Whether you’re giving up smoking for the first, second or umpteenth time, it’s always a good time to quit. Research shows that patients of any age—including older adults who have smoked for decades—can reduce their risk of dying by kicking the habit.
This time around, think about what worked during previous attempts and what you can do differently. Experts advise using multiple tools at once. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nicotine replacement therapies (such as the patch, gum or lozenges) and counseling are good aids—and are even more effective when used in combination.
If you’re not succeeding with nicotine replacement therapies alone, there’s evidence that prescription medications called bupropion and varenicline can be effective. Be sure to talk to your doctor about potential side effects.
It’s also a good idea to come up with a plan for dealing with slips, which typically occur within the first three months of quitting. Tips from smokefree.gov include:
- Remember, a slip may be a (small) setback, but it does not make you a smoker.
- Don’t let a slip of smoking one cigarette lead to finishing the whole pack. Remember your goal and hop back on the nonsmoking wagon.
- Continue taking your medication.
- Ask your doctor for advice.
- Enlist family and friends to support you.
- Identify what triggered the slip, and plan how to deal with it next time.
FYI: Cravings typically last just five to 10 minutes, so look for ways to distract yourself until they pass. Healthy distractions include going to public places where smoking is prohibited; taking deep breaths; and taking short walks, jogs, or trips up and down the stairs. Exercise can also help boost your mood and reduce the concern about weight gain that’s often associated with quitting.
One final note: If you’re struggling to quit, your genes may be partly to blame. In a study of thousands of smokers, researchers found heavy smokers were more likely to have a high-risk version of a nicotine receptor gene. Smokers who possessed that gene took two years longer to quit smoking—but they were also three times more likely to respond to smoking cessation therapies.
Sources: American Cancer Society, American Lung Association, Berkeley Wellness, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Harvard Health Publications, smokefree.gov
El Camino Hospital’s smoking cessation programs—Ash Kickers and the Staying Free Smoking Cessation Program guide patients through the stages of quitting, including developing strategies to remain a nonsmoker. For more information, please call 650-988-8225.
This article first appeared in the Summer 2015 edition of the El Camino Hospital Health Beat magazine.