Mind & Body

Now is the time to ‘Butt Out’Still Smoking?
Now is the Time to ‘Butt Out’ Once and for all

By Triston V. Sanders

Smokers, mark Thursday, Nov. 16, on your calendar. It’s the annual Great American Smokeout – a day without cigarettes – a day that could lead to a lifetime of better health.

The American Cancer Society’s program, now in its 30th year, is intended to inspire smokers to quit, a daunting prospect considering the powerful hold cigarettes can have on their users.

According to the cancer society, 70 percent of smokers want to quit, but only five percent succeed. Even if they are successful, many ex-smokers, like Marvelle Colby, can recall their struggles as if they were yesterday.

“I had tried counting cigarettes – you know, you only allow yourself 10 a day, then nine a day – I had tried that,” Colby said. “I tried ‘The Patch.’ ‘The Patch’ didn’t work. I had acupuncture.

I did everything.”

 “Nicotine is one of the most addicting drugs on the planet. Some people never get rid of the craving,” said Jack Daniels, lead therapist for the pulmonary function lab at Tallahassee Memorial Healthcare.

However, the cost of not quitting can be very high. The 2004 Surgeon General’s Report concluded that smoking harms nearly every organ of the body, causing many diseases and reducing the health of smokers in general.

Daniels has seen the ravages of smoking up close during his 30-year career.

“In every ward in this hospital, whether it’s cancer or heart disease, the smokers tend to be 10 to 15 years younger than the nonsmokers,” he said. While lifelong smokers can easily live a long time, Daniels said their aging can be dramatically different than nonsmokers. “It’s not whether you’re going to live to be 80, it’s what’s going to be what’s your quality of life when you get there.”

The list of diseases and health problems linked to smoking now includes abdominal aortic aneurysm, acute myeloid leukemia, cataracts, cervical cancer, kidney cancer, pancreatic cancer, pneumonia, periodontitis and stomach cancer. These are in addition to maladies previously known to be caused by smoking, including bladder, esophageal, laryngeal, lung, oral and throat cancers, chronic lung diseases, and coronary heart and cardiovascular diseases, as well as reproductive problems and sudden infant death syndrome.

In the United States, about 90 percent of lung cancer deaths in men and almost 80 percent of lung cancer deaths in women are due to smoking. People who smoke are 10 to 20 times more likely to get lung cancer or die from lung cancer than people who don’t. The longer a person smokes and the more cigarettes smoked each day, the greater that person’s risk for developing lung cancer.

Health care professionals offer a grim reminder: The longer you smoke, the more damage to your body.

“Statistically, if you smoke 10 or more years, you probably have some (permanent) damage in your lungs,” said Daniels.

“The research is on the nicotine,” said Tallahassee cardiologist Michelle Bachtel. “And length of time obviously increases your risks. People who stop smoking within a period of five years typically reverse their risk of heart disease back to baseline.”

Smoke from other people’s cigarettes, known as secondhand smoke, causes lung cancer as well. There are more than 4,000 chemicals in secondhand smoke, and more than 50 of them cause cancer. Every year, about 3,000 nonsmokers die from lung cancer caused by secondhand smoke.

Cardiovascular surgeon Harry Rosenblum said the statistics speak loud and clear: “Smoking is the No. 1 most preventable cause of premature death and complications in the United States today.”

Quitting smoking has immediate as well as long-term benefits, reducing risks for diseases caused by smoking and improving health in general. As Shannon Joswick, a registered nurse at Capital Regional Medical Center, explained, your life is on the line.

“If you smoke, you need to cut down on your smoking or, ideally, quit,” Joswick said. “As we age, our chances of having a heart attack go up. But if you follow through on behavior modification, you can change those risk factors, and you’re going to decrease your chances of having a heart attack.”

If quitting during the Smokeout sounds like a good idea, having a plan in place in advance for a life without smoking can double your chances of success, according to the cancer society.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that studies point to five steps which will help smokers quit and quit for good. The agency recommends that smokers use the five steps together to have the best success. They are as follows:

  1. GET READY. Set a quit date. The Great American Smokeout is on Thursday, Nov. 16. Why not join others across the nation during the 30th annual event? In preparation for the day, change your environment by getting rid of all cigarettes and ashtrays, and don’t let people around you smoke. If you’ve tried to quit in the past, focus on what worked and what didn’t.
  2. GET SUPPORT AND ENCOURAGEMENT. The CDC says you have a better chance of being successful if you have help. Tell your family, friends and co-workers and ask them to support you. Talk to your doctor or health care provider. Also, get counseling. Whether it is individual, group or telephone counseling, it doubles your chances of success. Telephone counseling now is available at (800) QUIT-NOW (800-784-8669). The more help you have, the better your chances are of quitting.
  3. LEARN NEW SKILLS AND BEHAVIORS. Change your routine. Distract your urge to smoke by doing new things, such as taking a walk or reading a book. Simple things like using a different route to work or drinking tea instead of coffee can help to “rewire” your brain.
  4. GET MEDICATION AND USE IT CORRECTLY. In addition to Chantix, the Food and Drug Administration has approved six medications to help people quit smoking: Bupropion SR, nicotine gum, a nicotine inhaler, a nicotine nasal spray, a nicotine patch and a nicotine lozenge. Each of these medications will double your chances of quitting for good, but it is crucial that you carefully follow the directions on the packages.
  5. BE PREPARED FOR RELAPSE OR DIFFICULT SITUATIONS. The CDC says most relapses occur within the first three months after quitting. It is important not to be discouraged if you start smoking again. Most people try several times before they successfully quit. Avoid drinking alcohol and being around other smokers, because both lower your chances of success.

As difficult as quitting can be, doctors stress that it is important to keep trying, because quitting can save your life.

“(Smoking) is the one risk factor that we know doubles the risk of heart disease that we can eliminate,” Bachtel said.

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