you'll be able to taste food better and your sense of smell will recover from tobacco's assault.
  • Within months of quitting, symptoms of chronic bronchitis ease up.
  • Within a year, lung function improves.
  • Within 2 to 5 years, the risk of heart attack and stroke is reduced.
  • Within 5 years, the risk of lung cancer begins to drop substantially.
  • Each pack of cigarettes costs the United States $7.18 in medical care and lost productivity.

How to Quit: Four Basic Strategies for Quitting

1. Do it yourself

o Make a list of reasons to quit and another list of people who have kicked the habit. The first list will remind you why quitting is important, and the second will show you that folks who are no stronger or smarter than you have succeeded. Keep your lists handy and refer to them whenever you begin to waver.

o Try to get other smokers in your household or circle of friends to join you in quitting.

o Pick a quitting date and stick to it. Plan to quit on a special day, such as a birthday or the American Cancer Society’s Great American Smokeout event on the third Thursday of each November. Steer clear of stressful periods, and avoid holidays if you are likely to be invited to smoke-filled parties.

o As your quit date approaches, throw out your ashtrays, clean your house, car, and clothes, and clean your teeth. Once you’re away from it, you’ll see that smoking stinks.

o Anticipate withdrawal symptoms such as grumpiness, restlessness, irritability, hunger, headache, anxiety, and drowsiness or insomnia. The discomfort usually peaks 1 to 3 weeks after you quit, and then it gradually diminishes. To get through the rough patches, stock up on low-calorie snacks and sugarless gum or candy to keep your mouth busy. Plan enjoyable diversions to keep your mind busy. Think of ways to keep your hands busy.

o If you feel tense, try meditation, deep breathing, or yoga.

o Begin an exercise program. It will relieve tension, promote good sleep, and help control weight gain. Walking 30 minutes a day can also help.

o Stay away from secondhand smoke. Don’t even think about smoking “just one” — even a single puff will set you back.

o Reward yourself. Put your tobacco money aside and then spend it on a special treat.

o Think positively—you can quit. Take it one day at a time. And if you slip, try, try again—either on your own or with one or more of the other strategies for quitting.

2. Behavioral support

Quitting is your responsibility; it may be hard, but it doesn’t have to be lonely. Many employers, health plans, and hospitals offer individual or group counseling. Your doctor or your local chapter of the American Lung Association or American Cancer Society can refer you to a program in your area. Telephone support can also help; you can try it for yourself by calling the National Smoking Cessation Hotline at 800-QUIT-NOW. Hypnosis is another alternative that has helped some smokers break free.

3. Nicotine-replacement therapy

Nicotine replacement is safe. You’ll get less nicotine than from cigarettes, and you won’t get any of the tar, carbon monoxide, and other damaging substances in tobacco. Plan to start nicotine-replacement therapy on the day you quit smoking. If you are a heavy smoker, you’ll need higher doses. Estimate how much nicotine you need based on an average of 1 to 2 milligrams (mg) of nicotine per cigarette. Start with the full dose, then gradually taper down over several months. Under-dosing is more common than overdosing, but you should not smoke while using nicotine-replacement therapy.

Here is a quick view of the options for nicotine-replacement therapy:

o Nicotine patches are available over the counter.. Place a new patch on clean, unbroken, hairless skin each day; you can leave it in place all day. You can reduce the dose every one to two months as your nicotine addiction resolves. Mild skin irritation is the most common side effect.

o Nicotine gum (Nicorette) is available over the counter. Chew a piece of the gum whenever the smoking urge surges, up to 30 pieces a day. Aim to wean off the gum in about three months if possible. Some people find the taste unpleasant, and some develop hiccups or indigestion.

o Nicotine lozenges (Commit) are available without prescription. A typical schedule calls for one lozenge every one to two hours for six weeks, then every two to four hours for two weeks, and then every four to eight hours for the final two weeks. Side effects may include an unpleasant taste, nausea, indigestion, or mouth tingling.

o Nicotine inhalers (Nicotrol inhaler) are available by prescription. Each cartridge delivers a “puff” of vapor containing 4 mg of nicotine. The average dose is six to 16 cartridges a day for up to 12 weeks, followed by a gradual reduction in dose over the next 12 weeks. Side effects may include mouth or throat irritation and cough.

o Nicotine nasal sprays (Nicotrol NS) are available by prescription. Each spray delivers 0.5 mg of nicotine. Use one spray in each nostril whenever you feel the urge to smoke, up to a maximum of 10 sprays an hour or 80 a day for three months. Side effects may include nasal irritation, sneezing, tearing, and cough.

Remember that nicotine replacement works best when combined with behavioral support, prescription drugs, or both. And smoking cessation always requires a good dose of willpower.

4. Prescription drugs

o Bupropion (Wellbutrin, Zyban) was initially approved to treat depression and was then approved for smoking cessation. It does not contain nicotine and can be used in combination with nicotine-replacement therapy. Start taking bupropion one to two weeks before your quit date. Possible side effects may include dry mouth and insomnia; seizures are very rare.

o Varenicline (Chantix) is the newest drug approved for smoking cessation; although experience is still limited, it also promises to be the most effective. It blocks nicotine receptors in the brain while also partially stimulating these receptors to reduce nicotine withdrawal symptoms. Nausea is common, and bad dreams may occur. Reports of accidents and visual abnormalities are also being investigated by the FDA. More research is needed.

Pretty good information, huh? I know it was a lot to read, but I hope you at least skimmed it. If you would like to read more literature written by the Harvard Medical School, please visit and type smoking in the search box towards the top right-hand side of the page.

If you are serious about quitting smoking, you can do it. There are several alternatives to help you quit. The trick is finding out which way will work best for you. Just because you know someone that was able to quit using the nicotine patch does not mean you will be able to do the same. Everyone is different. But the one thing that all ex-smokers share is the will and the desire to quit. If you have the will and the desire, you can quit. Believe in yourself. Don't have doubts. Make up your mind that you will quit, and do it!


  1. That was great information. You can do this and you have a whole team behind you to support you and catch you if you fall. JAMES, JACKSON and I LOVE YOU SOOOO MUCH!!!

  2. Hi Jeff, the most important thing you said was that you need to find out what works for you. That truely is the key to becoming smoke free. I have been helping smokers quit for 20 years and have free suggestions of all sorts at:
    Good luck and I know you can do it! VJ Sleight

  3. Quitting smoking is the MOST important decision you'll ever make in your life, for you and your loved ones. It is better to start Now, because the longer you stay on it, the more damage it will do to your body.

  4. The would-be quitters really need all their help they can get to be fully successful.