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Smoking Cessation

What is Smoking Cessation

“Smoking Cessation” means, simply, “stopping smoking.” If you are reading this, congratulations – you have already taken the first really big step in helping your child (and yourself!) to a healthier life. This article is not about trying to frighten you or to make you feel badly about your smoking. Chances are you already feel badly enough yourself. You might even have other family members, co-workers, and your own doctor telling you how bad your smoking is. What we want to do is to let you know you aren’t alone, and that you aren’t a “bad person” because you smoke. This article will give you enough information to understand why it’s so important to quit, why it’s so hard to quit, and what lots of other smokers have done to help themselves quit. Most importantly, it will give you information that you, your family, and your doctor can use to work as a team on this.

Quitting smoking is hard! You need encouragement and support to do it – and a few resources to help yourself along the way. Remember, you are going to be working on giving up a powerful addiction – something that has a lot of control over your life right now. Many ex-smokers say that quitting was one of the hardest things they’ve ever done. A lot of parents who quit smoking find that it helps them to realize that they are in a fight for their children’s lives. Most parents would do almost anything to keep another person from hurting their children. Remember – your smoking is the enemy. You aren’t!

What is the biggest concern?

You’ve probably heard as much as you can stand about how terrible smoking is for you and your child. Instead of focusing on the harm that smoking causes, let’s take a look at the really good effects of quitting:

    1. You’ll add an average of 7 years to your life - if that doesn’t sound like much, ask a 70-year-old!
    1. You’ll improve your partner’s health – that means you’ll have more love, help, support (and probably money!) in your life for longer.
    1. You’ll eliminate the biggest source of “second hand smoke” for your children. Three times as many children die from second-hand smoke each year as they do from all forms of cancer put together. At least smokers can decide when to smoke and when they’ve had enough. Kids breathing second-hand smoke don’t have that choice. Children who don’t live with second-hand smoke have less asthma, colds, eczema, and other health problems. You can improve your children’s health and save yourself a lot of time, energy, and money.
    1. You’ll reduce the chance of a problem with a pregnancy – your own or that of someone you love. Babies born to non-smokers are larger, healthier, and less likely to be born prematurely.
    1. You’ll get rid of the most likely cause of a fatal house fire.
    1. You’ll save a boatload of money! The average one-pack-a-day smoker spends $1800.00 a year on cigarettes. Would you accept an interest-free loan of $1800.00 that you never have to pay back?
    1. You’ll have a better sex-life. That’s right – quitting smoking can be one of the biggest factors in improving sexual functioning. For both of you!
  1. Your children will be less likely to become smokers themselves. One more wonderful gift you can give your child is a smoke-free future even after s/he leaves home!

How to Treat Smoking Addiction

Step 1: The first step in treating smoking is the one you’ve already taken – thinking about quitting. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself too soon – this will take time, energy, and courage. Please try to involve others as you think about quitting. Your partner, your older children, your co-workers, and of course, your doctor should all know that you are thinking about quitting. The more people who know you are thinking of quitting, the more encouragement you’ll get. Don’t talk to people who will tease you or torment you about smoking – some people think it’s funny to do that, and they don’t realize how much damage they can do. You can probably figure out who your biggest cheerleaders will be in this.

Thinking about quitting also means thinking through the reasons for quitting. We gave some up above – you can probably think of quite a few more. It may help to write them all down on a pocket card you can keep with you. Look at it several times a day – remember, for right now you are only thinking about quitting. There’s no pressure to stop right away. Also, please do your best to get educated about why quitting is so hard. You’ll realize you aren’t alone, and that you aren’t a “weak” person if you are a smoker. Tobacco companies spend millions of dollars a year trying to make smoking seem glamorous, sexy, appealing, and fun. Chances are you don’t have millions to spend to fight back – but getting educated about smoking is free. On the Internet you can go to Smoke Free  or  Respiratory Therapist Career where you’ll be able to learn about smoking and follow a step-by-step guide to quitting.

