Those of us who smoke understand the difficulties in trying to quit. If quitting were a simple matter of willpower or “just saying no,” most of us would have given up the habit long ago. By now, we’ve all heard of the health hazards associated with smoking, including increasing our chances of heart attack, stroke and cancer. And, we also know that smoking around our children only encourages them to pick up the habit too. In addition, subjecting our loved ones to second-hand smoke exposes them to deadly illnesses even if they do not smoke. The health risks are especially grave for pregnant women, whose babies are at significantly higher risk of being born with serious health problems, including premature birth, low birth weight, learning problems, cerebral palsy and mental retardation. Finally, newborns who are exposed to their parents’ secondhand smoke are much more likely to die of sudden infant death syndrome. When we consider the fact that the recipe for making cigarettes contains more than 2500 chemicals and dozens of cancer-causing chemicals, it is not surprising that smoking not only makes us sick – smoking kills. And, each year, some 20 percent of all deaths is attributed to smoking. The bottom line: the only way to stay healthy is to stop smoking.
More than a Habit
Smoking is more than an awful habit – it is an addiction. Nicotine is a chemical so highly addictive, in fact, that many compare its addictive potential as equivalent to street drugs such as heroin and cocaine. Recognizing smoking as an addiction helps us better understand the difficulties faced by those who are trying to quit.
The good news is that if you are among the 25 percent of Americans who smoke, now is the perfect time to quit smoking. Unlike in the past, when smokers had few options to help them quit, it is no longer necessary to take the “cold turkey” approach to quitting smoking. Modern smoking cessation programs offer a variety of options to choose from, so that each person can tailor treatment to meet his or her specific needs. In addition, smokers are given an arsenal of options with which to battle smoking, including newer medication therapies, low cost or free smoking cessation programs, peer support groups and the guidance of a licensed mental health professional. This array of treatment strategies affords new opportunities to quit smoking, even for those who have tried and failed to quit smoking in the past.
Tips for Quitting Smoking
The Health and Human Services Administration recommends five critical steps for quitting smoking:
- Get ready
- Get support
- Learn new skills and behaviors
- Get medication and use it correctly
- Be prepared for relapse or difficult situations