Smoking is the leading preventable killer in the United States and accounts for 1 of every 5 deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Smoking increases your risk for heart and vascular disease, stroke, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), asthma, hip fractures and cataracts. It also increases the risk for cancer of the lung, mouth, throat, kidney, bladder, pancreas, stomach and cervix. New evidence suggests smoking may contribute to the risk for breast cancer.
Quitting now can lead to a substantially longer and healthier life. No matter how long you’ve been smoking or how old you are, it's always the healthiest choice to quit. However, quitting smoking can be one of the hardest things many people ever do. The worst withdrawal symptoms occur in the first few weeks after quitting. Once you get through that period, it will get easier. Here are some tips to ease your cessation process:
Quit day: Set a quit day within the next two weeks, giving yourself adequate time to prepare for success. If possible, choose a meaningful day that you will remember.
Seek support: Tell family members, friends and co-workers of your decision to quit smoking. Ask them for understanding and support during your adjustment period, which may include irritability, restlessness and feeling blue.
Smoke-free zones: Remove ashtrays, lighters, matches and other smoking paraphernalia from your home, car and office. This can make sticking to your commitment easier.
Plan ahead: Pick healthier habits to fulfill your desire for a midday energy lift, end-of-meal snack, morning refresher, or other circumstances in which you are tempted to smoke. Short walks, a cold glass of water, a few minutes breathing fresh air, or a piece of fruit are all great ideas.
Avoid alcohol and other drugs: These substances can affect your judgment and should be avoided in the first 3 weeks after your quit date.
Turn down ALL tobacco: Do not turn to smokeless tobacco, pipes, cigars, cigarillos, hookahs (waterpipes), bidis, lower-tar, lower-nicotine, electronic, clove, herbal, or menthol cigarettes. These alternatives cause just as much harm as regular cigarettes.
Eat right and exercise: Nicotine suppresses regular hunger and satiety signals, which is why people gain an average of 5 to 10 pounds after they quit smoking. Healthy eating and regular physical activity may be able to counteract some of the expected weight gain.
Talk with a doctor: He or she can answer questions and recommend ideas and resources for long-term cessation success. Moreover, some medications may need to be adjusted after you quit.
Investigate aid: If needed, learn about over-the-counter and prescription options available to help you quit, from nicotine gums and the patch to several pharmaceutical options.
Remember that quitting happens one day at a time, or even one hour at a time. Studies show that people who have successfully stayed tobacco-free for over 12 months have a 95 percent chance of staying abstinent for the rest of their lives. Make your commitment this week, by signing up for the Quit and Stay Quit Healthy Monday Challenge.
For more resources to help you quit smoking, visit http://www.mondaycampaigns.org/stay-quit/, http://smokefree.gov, http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/factsheet/Tobacco/cessation. To read more about the statistics cited, go to http://www.cdc.gov/tobacco, http://brown.edu/Student_Services/Health_Services/Health_Education/alcohol,_tobacco,_&_other_drugs/tobacco/smoking_cessation.php, and http://jnci.oxfordjournals.org/content/89/8/572.full.Every Monday, the Johns Hopkins Healthy Monday Project, part of the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future, offers tips for preventing disease and injury, and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Check back each week for new tips or visit our archive.