Another important part of thinking about quitting is starting to notice when, where, and why you smoke. For most smokers, smoking is such a routine that it never occurs to them to ask those questions. They smoke with coffee, they smoke with a drink, they smoke after a good meal… Please take a few minutes to really think about the things that are your own “triggers” to smoke. Many people find that it helps to write them down, just like the reasons to quit. It can also help to keep a log – a listing of each cigarette you smoked during the day, where you were, what you were doing, how you were feeling just before you lit up. Again, all this helps to break the cycle of “habitual” smoking. You aren’t actually trying to quit yet – just trying to pay more careful attention to what makes you feel like having a smoke. At http://www.smokefree.gov you can see sample logs and other helpful aids.

Step 2: Once you have been thinking about quitting for a while, and have told your friends and family about it, you will be ready to “prepare to quit.” Why not just quit? It turns out that quitting is so hard, almost everyone really needs to take it a step at a time. In the “preparing to quit” stage, you go beyond just thinking about it. Now is the time that you’ll make your detailed plans. The experts recommend that you give yourself 2 weeks for this stage – long enough to get really prepared, but not long enough to lose your drive to quit.

You may want to use the word “START” to help you with this step:

Set a quit date sometime within two weeks. Many people find it helpful to use an important date like a birthday or a holiday. Quitting on a weekend or a day off will help you if one of your triggers for smoking is work.

Tell your support group about your quit date. If you told them you were in the “thinking about quitting” stage, they’re already on your side. Please let them know that you’d like them to ask how it’s going, and that you’ll welcome their encouragement. Or, if you’d rather they give you privacy about quitting, then of course ask them for that. But either way, please make sure everyone you care about at least knows that you are doing this.

Anticipate the changes you will experience. Quitting is hard, and most people who go back to smoking do it in the first three months. Please remember that you will change – you may become moody or irritable, and you may even experience some nicotine withdrawal. This is normal, and your friends can help you best if you remind them of why you are feeling this way. Depending on how heavily you’ve smoked, and how long, you may also experience a temporary worsening of your cough. This is not only normal, but believe it or not, it’s good! Your lungs will finally be able to move the mucous and soot up and out. If you are prepared for this effect, you can view it as your body’s first steps in healing, and a personal victory. The worst is always over after the first 2 weeks. Remind your supporters (and yourself) that it can take that long to shake a really bad cold! Also, keep that list of triggers on you wherever you go. In the “anticipation” phase of preparing, it helps to identify in advance those places and situations that are most likely to cause you to light up. You don’t have to give those places and situations up (though some people choose to). You do have to be aware that those will be the places and times when the urge to smoke will be the strongest. Again – use your support network to get you through those.

Remove tobacco from your life – everywhere! This can be hard – most smokers not only have cigarettes around, but other parts of the “tobacco world.” Lighters, ashtrays, matches… all those things are like evil little demons that want to get you smoking again. While you are in this “Preparing to Quit” stage, start cleaning up your house, your car, and anywhere else you smoke. Get the little demons ready for the day you quit – then you can boot them all out at once! Please don’t forget to be nice to your mouth – just like your lungs, it’s taken a beating over the years. Many people get their teeth cleaned at the dentist right before they quit (tell your dentist too!). Get at least 3 new toothbrushes. Start using the first one on quit day so you won’t have any reminder of nicotine or that “smoky” taste. Replace it after the first few days (these should be cheap toothbrushes!). Replace the second one after a week more. You might even want to replace that one with another to celebrate your first three smoke-free weeks. Your nose deserves a break too – depending on how much time and energy you have, you may want to clean your carpets, furniture, curtains, and so forth. Don’t use a lot of air-freshening sprays. You won’t need to as the air clears.

