Martha Jefferson HealthWise--October 1st

According to the US Surgeon General “smoking cessation represents the single most important step that smokers can take to enhance the length and quality of their lives.” Tobacco use is the most common preventable cause of death in the United States, and about half of the people who don't quit smoking will die of smoking-related problems. Joining us for Martha Jefferson Healthwise today is Joe Connor, Coordinator of the Disease Management and Wellness programs for Martha Jefferson Hospital employees, to talk about how to make your next cigarette your last.

Why is it so hard to stop smoking?

In one word Beth it is nicotine. Some studies have show nicotine to be as addictive as cocaine and heroin. Realizing that you are up against a physical addiction may be the first step to quitting. But it isn’t just the nicotine. There are 3 components to quitting: the physical, emotional or psychological and the habit or behavioral of quitting. (Show slide)

By habit we mean you have a cup of coffee in the morning and you have a cigarette with the coffee. Or you get in the car for your morning commute and you light up. These habits while tough to break can be broken. In my opinion the hardest part is the emotional connection. People that are trying to quit talk about a deep emotional connection to their cigarettes. Those cigarettes have been there for some since they where 16 or 17 years old. It is like losing a dear friend. They grieve it like it was a death.

What are the health benefits of quitting?

Your can breath easier. Going up the stairs you won’t be out of breath. You will probably be able to taste and smell better. Your cough will start to go away. In one year your risk of Coronary Artery disease decreases to half that of a smoker. In 10 years your risk of dying from lung cancer is half of a smoker’s risk. I think people that want to quit are aware of these benefits but still it is difficult. Many people think the diseases associated with smoking won’t happen to them and I go back to how difficult this is to do.

What options are out there to help someone stop smoking?

For the physical addition there are numerous medications both Over the Counter (OTC) and as prescriptions. Over the counter product such as nicotine gum, lozenges patches and prescription medications such as Wellbutrin and Chantix will help break the physical addition. Using these products doubles your odds of quitting. To help you break the habit when you get the urge call the Virginia Quit Now line 1-800-QUIT-NOW that has quit coaches available almost 24 hours a day. For the emotional I would ask for help from a counselor. I would go to the human resource person at my work and ask about their Employee Assistance Program (EAP). Generally they can put you in touch with a counselor that can help.

What roles can family members and friends play in helping someone to quit?

This is really important to let your family know that you want to quit and ask for their help. Many people wake up one day and say, “I am going to quit today.” They give themselves a pep talk and they have so much determination. A week or two goes by and they wake up and the only thing they can think of is a cigarette. They give in and smoke and they feel really bad. They can’t possibly tell their family because most of the time the reaction is “what, you where doing so well, what happen! This of course puts more stress on the smoker and the first thing they will do is go for their stress reliever that has always been there, their cigarettes. So my advice to the family member is to show empathy, be compassionate, tell them it is OK just get back on the wagon, you had a bad day, tomorrow is another day.

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