Smoking is the practice of breathing in smoke from burning tobacco products. Cigarettes, cigars, hookah, electronic devices and pipes are among the objects that smokers use. The smoke from burning tobacco contains many chemicals that can cause changes in the lungs, cause addiction and cause cancer.
Smoking is one habit that is a risk factor for many chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and other diseases. Stopping smoking can help you reduce your risk for these diseases or at least improve your chances of improved treatment outcome.
Substances that are smoked contain various ingredients that may make you addicted to smoking. Smoking has various bad effects and they affect not only smokers but also those around them. The effects include the following:
- The heart and blood system are affected by smoking. Smoking puts you at high risk of getting high blood pressure, stroke, or heart attack.
- Smoking puts you at risk of getting cancer. Especially lung cancer.
- Smoking affects the mood of smokers and also increase their stress level. Anxiety and depression may also set in when one tries to quit smoking.
- Smokers may find it hard to socialize with non-smokers. This could be because of the bad breath which smoking causes.
- Your sexual performance and fertility may be affected.
- You may develop breathing problems or asthma.
Smoking is tough to quit because of the addictive ingredients in tobacco. The best way to stay safe from the effects of smoking is not to start at all. It is difficult to break the psychological habit (e.g. hand to mouth motion and smoking with friends) and the addiction to nicotine.
To quit successfully, you will need to address both the psychological habits and the addiction to nicotine.
Some smokers successfully quit by stopping suddenly, but this is not possible for most people. Most people do better with a tailored plan to keep themselves on track. Make a simple plan to quit, but ensure you have contingency plans to address both the short-term and long-term challenge of preventing relapse. It would help if you tailored the plan to your specific needs and smoking habits.
- Choose a date within the next two weeks, so you have enough time to prepare without losing your motivation to quit. If you mainly smoke at work, quit on the weekend, so you have a few days to adjust to the change.
- Tell family, friends, and co-workers that you plan to quit. Ask them for their support and encouragement to stop. It may be beneficial to quit with your friends who also smoke since you can help each other get through the rough times.
- Plan for the challenges and temptations you’ll face while quitting. Most people who relapse usually go back within the first three months. You can help yourself make it through by preparing ahead for common challenges. Use nicotine patches or gum to reduce the effect of nicotine withdrawal and cigarette cravings.
- Remove cigarettes and other tobacco products from your home, car and work. Throw away all of your cigarettes, lighters, ashtrays and matches. Wash your clothes and freshen up anything that smells like smoke. Don't put yourself in smoking sections of restaurants or eat lunch with friends that smoke.
- Talk to your healthcare provider about getting help to quit. Your healthcare provider can point you to useful resources within your community or prescribe medication to help with withdrawal symptoms. You can get many products over the counter at your local pharmacy, including nicotine patches, lozenges, and gum.
- In some patients, harm reduction methods rather than quitting entirely may be beneficial too. For example, using smokeless cigarettes or electronic products, that are likely less harmful than cigarettes, may be helpful.
After starting your journey to quit smoking, you may likely experience:
- Cigarette cravings.
- Anxiety, fidgeting or nervousness.
- Have difficulty concentrating on mental tasks.
- Increased appetite.
- Headaches and sleeplessness.
- Increased coughing and throat irritation.
- Fatigue and low energy.
- Constipation or upset stomach.
- Decreased heart rate.
Most of these symptoms are temporary but may affect your usual activities and work while they last. Allow for a few days to weeks for these symptoms to reduce as the toxins are removed from your body. The support from friends and family will be useful in helping you get through this phase.
Your healthcare provider may also teach you a few coping techniques that can help you distract yourself from the symptoms, centre your thinking on the benefits of quitting, help you avoid defeating situations or habits, and how to reward your good habits.
Most people try to stop smoking several times before they are successful. Don't beat yourself up about failing in the meantime and smoking again. Rather, learn from your mistake and make a better effort. Remember that this does not have to be a total relapse; you can try again.
- Get back to your plan as soon as possible.
- Identify the trigger to starting smoking again and get help with avoiding it next time.
- Learn from your experience and improve the effectiveness of positive reinforcements.
- If you are using prescription-only medicines, speak to your healthcare provider immediately as some medicines interact with cigarette smoking (e.g. antidepressants).
Continue to persist and increase positive reinforcements around you. This is critical for remaining smoke-free for life.
- You may need to develop new skills like preventing disappointment or loss from triggering a craving for cigarettes (cognitive behavioural therapy).
- You may also need to develop new habits to replace old ones, like using a fidget spinner to replace hand-to-mouth habits.
- You may benefit from social support and group therapy.