Tell your doctor that you are quitting – tell him or her now, in the “Preparing to Quit” stage. Quitting is a good and healthy move, and it can affect the way your body uses energy and some medicines. If your doctor (or your child’s pediatrician) is on your team, s/he will be able to make any needed adjustments. Speaking of your doctor, please let the whole office staff know that you are quitting, not just the doctor. Studies show that if everyone in a doctor’s office knows a patient or parent is quitting, the chances of success are higher. Of course, your doctor or pediatrician can help you decide if you should use one of the many nicotine replacement products that are available. These include gum, lozenges, and patches, sold both over-the-counter and by prescription. Your doctor may also decide to start you on a prescription medicine called buproprion (Wellbutrin® and others). Please don’t start any medication without a discussion with your doctor.

As a final step in your “Preparing to Quit” stage, you may want to use a support program like a group that meets in person or by phone on a regular basis. Your doctor’s office can help you locate one near you. Or, you can call a telephone “quit-line.” Studies show that people who use quit-lines as part of their smoking cessation program are more likely to succeed. You can call the National Network of Tobacco Cessation Quitlines at 1-800-QUITNOW (1-800-784-8669)for information on finding a quit-line in your area. Quit-lines are free; some specific programs charge a small fee. Most insurance companies (including most Medicaid providers) will cover some or all of the costs of smoking cessation. And almost all health insurance companies will reduce their premiums for non-smokers.

Step 3: Good grief – are we only at Step THREE?! Yep – this is a hard disease to fight, and if you’ve come this far, you can do it! Step three is actually quitting. You’ve thought about it and you’ve prepared yourself and your supporters for it. Here are some things to remember and do on “Quit Day” itself:

  • Please remember that you must break not just one habit (smoking), but many habits (triggers). Make Quit Day as different from an ordinary day as you can. Keep very busy – it may help to do things you aren’t used to doing. Read your list of triggers several times, to make sure you avoid them.
  • If you’ve joined a support program like a group or a quit-line (highly recommended), USE IT TODAY. Others know what you are dealing with and can offer help.
  • Try to spend as much time as possible in “no-smoking” areas. These aren’t hard to find these days! Try a movie, go to the mall, or visit non-smoking friends. Watch out for those triggers – if you used to automatically light up after dinner, take one second to remember not to. Then brush your teeth (new toothbrush!), and do something you normally don’t do after dinner. Again, it’s so important to break the little habits and triggers that lead to the big thing – smoking.
  • Finally – please remember to notice what you are feeling when you want a smoke. With many compulsive habits, people do the habit because it helps them feel better about something that isn’t quite right in their lives. Noticing your feelings may help you to realize that you are actually frustrated, or angry, or lonely, or scared… What matters is that you learn to recognize what you are feeling and thentake control by breaking the association between the feeling and the smoke. Here’s where many people find that gum, hard candy, pickles, or carrot sticks come in handy. When you feel the urge and notice the feeling, take care of it by putting something healthier than a cigarette in your mouth.

“Quit Day” and the first two weeks will be the hardest. This is the time when you will feel thephysical effects of quitting. Please try to remember that though you’ll feel uncomfortable, what is happening is your body healing from its injuries. Within the first 20 minutes of your last cigarette your blood will have less nicotine and your lungs will be putting out less poison gas. Your cough may get worse for a few days or even more, as your lungs heal and get back their healthy reflexes. If you’ve ever cleaned out that nasty stuff at the back of the refrigerator, and felt much better once it was gone, you know what this is like. It’s messy while the cleaning happens, but what a difference afterwards!

You will want to smoke, of course. That’s natural. The feeling will come and go. Sometimes you’ll hardly notice it, other times it may feel as if it controls you. It may help to remember that these feelings grow stronger if you don’t pay specific attention to them. The first step is what doctors call a “craving.” A craving is a feeling that you want something – either because it gives you pleasure or because it helps you avoid pain. If you were careful during your “preparing to quit” stage, you will have identified the feelings that cause your craving. If a person doesn’t do something to control the craving, they will go on to having a full-blown “urge.” By the time a person has an urge to do something, it can be very hard to stop. The urge is the first step in your plan to act – to have the cigarette. By the time you are in the grip of the urge, you’re halfway to the corner store to buy a pack of cigarettes. SO: please try to focus on your craving – notice it as early as you can. DON’T just ignore it and hope it will go away – instead, change something, right now. Get up and have a stretch. Drink some water. Call your support system. Eat something small (not enough to make you feel like smoking when you finish). Do whatever it takes to catch the craving, stop it, and meet the real need.

