By Donna Borowski
Tobacco Treatment Specialist
There’s a lot of focus on our lungs during the month of November – from lung cancer awareness, to Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) to the Great American Smokeout on November 16. How do these all fit together? For starters, smoking is at the center of all three.
In North Carolina, 80-90 percent of lung cancer deaths are associated with smoking. Smoking is the number one cause of COPD. While we know that other things cause lung cancer and COPD, smoking remains the number one cause of preventable disease and death. This is a global epidemic.
Our minds tell us many things about when and why to smoke, and can convince us that smoking is the only way to manage life. So what would quitting be like, and how does someone decide to quit?
Many things go into planning to quit tobacco use.
Creating a plan is creating success. Here are 10 ways to approach it:
- The best question you can ask is, “Why is quitting smoking important to me?” Once you can find the answer to this question, you have a foundation to start your plan.
- Listing what you love about smoking and what you hate about smoking often provides clarity. The reasons you love it represent your barriers to quitting, and the reasons you hate it represent your motivations. This helps you begin to see where you need a plan.
- Ask, “What are my triggers that cue me to smoke?” Tracking your cigarette use is very helpful as it identifies your patterns for smoking. This could be particular times of day, who you are with, what are you doing, your emotional state or how strong your cravings are. When you pause and note these things before lighting up, in that moment you are aware of what you are doing and can decide to postpone or to smoke. This also helps you make a decision instead of smoking on auto-pilot.
- Smoking is a three-layered addiction – it is physical, habitual and psychological. All three of these have to be considered when making your plan.
- Ask, “What else can I do when I am stressed or when ‘life happens?’” This is often the biggest issue with quitting. Learning new stress management techniques such as deep breathing can make a difference. There are many things you can do that to help with stress management.
- Connecting yourself with resources for support and coaching during and after you quit is essential for relapse prevention planning.
- Certain medications are approved for treating this addiction. They are very helpful in treating withdrawal symptoms and, in conjunction with a plan, these help manage cravings. Over-the-counter Nicotine Replacement Therapies (NRT) include nicotine patches, gum and lozenges. Using the correct amount matched to how much you smoke and combining the therapies together (patch for sustained release, plus gum or lozenge when you have a craving) makes quitting more comfortable. Check with your insurance carrier to see if these are covered with a prescription.
- Prescription drugs for smoking cessation include Chantix, Wellbutrin or Nicotrol inhalers. Each of these drugs works in a specific way, and each is designed to help you quit. Working with your physician is important as you decide on treatment.
- You’ll improve your chances for success through education, support through counseling, medication and having a plan.
- Never give up trying to quit. Smoking is an addiction and considered a chronic relapsing disease, which means that you can never “stop” quitting. Once you have successfully quit, a relapse prevention plan is crucial to staying free.
Donna Borowski is a Tobacco Treatment Specialist with the Mission Health Nicotine Dependence Program.
For support and help with quitting smoking, call the Mission Health Nicotine Dependence Program at (828) 213-5527.