The Great American Smokeout – Part II

By December 22, 2022Health Tips

Last week we talked about the Great American Smokeout, including the adverse health effects of smoking. This week, we will focus more on quitting smoking. Quitting smoking is one of the most important things that you can do to improve your health, no matter how long you have smoked or how old you are. Quitting smoking can add years to your life.

Adverse Health Effects

The Great American Smokeout
Last week, I gave a list of the adverse health effects associated with smoking. After publication, I recalled two more that are important, so I just wanted to add them to the list.
Smoking is associated with poor healing, especially of bones. Broken bones are less likely to heal and surgeries involving bone are also less likely to heal. Some surgeons who operate on the spine or bones will not even perform surgery on an active smoker.
Smoking increases the risk of chronic pain. Evidence shows that smokers not only have higher rates of chronic pain but also rate their pain level as more intense than nonsmokers.
Why is it hard to quit smoking cigarettes?
Mark Twain was quoted as saying “quitting smoking is easy. I should know. I have done it a thousand times.” Many smokers can relate to this statement. It often requires multiple attempts to quit smoking for good.
Addiction to nicotine is one of the strongest addictions a person can have. When a person smokes a cigarette, nicotine is delivered to the brain within seven seconds! Once it reaches the brain, nicotine activates seven different neurotransmitters. These are chemicals that are responsible for feeling pleasure, reducing tension and anxiety, and increasing focus, to name a few. These outcomes are perceived by most people as positive and rewarding, which strengthens the addiction.
In addition to the biological component of addiction, there are also psychological and cultural barriers to quitting smoking. Tobacco may be used as a coping strategy, and it is often promoted as part of social activities. The tobacco industry spends billions of dollars each year on marketing cigarettes.
You can do it!
Even though quitting smoking is hard, more than 3 out of 5 adults who have ever smoked cigarettes have quit. You can do it too!
There are proven cessation methods, which can help people quit smoking. These include:
  • Nicotine replacement therapy, including:
    • Over-the-counter patches, gum, and lozenges
    • Prescription nasal spray, or inhaler
  • Prescription medications approved to help smokers quit, which may work by:
    • Reducing cravings for nicotine
    • Decreasing nicotine withdrawal symptoms
    • Mimicking some of the effects that nicotine has on your brain
    • Attaching to the receptors that nicotine attaches to (without stimulating them as strongly) leaving fewer places for nicotine to attach. This makes nicotine from a cigarette cause fewer pleasurable effects.
  • Some people use a combination of the above, such as nicotine replacement and an oral medication, or maybe a nicotine patch along with a nicotine gum or lozenge.
Research shows that people who smoke are most successful when they have other support as well. This includes:
  • Smoking counselors or coaches – Using counseling together with medication gives you the best chance of quitting for good. This can include telephone lines.
  • The American Cancer Society Freshstart Program
  • Self-help books and materials
  • Nicotine Anonymous or other support group meetings
  • Encouragement and support from friends and family members.

Dr. Anita Bennett MD – Health Tip Content Editor

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