Step 4: Staying Smoke Free – most people who relapse after quitting do it within the first three months. Many people need to quit smoking several times before they finally succeed. That’s ok. This is a hard battle. Please remember to be a little easy on yourself. If you slip and have a cigarette, you haven’t “failed” yet. That’s important, because you don’t want to feel so miserable that you turn around and smoke the whole pack. But also, don’t be too easy on yourself – you had the discipline to stop, you did all that work, so don’t let that all go down the drain either. You’ll need to keep your guard up. You’ll need to keep working on breaking all those habits that you connected with smoking in the past. Never, ever allow yourself “just one” cigarette.

The longer you’ve been a non-smoker, the easier it will be to focus on the rewards, rather than the difficulties. One very good way to see the rewards quickly is to take the money you used to spend each day on cigarettes, and put it in a jar or a drawer. Smokes are up to more than $5.00 a pack in most places, so if you were a pack-a-day smoker, you’ll see $35.00 in your jar after just one week – and one hundred and forty dollars at the end of a month! But keeping your money jar is about much more than the money – it’s your visible measure of success. Look at it, show it to your friends and family. It’s your own personal reward for winning the battle.

 

 

 

Reward yourself in other ways as well. As you reach milestones (a week smoke-free, a month, etc), buy yourself a small gift, or treat yourself to something fun (you can use the money in your jar). Especially importantly, recognize your victory when you successfully identify a craving and stop it before it grows. Give yourself a little pat on the back right then and there.

Of course, it’s important to keep your guard up at all times, too. Keep noticing your cravings and stop them before they become urges! Keep that list of triggers with you and remind yourself of situations you don’t want to get into. Remember – quitting smoking means changing a whole long list of other habits that tend to lead to smoking. YOU CAN DO IT!

When should I be worried?

There are absolutely no negative health consequences from quitting smoking. You will most likely feel irritable or depressed, and many people feel nauseated. If you have other things going on in your life that could make you depressed, please check with your doctor to make sure s/he is aware. S/he might want to start different medications. If you are feeling really badly stressed by other things in life, you might want to consider whether now is the best time to try to quit.

 Other points of concern

Many people find it helpful to ban smoking in their homes and cars while they are quitting and after they’ve quit. This helps in three ways: it cuts down on how much smoke your children and partner must breathe. We also know that when kids aren’t around smokers, they are less likely to start smoking themselves. Finally, if you’ve banned smoking where you live and in your car, it will simply be harder for you to just light up when you get an urge. That will force you to think about it long enough to help head off trouble.

If you and your doctor have decided that a nicotine replacement product like gum, patches, or lozenges will help, please do remember that these are medications. They can be dangerous if small children swallow them, so please keep them locked up just as you would any other medicine. Also, though, please remember that you always get less nicotine from these products than you would from a cigarette – so if there’s a choice, use the product. Finally, although it’s best to quit nicotine in any form when you are pregnant, experts agree that using a nicotine replacement is safer than smoking during pregnancy.

 Other Conditions that Might Be Present

Smokers, as well as others, often use other chemicals such as caffeine, alcohol, and other drugs to affect their mood. Many smokers find that as they successfully quit smoking, they increase other activities like drinking coffee. It may help you to be prepared for that. Often, avoiding the triggers that cause a craving or an urge to smoke can also help you avoid other addictive substances. Do keep an eye on your behavior, though, and if you notice that you might be using other drugs more, please talk with your doctor and your support network.