Quit Smoking

Want to quit smoking? Here’s how to do it!

Tobacco kills up to half of its users, and more than six (6) million people each year, 5 million from daily tobacco use and just under one million from exposure to second hand smoke. It is one of the leading causes of death and illness worldwide.

Cigarette smoke contains more than 7000 chemicals, of which 250 are known to be harmful to humans and at least 69 of which are known to cause cancer!

This begs the question…..why do people smoke? Knowing why you smoke cigarettes and what are your triggers helps you to develop techniques to avoid these triggers and ultimately quit smoking.

Common misconceptions about cigarette smoking:

  • Low tar cigarettes are safe to smoke- WRONG! No amount of tobacco exposure is considered safe. Also, people who smoke low tar tend to inhale deeper, puff more and smoke more cigarettes leading to increased exposure. Better to quit!
  • Cutting down- while cutting down with an intention to quit on your set quit date is a technique used by some, some cut down but never end up quitting while most quickly return to their old pattern. No amount of tobacco exposure is considered safe so the best way to improve your health is to quit!

Tips to help you quit

1) Keep a diary- Write down your reasons for quitting and refer to it often. Taking note of your cigarette smoking habit makes you more aware of your tobacco use and helps to identify those triggers that urge you to smoke. Once you identify your triggers, you and your doctor can help you work through ways to avoid these triggers

2) Set a quit date- give yourself one to two  weeks to prepare to become tobacco free. Let your family and friends know so that they too can prepare to help you through this process. Tell them what they can do to help you to succeed. Choose a day that should be free from major stress and exposure to the least amount of triggers to smoke.

3) Throw away those ash trays and refrain from purchasing anymore cigarettes up to your quit day. On your quit day, throw away all the cigarettes left in your possession.

4) Get a buddy to quit with you. It helps to have someone go through the journey with you and can give you support when you feel the urge to smoke. Ask your friends who continue to smoke to not do so in your presence and not to offer you cigarettes in times when you feel the urge to smoke.

5) Exercise! Keeping active physically helps to distract you from cigarette smoking, helps overcome the urges to smoke,  increases your energy the healthier way, helps you to deal with stress and anxiety (whereas cigarette smoking does not), improves your lung function and improves your general health.

6) Drink lots of water! This helps to eliminate the nicotine and toxins from your body, keeps you well hydrated and is something healthy to put in your mouth instead of a cigarette.

7) Manage your stresses- try deep breathing exercises, music, yoga, exercise or read a relaxing book.  Remember while smokers believe cigarette smoking helps them relax, it actually is a stimulant meaning it increases your heart rate,  blood pressure and adrenalin level!

Here’s how we can help

1) Visit your Local Health Centre- the Primary Care Physician (PCP) can help you develop a quit plan. The doctor will address your concerns about quitting and can give you useful tips to avoid your triggers and how to cope with the possible withdrawal symptoms associated with quitting cigarette smoking.

2) The PCP can help counsel you and your family and help you gain the confidence you need to quit.

3) Cigarette smoking is bad for your oral health, causing bad breath, gum disease and even mouth and throat cancers. Get your oral health checked out too! There are many Dental Clinics throughout NWRHA. Visit your local health centre and the friendly staff can advise on how to make your Dental appointment.

4) Women- get your Pap smear done! Cigarette smoking is a risk factor for cervical cancer. Visit your local health centre and ask about making an appointment to get your Pap smear done.

5) Break that bad oral habit! There are Dietitian Services at most Health Centres within NWRHA who can help you take a healthier approach to what you put into your mouth as a substitute for that cigarette. This can help you manage your weight as your sense of taste and smell and hence appreciation for food improves when you quit smoking. Some tips for healthy oral substitutes are carrot sticks, celery sticks and even sugarless gum.

6) Smoking Cessation Clinics are available throughout Trinidad. Ask your doctor at your local health centre if you need more support to help you quit and he/she will guide you to the nearest available clinic.

7) Sometimes talking with your peers who are going through the same journey of quitting smoking is helpful. You can share your fears, struggles and successes in a safe and supportive  environment.

Staying Tobacco free

1) Avoid the places/ things you associate with smoking, for example, some people associate drinking alcohol or coffee with cigarette smoking.

2) Keep your environment clean, fresh and tobacco free.

3) Refer to you reasons for quitting at times when you feel overwhelmed.

4) Reward yourself for your successes! Every hour, day , and month tobacco free is a success. Treat yourself to dinner or to that new shoe you always wanted.

Did you know that your health starts to improve within minutes of quitting tobacco?

  • Within 20 minutes your blood pressure and heart rate starts to decrease
  • Within 12 hours the carbon monoxide level (toxin introduced into your body when you smoke tobacco) drops to normal
  • Within 2- 12 weeks your circulation and lung function improves
  • Within 1-9 months coughing and shortness of breath decreases
  • Within 1 year your risk for coronary heart disease is about half that of a smoker
  • Within 5- 15 years your risk of stroke is reduced to that of a non-smoker
  • Within 10 years your risk of lung cancer falls to about half that of a non-smoker and your risk of cancer of the mouth, throat, oesophagus, bladder, cervix and pancreas decreases
  • Within 15 years your risk of coronary heart disease is that of a non-smoker
  • The chances of impotence reduces as well as having premature babies, babies with low birth rates and miscarriage
  • Reduces the risks associated with second-hand smoke in children, such as respiratory diseases (e.g. asthma) and ear infections.

What if you relapse?

It happens, but this does not mean that you are a failure. Nicotine is one of the most addictive substances there is. The good news is, if you have quit once before, your chances of successfully quitting improves with your next attempt. Take the opportunity to figure out why you were unsuccessful, learn from it and avoid that trigger in the future. You will be better prepared and mentally stronger at your next quit attempt.  Renew and review your reasons for quitting again, set your quit date with your new, revised plan and believe that you can do it. Once again, let your family and friends know that their support is important for you to successfully quit. Talk to your doctor, and let us get you back on your journey to becoming tobacco free!

Resources

World Health Organisation. Building Capacity for Tobacco Control/ Training Package. Strengthening health systems for treating tobacco dependence in primary care/Part III.

Quit Smoking Guide. American Academy of Family Physicians

Published in NWRHA Service