Quit Smoking Now or Suffer the Consequences

JULY 26, 2016
Why Patients Should Quit Smoking
Despite all these scary consequences, there’s still hope for smokers who wish to quit. According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, 70% of those who smoke have admitted to wanting to quit, although only 44% are actually attempting to do so.
Patients must realize that almost immediately after they quit smoking, their body will start to repair itself, so no one is ever too old to quit. Resolution can start as soon as in 20 minutes—when blood pressure drops back down to normal.
Smoking cessation leads to lowered risk of lung cancer along with various other types of cancers. After 1 to 2 years of quitting, the risk of heart disease, stroke, and peripheral vascular disease is reduced. Patients who experienced respiratory symptoms like wheezing, coughing, and shortness of breath will quickly see a significant improvement. Meanwhile, women of childbearing age will have a reduced risk of infertility and delivering a baby with an abnormally low birth weight.

Nonpharmacological Options 
When attempting smoking cessation, it’s important to combine pharmacological treatments with nonpharmacological treatments in order to increase the odds of success. A popular option is behavioral and cognitive interventions, which play a significant role in success rate.
It’s important to try to manage smoking urges, as cravings only last about 5 to 10 minutes. In order to manage cravings, it’s best to avoid places or routines that stimulate the urge to smoke. Stress leads many individuals to smoke, so they should try to avoid stressful situations and control all anxiety. Some individuals find it helpful to participate in positive self-talk or mental rehearsal convincing themselves they’re better off not smoking. Reinforcing this new lifestyle and behavior change isn’t easy, and it may take up to 6 months to see reduced cravings, but there are many benefits in the long run.

There are also helplines available for individuals to call to get the support they need. An effective national hotline is 1-800-QUITNOW. Individuals can call this number when they have an urge or even to get more information concerning smoking cessation and the best ways to quit. Those in the process of quitting should also reach out to family and friends for support, or even attend local support groups being held in the area. It’s also recommended to avoid alcohol for the first few months because there’s a significant association between alcohol use and smoking relapse.

OTC Pharmacological Options
Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) is a first-line option for smoking cessation and is available in several different forms OTC. NRT has proven effective in reducing both cravings and withdrawal symptoms. It’s important to know that patients shouldn’t smoke cigarettes while on NRT because toxicity may occur.
One popular form of NRT, nicotine gum, has a fixed schedule of 1 piece every 1 to 2 waking hours during weeks 1 to 6, 1 piece every 2 to 4 waking hours during weeks 7 to 9, and 1 piece every 4 to 8 waking hours during weeks 10 to 12. The gum dosage is based on when a a patient would smoke the first cigarette of the day.

Another form of NRT is a nicotine lozenge—a quick-acting option that begins to take effect after 20 to 30 minutes. It’s also taken on a fixed schedule: 1 lozenge every 1 to 2 hours for the first 6 weeks, 1 lozenge every 2 to 4 hours during weeks 7 to 9, and 1 lozenge every 4 to 8 hours during weeks 10 to 12. Likewise, this dose is based on when the individual would smoke the first cigarette of the day.
Another OTC-available NRT, the nicotine patch, is dosed a bit differently: its dosage is based on the number of cigarettes the individual would smoke per day. The patch is different from the other forms in that the release of nicotine peaks after 6 to 9 hours. Patients are instructed to apply 1 patch every morning in a hairless area, rotating sites each day.

Smoking affects not only your body, but also those around you, as they breathe in second-hand smoke from your exhalations, clothes, even the upholstery in your car and home. It’s important for your patients to stop smoking now in order to decrease their chances of developing various, serious diseases and ultimately adding 10 years back on to their lives. Smokers can and do quit smoking every day. In fact, according to the CDC, today there are more former smokers than current smokers. Get your patients the support they need to become former smokers now.

Shelby Leheny, Pharm D, B.S
Shelby Leheny, Pharm D, B.S
Shelby Leheny received her Doctor of Pharmacy Degree from Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine (LECOM) and her Bachelor's of Science degree at the University of Pittsburgh. She is a pharmacist at CVS.