UC HEALTH LINE: Five Steps Help You Stop Smoking Now
For more than 45 million adults in the United States, smoking cigarettes has become a dangerous daily habit that is difficult to break.
Smoking results in nearly 150,000 lung cancer deaths and more than $150 billion in associated health-care costs annually, according to the American Lung Association.
Cigarette smoke contains more than 4,800 chemicals—69 of which are known to cause cancer.
Research has shown that smoking is directly responsible for 90 percent of diagnosed lung cancer cases and 80 to 90 percent of emphysema and chronic bronchitis deaths.
“Lung cancer is the No. 1 cancer killer in both men and women,” said John Howington, MD, chief of thoracic surgery with the University of Cincinnati. “The adverse health affects don’t stop in our lungs—smoking has been linked to coronary artery disease, stroke, infertility and many other illnesses.”
Dr. Howington says understanding the factors that motivate you to smoke and developing a realistic plan for managing them are key to kicking the habit and avoiding serious health complications.
He recommends a five-step approach:
1. Set a quit date, and stick to it.
Choose a date that’s achievable, but also in the near future—ideally within the 10–14 days. If you smoke at work, try quitting on a weekend. If you smoke mostly when relaxing or socializing, quit on a weekday. Give yourself a goal and stick to it.
2. Identify specific coping strategies that will work for you.
By making a specific—and realistic—plan ahead of time, you’ll be more equipped to avoid the temptation to smoke cigarettes. Some examples of coping strategies include taking a walk, calling a friend or listening to soothing music.
3. Carry a bottle of water and chewing gum at all times.
Drinking a large amount of water will not only keep you hydrated, it will also help you fight off tough tobacco cravings. Chewing gum is a good oral substitute to cigarettes and will curb unhealthy snacking.
4. Constantly remind yourself of all the reasons you want to quit.
Write all the reasons it’s important for you to stop smoking on sticky notes and post them around your house, office, car and anywhere else you may be tempted to light up.
5. Get support from family and friends.
It’s difficult to stop smoking if you are continually surrounded by smokers. If your family, friends and co-workers smoke, ask them to avoid doing so around you. The same network of people can also provide a sympathetic ear and encouragement when you need it.
UC operates a free smoking-cessation program, which offers access to medication and information to local people who want to stop smoking. The program is funded by the Ohio Tobacco Use Prevention and Control Foundation. To find out if you qualify or to get more information, call (513) 585-CARE.
Dr. Howington is one of nearly 150 UC experts who answer health-related questions from consumers on NetWellness, a collaborative health-information Web site staffed by Ohio physicians, nurses and allied health professionals. For more information, visit www.netwellness.org.
"UC Health Line” contains timely health information and is distributed every Tuesday by the UC Academic Health Center Public Relations and Communications Office.