Five steps to a smoke-free life
by Jennifer Cohron
Feb 24, 2013 | 972 views | 0 0 comments | 17 17 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Like any habit, smoking is easy to pick up and hard to break. Some smokers find quitting next to impossible.

However, the health benefits for those who do are numerous.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, a smokers heart rate drops within 20 minutes of snuffing out a final cigarette.

Coughing and shortness of breath decrease within nine months of quitting.

One year later, the person’s added risk of coronary heart disease is half that of a smoker’s, and it will be the same as a nonsmoker’s within 15 years.

The National Cancer Institute’s booklet “Clearing the Air” offers other good reasons for quitting.

In addition to nicotine, cigarettes contain more than 4,000 chemicals that not only damage the heart and lungs but also make it harder to taste, smell and fight infection.

Smokers also endanger those around them. Secondhand smoke can cause nonsmokers to have breathing problems and get colds and flu more easily.

Children who breathe secondhand smoke may have breathing problems such as asthma, get more ear infections and develop more lung infections such as pneumonia.

Smokers may find it helpful to write down all the reasons they want to quit and keep the list where they keep their cigarettes to serve as a reminder when they are tempted to smoke.

Fewer than five percent of smokers can quit cold turkery, according to the booklet.

Other proven methods include over-the-counter as well as prescription medications.

Smokers should be aware, however, that no medication will not completely prevent withdrawal symptoms.

Medications also cannot address common triggers that make people want to smoke, such as stress, feeling anger or depression and being around other smokers.

The National Cancer Institute recommends a five step process for smokers with a desire to quit.

First, set a quit date. It can be a day that has personal meaning, such as a birthday or anniversary, or can coincide with events like the World No Tobacco Day on May 31 and the Great American Smokeout in November.

Some smokers may even want to temporarily postpone their quit date so as not to add further stress following a bad day or difficult time such as a divorce.

Second, tell family, friends and coworkers that you plan to quit and access other types of support systems such as group meetings or the National Quitline (1-800-QUITNOW).

Third, anticipate and plan for the challenges you will face while quitting.

The first three months are the hardest for most smokers.

Have a plan for meeting triggers head on by keeping your hands busy, chewing on a toothpick or sugar-free lollipop instead of reaching for a cigarette and going places where smoking isn’t allowed.

Keeping a journal can help you track when you are most tempted to smoke so you can then create an alternative plan.

Fourth, remove cigarettes and other tobacco products from your home, car and workplace.

Also, throw away associated supplies such as lighters, matches and ashtrays, and clean around your home to remove the smell of cigarettes.

Leave no cigarette pack behind. Saving even one will be detrimental to the quitting process.

Lastly, talk to your doctor about getting help to quit. It is also important to make your doctor and pharmacist aware of what medications you are taking because nicotine changes how some drugs work. A few adjustments might be necessary.

When the big day arrives, be sure to keep busy, stay away from temptations and reward yourself. Money previously spent on cigarettes can be used to fund a massage, dinner, movie or even a new hobby.

For more information, visit www.smokefree.gov.