Steps to take to quit smoking
Quitting tobacco is hard, but it’s never too late to quit and begin reaping the health benefits of a tobacco-free lifestyle.
Whether you use cigarettes, cigars, snuff, chew or e-cigarettes, all forms of tobacco are harmful and can be addictive. Tobacco products contain several chemicals, as well as nicotine, which stimulates your nerves, increasing your blood pressure, respiration and heart rate.
Understanding how tobacco affects your body is the first step in quitting. Using tobacco can shorten your life expectancy by 10 years. When you smoke, tobacco’s harmful chemicals can damage your body, putting you at higher risk for health and bodily impact, such as:
- Lungs: Respiratory infections and colds
- Skin: Skin discoloration, wrinkles and premature aging
- Nails: Yellow fingernails
- Heart: Heartbeat irregularities
- Mouth: Gum inflammation, gingivitis, infections and oral or throat cancers
- Teeth: Brown-stained teeth, tooth decay, tooth loss and chronic bad breath
- Reproductive System: Cervical cancer, pregnancy complications and infertility
Tobacco also affects your looks and social life. Because tobacco restricts blood flow in the body, smoking can cause erectile dysfunction or the inability to achieve orgasm. Another negative side effect is tobacco smoke, which sticks to your hair, vehicle, clothing and furniture, and lingers long after you finish smoking.
Conversely, quitting tobacco use has nearly immediate positive results. In an otherwise healthy person, after 72 smoke-free hours, your lungs begin to repair. Between two weeks and three months after your last cigarette, blood flow and circulation improve and lung function increases by about 30 percent. One year later, risk of heart disease is cut in half and 10 years after quitting, the risk of lung cancer is about half that of a person who smokes.
Although there are cases of people who successfully quit cold turkey, statistics show it is not the most reliable approach to quitting. Fortunately, there are several options to help you kick the habit, manage withdrawal symptoms and take back your health. Medication, counseling and support groups can all aid you in quitting tobacco while saving you money and lengthening your lifespan.
Patches and Medications
Tobacco cessation medication can double your chances of kicking the habit permanently. Talk to your health care professional to discuss the best treatment plan for you. Types of medication include:
- Nicotine replacement therapies
- Nicotine gums or lozenges
- Nicotine patches, inhalers or nasal sprays
- Quit-smoking pills
Counseling and Support Groups
If you want to take a non-medical route to quitting, a counselor or quitting coach can give you advice and support. The more often you meet, the more likely your decision to quit will be a permanent one. Your quitting coach can help you set a start date, learn coping skills, learn common smoking triggers, gain social support and tobacco-proof your life.
Other quitting support options include national help numbers and online chat rooms. Free phone, chat room and texting resources from UCanQuit2 can be a useful supplement to personal counseling and coaching. Learn more at ucanquit2.org or by calling 1-800-QUIT-NOW. In addition, you can find information about support programs in your state at map.naquitline.org.
Find more resources to help you kick tobacco from Guard Your Health, an Army National Guard health education campaign, at guardyourhealth.com.
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