/publications/issue/2003/2003-03/2003-03-7162

Smoking Cessation

Author: Jeannette Yeznack Wick, RPh, MBA

Why Should I Quit Smoking?
Improved Health

If you quit smoking, no matter how old you are, your health can improve quickly. Twenty minutes after you quit smoking, your blood pressure improves, your pulse rate drops, and the temperature of your hands and feet increases. Overall, you reduce your risk of cancer, heart disease, and stroke. In 10 or 15 years, you will be nearly as healthy as someone who has never smoked. Other chronic problems associated with smoking will cease as well?chronic cough, nasal congestion, or breathing trouble.

A Longer, Better Life
People who quit smoking live longer. Eventually, your risk of dying will be equal to that of people who never smoked. Besides improved health and longer life, simple activities that you avoid because of chronic breathing problems can become enjoyable once again. Look at the 5 Rs, and see how they apply to you:

Relevance?Why is quitting personally important to you?
Risks?What negative effects are you experiencing?
Make a list of everything. (Don?t forget bad breath, dirty ashtrays, social pressure, inconvenience, cost, stained teeth, breathing problems, or heart trouble.)
Rewards?How would your life be better without tobacco?
Roadblocks?What keeps you from quitting, and what strategies can you use to succeed this time?
Repetition?Surround yourself with information about the hazards of smoking and quitting strategies, and read it over and over.

Now That I?ve Decided to Quit, How Do I Quit Smoking?
The most important factor is commitment. Vow to quit smoking, and set a date. Remind yourself that smoking is more than a bad habit. It?s a deadly addiction. Let your friends and family know that you are quitting, and ask them for support. Don?t try to quit during a particularly stressful time (such as after a loved one dies, during a household move, or when you?re changing jobs). Quit when you can focus all your energy on a smoke-free life.

The Cold Facts About Cold Turkey
For most people, cold turkey is not the best way to quit smoking. People find that they are irritable and uncomfortable after quitting. They may feel worse than when they were smoking.

Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) greatly doubles your chance of success because it curbs withdrawal symptoms. There are several types of NRT, each one different. Most people, however, find that using NRT makes quitting less uncomfortable than trying to quit without it. Even if you use NRT to help you quit, the quitting process will be uncomfortable, so brace yourself for a challenge that can last many weeks.

The Patch (available over the counter)
Nicotine patches release nicotine through your skin and into your system all day long to decrease cravings for a cigarette. Patches look like an adhesive bandage, and they are applied the same way as a bandage. They come in various shapes and sizes. Size is related to the amount of nicotine delivered. The larger the patch is, the more nicotine will be absorbed. Overall, the patch supplies less nicotine than cigarettes or cigars do. You?ll have to change your patch once every day. That will actually help you break your smoking habit. Because you change the patch less often than you would smoke a cigarette, smokers often find it easier to ?quit? the patch than to quit cigarettes.

Nicotine Gum and Lozenges (available over the counter)
Nicotine gum and lozenges also decrease your cravings for nicotine. As you chew the gum, you can ?park? it between your gums and cheek. This lets you increase and control nicotine flow into your body. Some people?especially those who wear dentures?may find the gum annoying so the lozenge is a good alternative. It also provides control over cravings. It should be switched from side to side in the mouth until dissolved?do not bite or chew it!

Inhalers and Nasal Sprays (available by prescription only)
Nicotine inhalers and nasal sprays are helpful for withdrawal. The nicotine nasal spray is packaged in a pump bottle with a nozzle that you insert into your nostril. Nicotine inhalers contain a cartridge of nicotine that you use by puffing on the inhaler. The nicotine is delivered to your mouth.

Bupropion Sustained-Release Tablets (available by prescription only)
Bupropion hydrochloride is a nonnicotine drug that is used to help people quit smoking. Most people must start taking bupropion before they quit and continue taking the tablets for 6 to 12 weeks.

Exercise and Increased Activity
Quitting smoking can sometimes cause people to have a restless, nervous feeling. This feeling is normal, and a good way to use that extra energy is to exercise. Exercise helps in other ways. If you exercise vigorously enough to increase and sustain your heart rate, you will increase your circulation and improve breathing. Sustained aerobic exercise also leads to the production and release of endorphins, a healthy chemical that improves your mood.

No matter which of the methods you choose, consult your doctor first. Never use these NRT products if you are still smoking. If possible, seek counseling, a support group, or another outlet for feelings about quitting.