Smoking cessation, also known as quitting smoking, is the process of stopping smoking and the use of tobacco products. Around 6 million deaths worldwide, per year, can be attributed to tobacco use. Of that amount, about 443,000 Americans die each year due to smoking and secondhand smoke related illnesses. Smoking cigarettes is responsible for more American deaths than car accidents, alcohol, and other causes of death combined. Smoking related illnesses account for 20 percent of all deaths in the United States.

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How Smoking Affects Health

Every cigarette or cigar smoked causes damage to the body. Smokers spend more time in the hospital and more time in the intensive care units than non-smokers. Smokers double the risk of dying earlier than a non-smoker. For each pack of cigarettes smoked, the risk of smokers developing heart disease or lung cancer increases by 50 to 100 percent.

Some of the diseases that may develop as a result of smoking cigarettes include:

  • Heart disease
  • Stroke
  • Respiratory diseases, such as bronchitis, emphysema, and pneumonia
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Osteoporosis
  • Infertility and miscarriage
  • Peptic and duodenal ulcers
  • Chronic lung disease
  • Gum disease
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Lung cancer
  • Cancer of the mouth, esophagus, larynx, or pharynx
  • Cancer of the bladder, kidney, pancreas, stomach, cervix, or bowel

In addition to being harmful, secondhand smoke can be harmful to others. Secondhand smoke produces the same effects as a light smoker. Secondhand smoke may cause respiratory diseases, cancer, heart disease, lung cancer, and other illnesses. Secondhand smoke is especially harmful to infants.

Signs and Symptoms of Cigarette Addiction

It is often difficult to quit smoking because the body craves nicotine, the addicting component of cigarettes. Almost immediately after inhalation, the body responds to the nicotine by feeling relaxed, calmer, and happier. Stopping cigarette use causes a craving for more cigarettes, irritability, impatience, anxiety, and other unpleasant symptoms. These are the withdrawal symptoms of cigarettes. To make matters worse, over time, more and more nicotine is required to produce the favorable effects and avoid the symptoms of withdrawal.

Signs of cigarette addiction include:

  • Smoking more than seven cigarettes per day
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Persistent coughing
  • Coughing up blood
  • Persistent hoarseness
  • Decreased physical endurance
  • Bloody urine
  • Persistent abdominal pains
  • Withdrawal symptoms when attempting to stop

Getting Ready to Quit Smoking

Before trying to quit smoking cigarettes, it may help to first prepare the body and mind with a plan for quitting. Being prepared to quit smoking may include:

  • Setting a quit date that will improve chances of success
  • Making a list of all the times a person smokes and the reasons why it is done
  • Making a list of what occurs when a person smoke
  • Making a list of the reasons why a person wants to quit and refer to this list often
  • Getting rid of all cigarettes, lighters and ashtrays
  • Carrying gum, candy or toothpicks to use whenever the urge to smoke occurs
  • Setting a comfortable pace to make it easier and less stressful to quit smoking
  • Getting support from friends and family

Having the support of those who are close can make all the difference. Feelings of irritability, an increased appetite, or being easily distracted, are common. These symptoms are expected in nicotine withdrawal and will eventually pass.

Strategies for Quitting Smoking

Thinking about the health benefits and the example being set for others will help the person keep a positive attitude. In addition to focusing on the benefits of quitting, the following strategies may help:

  • Eating regular meals
  • Exercising to relieve stress
  • Taking up an activity that keeps hands busy
  • Going places that do not allow smoking
  • Drinking plenty of non-alcoholic and non-caffeine drinks
  • Joining a support group for people quitting smoking
  • Avoiding stressful situations and participating in more activities that help alleviate stress

Patients should not be discouraged if they slip and smoke. Many former smokers have tried to stop several times before they finally succeeded.

Medication to Help Quit Smoking

Different types of medications are available to provide additional help to quit smoking.

Nicotine Replacement Therapy

Current over-the-counter nicotine replacement products include nicotine gum, patches, and lozenges. Nicotine replacement products act as an alternative source of nicotine when cigarette use is stopped. This eliminates the symptoms of withdrawal that trigger smoking. Once cigarettes have been replaced with nicotine replacement therapy, the nicotine dosage can gradually be reduced.

Prescribed Medication

Doctor-prescribed medications that contain nicotine and help to overcome nicotine addiction include inhalers and nasal sprays. These treatments work by gradually decreasing your dependence on nicotine.

Non-nicotine Prescription Medication

There are several smoking-cessation medications that do not contain nicotine. Varenicline, also known as Chantix, helps with withdrawal and reduces the effects of pleasurable smoking. It works by attaching to the same receptors in the brain as nicotine, stimulating the receptors and blocking nicotine’s ability to attach. Bupropion hydrocloride, which is available in brand names or generic, is a depression medication which has been found effective in helping people to quit smoking.

The doctor will be able to discuss these treatment options and how to use them. It is very important to take the medication consistently and for the prescribed period of time. The most successful quitting programs use a combination of drug treatment and group or behavioral counseling. Every state in the United States has a toll-free telephone quit line. To find a telephone quit line in the state, call 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669).