The many reasons to quit tobacco can be summed up in one word — freedom.
A person no longer addicted to nicotine is free from constant urges to smoke or chew and from coughing, hoarseness and shortness of breath. Lastly, they are free from the burden of knowing their habit is chipping away at their life and the even the lives of others around them.
Of course, quitting nicotine — like ending any addiction — can be very hard and often involves multiple attempts. Tackling this uphill challenge requires a firm commitment and willingness to take advantage of tobacco cessation support.
Tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States. It can lead to severe health problems, including cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (emphysema or chronic bronchitis), heart disease and stroke.
And it is important to note that nonsmoking loved ones and friends are not safe from the affects of second-hand smoke. Second-hand smoke can cause heart disease and lung cancer in nonsmoking adults, and sudden infant death syndrome, respiratory problems, ear infections and asthma attacks in children.
Smokeless tobacco (chew or snuff) is not a safe alternative to cigarettes. It can lead to tooth decay, gum problems and mouth sores. Chemicals in smokeless tobacco products also are linked to cancers of the esophagus, mouth and pancreas.
Realizing that tobacco damage doesn’t have to be permanent can help tobacco-users face the quitting process.
Within 20 minutes after quitting smoking, a person’s heart rate and blood pressure drop; circulation and lung function improve within three months of quitting; and within a year of quitting, coronary heart disease risk is reduced 50 percent.
Having a plan to help a person cope with urges, withdrawals and other challenges is one of the most important factors in successfully quitting tobacco.
Prepare for the day you plan to quit. Think about your environment and what you need to change. Get rid of tobacco products and related items such as lighters and ashtrays.
Ask friends or family not to smoke in your presence or leave cigarettes and other tobacco products where you can see them. When you first try to quit, change your routine — take a different route to work or try something new for breakfast.
Nicotine replacement therapy (the patch, gum, lozenges, nasal spray, etc.) and medications that reduce nicotine withdrawal symptoms can be helpful in the quitting process.
Professional cessation resources help smokers through difficult steps in the quitting process, such as recognizing triggers and overcoming cravings.
The Colorado QuitLine is a free telephone and online service with trained coaches to help tobacco users develop an individualized quit plan. Qualified enrollees also can receive free nicotine patches.
The QuitLine, available in English and Spanish, has helped more than 260,000 people with their efforts to quit cigarettes and smokeless tobacco. Call 800-QUIT-NOW or go to www.coquitline.org.
Cessation support also is available at the Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association. Quit Kits with cessation information and resources are available at no cost in the lobbies of the Northwest Colorado VNA, 940 Central Park Drive, Suite 101 in Steamboat and 745 Russell St. in Craig.
This article includes information from the www.coprevent.org, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, www.cdc.gov and reports from the U.S. Surgeon General’s office.
Tamera Manzanares is a community outreach specialist for the Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association.