This is my third column about nicotine addiction; the last two columns discussed the power of nicotine and ways to overcome it.
If you want to quit your tobacco habit, or help someone else quit, here are some ideas to make the process a little easier and to increase the chances of quitting tobacco for good.
For nonsmokers who want to help a smoker quit, it's important to understand the power of nicotine addiction. If a smoker clearly tells you they do not want to quit, believe him or her. No amount of educating or nagging is going to help. However, if you know a smoker who does want help (studies say 75 percent of smokers would like to quit), offer your support. You can call the Oregon Tobacco Quit Line at 1-877-270-STOP (or 1-877-2NO-FUME for Spanish speakers) or call your county health department for information and referrals.
Instead of quitting on a whim, smokers should take a little time to prepare themselves. Setting a "quit date" in the not-too-distant future, on the first of the month, a birthday or another significant date is a good idea.
When you're thinking about quitting tobacco, make a list of all your reasons for quitting.
These are different for everyone, but might include:
Improved health, lung capacity and endurance.
No more worrying about exposing your children, family members and others to secondhand smoke.
Saving money (add up how much you spend on tobacco each week).
Freedom from addiction.
Feeling better about yourself. Keep this list to refer to later. In the days leading up to your quit date, make a list identifying times of the day and situations in which cigarette cravings hit. Recognizing these triggers to smoke is the first step in learning to anticipate and avoid them. Common triggers are:
Being around other smokers.
Breaks at work.
Driving in your car.
Stressful or emotional situations.
Next, list things you can do to help deal with nicotine cravings once you quit smoking. Some examples: drink a glass of water, go for a walk or bike ride, do a crossword puzzle, eat a healthy snack, call a friend, review your list of reasons for quitting. If you need something in your mouth, try a straw or coffee stirrer. Decide whether you want to go cold turkey, taper down or use nicotine replacement therapy or Zyban. Learn about the possible physical symptoms of nicotine withdrawal. If you are going cold turkey, prepare to experience these symptoms, especially in the first three days after your last cigarette.
Know the symptoms will lessen as time goes on, and that each craving usually lasts only 3 to 5 minutes. Remember, most ex-tobacco users had to make several attempts at quitting before they were successful. Relapses are common during tobacco-quit attempts, so preparing for them and learning from them are essential.
Many people, especially women, worry they will gain weight if they quit smoking. It is true that many people gain between 5 and 7 pounds when they quit, but this is healthier than smoking. Eating frequent small meals and snacks will help. Also, with your improved lung power as a nonsmoker, exercising will be easier and more enjoyable.
Smokers metabolize caffeine faster than nonsmokers. When you quit tobacco, you'll need about half the caffeine to get the same effect. If you continue your same amount of caffeine, sleep problems are more likely. Friends and family should offer support and encouragement, especially in the first weeks after a smoker's quit date. Healthy meals, special outings and other diversions may be welcome.
Kathryn B. Brown is a family nurse practitioner with a master's degree in nursing from OHSU. Is there a health topic you would like to read about? Send ideas to email@example.com.