Endless reports tout the dangers and health risks of smoking, yet for those addicted to the habit, it is often exceedingly difficult to quit. Magazine ads, spam emails, news reports, and word-of-mouth are some of the many ways people find out about methods to help them quit smoking. However, not everything you read or hear really works.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), tobacco and nicotine dependence often requires repeated treatments. While more than half the adult smokers in the US may want to or attempt to quit at any time, less than 10% may succeed each year. In 2018, only 7.5% (2.9 million) of adult smokers were successful.
The good news is that there are more past adult smokers today than current ones, with over 60% of adults who previously smoked reporting quitting by 2018.
The US Surgeon General reports that roughly 1 in 5 American deaths each year are due to smoking, for a total of about 480,000 people. Approximately 16 million people in the US live with a disease associated with smoking, costing of over $300 billion annually associated with smoking-related disease and death.
We examine the importance of quitting smoking, along with methods that can help and those that often do little to help people kick the habit.
Why Is It Important to Quit Smoking?
We often think of stopping smoking as being a health-oriented reason. There is no doubt smoking is the cause of or contributing factor to many diseases, most of which are preventable by not smoking.
However, there are other reasons besides health to quit smoking, including:
- More spending money: If you smoke one pack a day, you could save more than $2,000 each year by quitting. Think of all the ways you could enjoy that money.
- More youthful appearance: Smoking causes biochemical changes that can lead to deep wrinkles and leathery skin texture. The act of smoking causes wrinkles around the mouth and can stain the fingers.
- You and your home will smell better: Smoking makes you, your clothes, and your furniture smell terrible.
- More enjoyment of food: Smoking dulls the senses, including taste. Stop smoking, and you will enjoy the complete flavors of food.
- More enjoyable social activities: Some people choose to avoid being around smokers. Stop smoking, and you may receive more invitations for get-togethers. You will also avoid missing out on fun or important conversations when you want to step outside for a cigarette.
- Better sex: While this is a health-related issue, it is also a social one. Smoking can affect blood vessels, causing reduced circulation and interfering with erections. Not only will you have more prospective partners when you no longer smoke (some people will not date smokers), but sex may also be more enjoyable.
- Better workouts and athletic performance: Smoking interferes with lung functions that can impede exercise and performance. Putting down cigarettes can help you perform at your best.
If those reasons were not enough to make you want to quit smoking, it is time to see what ongoing cigarette/nicotine use can do to your health. Tobacco smoke has over 70 known carcinogens, affecting you and everyone around you, including your children. Second-hand smoke exposure increases the risk of stroke, coronary artery disease, heart attack, and lung cancer.
Pregnant women exposed to second-hand smoke are more likely to have complications and lower birth rate babies. Infant exposure to cigarette smoke increases the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Children exposed to second-hand smoke have a higher risk of asthma, acute respiratory infections, wheezing, and ear infections. Children and infants are also at risk of tuberculosis, impaired lung growth or functions, bronchitis, pneumonia, and idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis.
Here are some leading health reasons to quit smoking:
Cancer and immune system
Smoking increases inflammation in the body, which weakens the immune system and lowers the body’s ability to fight infections, autoimmune diseases, and all types of cancer. Quitting smoking eventually decreases cancer risks, but it can take ten or more years, and the longer you smoke, the greater the risk will always remain. Along with cancers of the mouth, throat, and lungs, you will find that cancer of various organs increases in smokers.
Heart disease and stroke
Cigarette smoking is the cause of 1 in 4 deaths due to cardiovascular disease in the US due to damage to the arteries, blood vessels, and heart. Increased blood pressure, restricted blood flow, and weakened blood vessel walls increase blood clot risk, which can also lead to heart attacks, strokes, and sudden cardiac death. These risks also increase for anyone exposed to ongoing second-hand smoke.
Most bad habits, including alcohol and smoking, can impact hormone production, causing potentially dangerous imbalances, including HGH deficiency. Find out about getting HGH for sale online if you experience signs of low hormone levels.
Smoking’s effect on insulin can lead to insulin resistance, increasing the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, which can develop faster and become harder to control.
Smoking increases gum (gingivitis) and periodontal disease risks as it leads to inflammation around the teeth. Tooth decay risk increases.
Long-term nicotine exposure can put pressure on the optic nerve, resulting in glaucoma and possible sight loss. You can also develop cataracts, which cloud your vision, or age-related macular degeneration, which damages the retina, causing central vision loss.
Nicotine is a highly addictive chemical that reaches the brain in seconds, often causing increased energy and focus. However, its effects are short-lived, causing anxiety, depression, irritability, impaired thinking, and fatigue as it wears off. That is one of the reasons why quitting is so challenging for some people, as withdrawal can lead to sleep disturbances, headaches, fatigue, and other negative feelings.
