Smoking increases the risk of many cancers and causes other health problems. People who smoke have a higher chance of getting lung, throat and mouth cancers, heart disease and stroke.
Quitting smoking decreases your chances of having a heart attack and lowers the risks of other cancers and lung diseases. Counseling and nicotine-replacement products like patches, gum and lozenges can help you quit.
Tobacco use is a complex habit, and there’s no single cure. However, a combination of approaches can help people quit. Some options include medication, counseling and nicotine replacement products.
Make a list of the reasons you want to quit smoking and display it somewhere visible. When a craving hits, reading it can be an important reminder of why you’re making this effort. Having a support system can also help.
Avoid places and people that may trigger tobacco cravings. When you’re hanging out with friends who smoke, consider inviting them to places that are smoke-free or ask them to stop smoking around you.
If you often smoke after drinking, try to reduce the amount of alcohol you drink until you’re no longer smoking. Also, if you’re used to smoking while doing specific activities, like taking a break at work or going on walks, try changing those habits – for example, take a long walk instead of having coffee or chew gum instead of smoking.
Many smokers find that using medication, in combination with a quit plan and other support services, makes it easier to stop smoking. There are currently seven medications approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to help people quit. These include nicotine replacement therapies like patches, lozenges, gums and nasal spray; and prescription drugs bupropion and varenicline.
It’s not clear exactly how these medicines work, but they do seem to change the way your brain works, easing withdrawal symptoms and making it less pleasant to smoke. Bupropion chloride, first prescribed as an antidepressant and then FDA-approved for smoking cessation (under the brand name Zyban), is especially effective in reducing cravings and irritability. Varenicline, also FDA-approved, reduces the enjoyment of smoking by mimicking some of the brain chemicals that nicotine stimulates. Talk to your doctor about which products might be right for you. Your health insurance plan may cover some of the cost. It’s important to follow all instructions and report any side effects to your doctor right away.
Smoking is a major risk factor for many serious health conditions, including heart disease, lung cancer, and stroke. Exposure to secondhand smoke is also harmful, especially for children and pregnant women.
Counseling can help people quit smoking, although it’s usually combined with medication. The goal is to help patients overcome their obstacles and stay motivated. Counseling for smoking cessation can include psychotherapy, such as cognitive behavioral therapy and acceptance and commitment therapy.
For example, CBT teaches patients to address and overcome underlying feelings of guilt or anxiety that may be driving their desire to smoke. ACT helps them learn to accept physical sensations such as frustration and withdrawal symptoms, so they can be more resilient when they’re confronted with these triggers.
Some studies have found that individual counseling improves the odds of quitting, but these results are inconsistent. McCarthy 2008 used a factorial design and found that specific behavioural components did not increase quit success over instructions about medication and general support (RR 0.93, 95% CI 0.62 to 1.39; n = 463; analysis 3.1.3). Ramon 2013 directly compared front-loaded scheduling of counselling sessions with proactive telephone contact to a control group with no behavioural intervention and found no difference.
Although a smoker cannot make someone else quit smoking, the support of friends and family is helpful. They can encourage the smoker to stick to their plan, even during times of temptation. They can also help to break the smoker’s association with specific activities or places that trigger their desire to smoke. For example, they can suggest not smoking after a meal or while taking a coffee break.
Smokers may also be able to find motivation to quit through a variety of counseling methods, such as hypnosis and behavioral therapy. They can also try alternative therapies, such as acupuncture. Hypnosis involves deep relaxation and has been shown to reduce cravings for tobacco products.
Regardless of the method used, health care providers should ask every patient about their smoking status and provide them with information on resources to help quit. They can use stickers on charts or electronic medical records to document their smoking status and offer them motivational intervention, counseling, and pharmacotherapy.