No Better Time Than Today To Quit Smoking

By Andy Cook

Smoking is one of the hardest habits to break. The U.S. Surgeon General has said  smoking cessation (stopping smoking) represents the single most important step that smokers can take to enhance the length and quality of their lives.” It’s really the nicotine which does the harm – it has health risks which outweigh the pleasant feelings.

A first-hand report from an expert in the field

Coral Johnson RN, a certified tobacco cessation specialist with St. Luke’s Tobacco Cessation Treatment Program, counsels people who are preparing to quit using tobacco products. She says self-awareness is the key to successfully breaking the habit. “Become aware of the triggers which make you smoke. This is a behavioral change, and it’s important to break the ritual component and replace with new ones.” For example, if you typically smoke after a meal, substitute a walk instead.

Johnson also shared that it can take up to 12 weeks to successfully stop smoking. Even though it takes only 48 hours for the nicotine to wash out of your system, withdrawal symptoms are the toughest in the next two-week period. Once you hit three weeks, that’s a very positive sign. One of the tips she gives her patients is that if you can delay the need to smoke for even five minutes, oftentimes the urge will pass. “Finding an alternative distraction will help. Enlist support from your friends and family.”

Also, if you can make a personal connection as to why you want to stop smoking, this can aid in your success. Some examples would include:

• Health – perhaps you have a family member with disease related to smoking.

• Financial – think of something you can put the money previously spent on cigarettes toward, like a vacation, new flat screen TV, or paying off debt.

• Family – maybe there’s a new baby in the household, and you want to create a healthy
smoke-free environment.

On the financial side of things, a recent trip to a local WaWa educated me as to the cost of smoking: did you know that cigarettes can cost in excess of $6.00 a pack? And in NYC, the cost can be as high as $10.00 a pack with taxes? Even with a simple mathematical calculation (2 packs/day smoker) would mean that the monthly cost of $360, and an annualized expense of almost $4,400.00! Now translate that into what that money could go towards: a car payment, rent, other household expenses or a vacation.

Many people are unsuccessful when they first commit to stopping smoking. Don’t look at any setbacks negatively. It’s better to reaffirm the positive steps you’ve taken, and focus on your success.

Some facts about smoking

(Courtesy of the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Facts and Figures 2012 report)

• Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in the United States for both men and women.

• Lung cancer is the most preventable form of cancer death in our society.

• In the US, tobacco use is responsible for nearly one in five deaths, which equals approximately 443,000 early deaths each year.

• Tobacco use accounts for at least 30% of all cancer deaths and 80% of lung cancer deaths.

• Each year, 3,400 non-smoking adults die of lung cancer as a result of breathing secondhand smoke.

Some good news: Cigarette smoking among adults (18 and older) went down 50% between 1965 and 2009, but according to a 2010 Centers for Disease Control (CDC) report, nearly 47 million Americans still smoke.

Based on data collected from 1995 to 1999, the CDC estimated that adult male smokers lost an average of 13.2 years of life and female smokers lost 14.5 years of life because of smoking. What’s interesting is that not all of the health problems related to smoking result in deaths. Smoking affects a smoker’s health in many ways, harming nearly every organ of the body and causing many diseases. According to the CDC, many smokers often suffer with more than one smoking-related problem. The diseases seen most often were chronic bronchitis, emphysema, heart attacks, strokes and cancer. And some studies have found that male smokers may be more likely to be sexually impotent than non-smokers. Sadly, these problems can steal away a person’s quality of life long before death.

Legislation and Classification

Nowadays, many workplaces are smoke-free. Back in 2008, Governor Ed Rendell passed the Clean Indoor Air Act, which prohibits smoking in most public areas and workplaces, protecting the majority of citizens in Pennsylvania from tobacco smoke. Tobacco smoke has been classified by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as a Group A carcinogen – the same category as asbestos or radon – which are known to cause cancer in humans.


Some of the local resources to help you quit include the Coalition for a Smoke Free Valley, Latinos for Healthy Communities of New Directions Treatment Services, and the local Health Bureaus in our area. For teens, the American Lung Association sponsors the Alternative to Suspension Program as well as the Not On Tobacco (N-O-T) program. On the website, you can also find information about events, youth programs, school and college programs, as well as information on quitting.

As the American Cancer Society website says, nicotine – the drug found naturally in tobacco – is as addictive as heroin or cocaine. Over time, a person becomes physically dependent on and emotionally addicted to nicotine. Studies have shown that smokers must deal with both the physical and mental dependence to quit and stay quit.

Can you break the habit? You can if you want to, but knowing that there are resources and programs to assist you can help. Commit to a healthier life today – for yourself, your family and your friends. What better reasons are there?

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