Skin, hair, and nails
Along with increasing the signs of aging and wrinkles, tobacco smoke can increase the development of some skin cancers, psoriasis, and boils, as well as inhibiting wound healing. Hair loss and nail fungal infection risks increase.
Smoking can lower sex hormone levels in women and men, decreasing libido and fertility. Women may experience early menopause and many pregnancy risks. Men are more likely to experience damaged sperm DNA and erectile dysfunction.
- Respiratory infections and lung problems
Smoking reduces your immunity to colds and seasonal flu because it paralyzes the tiny hairs (cilia) in your respiratory tract that offer protection. Cilia functions improve within a month of smoking cessation.
Tissue loss and lung damage from smoking do not reverse, even after stopping. You become increasingly susceptible to asthma, chronic coughs, pneumonia, emphysema, chronic bronchitis, tuberculosis, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
Risk of osteoporosis
Smoking can reduce bone mineral density and increase bone loss, osteoporosis, and fracture risk.
Methods of Quitting Smoking That Might Work
What works for someone else may not work for you, so do not be afraid to try multiple methods, even together, to help you quit smoking.
The following methods have been shown to help people quit smoking:
Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT)
A variety of options, including inhalers, patches, lozenges, gum, and nasal sprays, deliver a small dose of nicotine to the body. Although you are still getting nicotine to cut down the cravings, you reduce the exposure to toxic cigarette smoke chemicals. Combining two of these NRT options increases the success rate, especially when used with a behavioral program. Wearing a nicotine patch for all-day help and chewing nicotine gum or using a lozenge for cravings can reduce the urge to smoke.
Individual or group counseling may help develop a workable plan to quit smoking, along with helping you cope with the challenges and stress associated with stopping smoking. Telephone counseling is also available.
Two medications are FDA-approved to help with smoking cessation. Bupropion decreases nicotine cravings and withdrawal symptoms. Varenicline decreases cigarette nicotine enjoyment while mimicking some nicotine brain effects to reduce the urge to smoke. These drugs have side effects, so try other options for quitting before resorting to prescription medications.
Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS)
FDA-approved in 2020, this noninvasive treatment sends electromagnetic pulses to stimulate brain neurons associated with addiction. Deep TMS helps reduce cravings in people who have not had success with other methods. Side effects may occur.
The methods listed below are not evidence-based, yet some people have found them to help quit smoking:
Hypnosis puts you in a deep meditative state, with the therapist providing suggestions to help you achieve your goal of smoking cessation. It can help strengthen your desire to stop, weaken your desire to smoke, and make it easier to focus on your quitting plan. Hypnotherapy works well with other methods but may not be enough on its own to provide success.
Low-level lasers directed at acupoints may help people stop smoking, although results vary based on wavelength and laser power. The results were highest when used in conjunction with counseling.
With no side effects, acupuncture targets pressure points on the ears that can help suppress cravings. Ear seeds are tiny balls taped to target areas you can press to temper the smoking urge. Combined with other options, including counseling, acupuncture may provide some effectiveness for long-term cessation.
Some people find that substituting other items for cigarettes can help replace holding one and the oral action of smoking. Cinnamon sticks accomplish both actions, giving you a similar-sized item to hold and keeping cravings at bay by sucking on them. Other beneficial items are lollipops, sucking candies, candy canes, and carrot sticks. Air-popped popcorn and other fresh veggies and fruits are excellent low-calorie options. Milk has been shown to make cigarettes taste bad, so drink a glass of milk if you are trying to stop.
Methods of Quitting Smoking That Probably Do Not Work
While some people may believe in other methods of quitting smoking, the following have no scientific evidence of their effectiveness.
Herbs and dietary supplements
Dietary supplements are not FDA-regulated and do not have scientific proof they can help with quitting smoking.
Magnets on the ears do not have the same claim for success as acupuncture. It is best to skip this option.
Coffee has both a psychological and physical influence on smoking. Most smokers naturally link the two, but coffee also provides caffeine stimulation to the brain, which can trigger a nicotine craving. Alcohol consumption also stimulates nicotine cravings, as the act of smoking and drinking is a natural duo.
Sugary and spicy foods and meat are foods to avoid while trying to quit smoking.
Quitting smoking may be one of the hardest things you ever do, but it will be well worth it in the end, both financially and for your health. The first step is admitting that kicking the habit is something you want to do.
It may take several attempts to stop smoking, so do not beat yourself up if you do not succeed at first. Smoking is a highly addictive habit, both from nicotine and the physical motions. After all, many people associate that cup of coffee with their morning cigarette. Breaking the habit requires more than overcoming one obstacle.
The benefits of quitting smoking are tremendous, as your blood pressure, lungs, carbon monoxide and oxygen levels, and heart attack risk begin to improve within 24 hours of your last cigarette.
Get medical help, if needed, to quit smoking. The benefits are worth it.