If you are a smoker, you have no doubt been urged countless times by your doctor, spouse, neighbor or even strangers, to kick the habit – with good reason. Smoking is a dangerous addiction that harms nearly every organ in the body and is a main cause of lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). It can also lead to heart disease and stroke as well as other cancers and diseases. Every year close to half a million people in the United States will die from tobacco use and exposure to second hand smoke.
Yet quitting is easier said than done – for many people it takes several attempts before they are able to quit for good. November is both Lung Cancer and COPD Awareness Month – the perfect time to take stock of your health and resolve to start taking small steps toward your path to being smoke-free.
The first step is realizing that quitting smoking is a process — small changes can have a big impact over time. Below are some small steps to help you take control over cigarettes and learn to quit for good.
The payoff is worth it. Within hours of stopping smoking your body experiences health benefits –within hours, not months! Food starts to taste better, and the level of carbon monoxide in your blood declines, improving the blood’s ability to carry oxygen. The health benefits you experience only get better the longer you refrain from smoking.
Above all, establish a support system. Lean on your friends and family to help you through. Online communities can also offer support any time of day. And, don’t forget to talk to your doctor about your plan to quit smoking, he/she can help with additional pointers or nicotine replacement therapy to help aid your recovery.
At Harvard Vanguard, we utilize QuitWorks, a free, evidence-based stop smoking service developed by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health in collaboration with all major health plans in Massachusetts. You can contact QuitWorks yourself at makesmokinghistory.org or 1-800-QUIT-NOW or ask your clinician for a referral to the program.
The most important thing to remember: Be Positive! Quitting is a marathon, not a sprint. Don’t get down on yourself and give up after your first try. You need to be patient and allow yourself to make mistakes. If you stick with it, before you know it, you can be breathing easier.