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Examiner
  • Why it's so hard to quit and why it's worth it

  • If you smoke, or ever have, you know it's hard to quit. Research shows it, too. A recent study found that almost one in five smokers who have tried to kick the habit failed within 24 hours and more than half lasted less than a week. That's according to a recent poll of 6,200 current or former smokers.

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  • If you smoke, or ever have, you know it's hard to quit. Research shows it, too. A recent study found that almost one in five smokers who have tried to kick the habit failed within 24 hours and more than half lasted less than a week. That's according to a recent poll of 6,200 current or former smokers.
    Despite repeated failures, 45 percent of smokers think about quitting every day.
    Nearly 48 million Americans age 18 years and older smoke and 70 percent of these smokers want to quit, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. This year, 1.3 million of these smokers will quit successfully, which is hopeful, as nearly a half million people each year are lost to smoking-related illnesses - more than 1,000 a day.
    Why do some succeed, but so many more don't?
    It can be a number of variables. Nicotine acts on the brain to produce a number of effects. Specifically, it works on the circuitry within the brain that regulates feelings of pleasure and euphoria.
    Scientists have identified a genetic risk that increases a person's likelihood of becoming a lifelong heavy smoker. Adolescence has been shown to be a period of high risk for nicotine addiction and a good case for public health policies that make it harder for teens to become regular smokers. A vaccine for nicotine addiction is even in the works.
    But for right now, the challenge is that most people just aren't sure how to go about quitting and that there is no magic formula that works in every case. Physical withdrawal from nicotine, while often compared to heroin or cocaine, is actually short-lived. The worst is over within four days and completely gone within a month.
    It's the mindset that needs changing. I like to ask my patients, "How would your life be different, if you weren't a smoker?" Many patients fear the answer to this question. "Will I put on weight?" "Will I be able to sleep?" "Will I get depressed?" Life for many smokers often revolves around smoking. Another roadblock is the potential for failure, or the notion that "it's too late to quit."
    The need for a break from work, drinking coffee or alcohol, being around other smokers, or places where people smoke are just a few of the triggers that make quitting tough.
    To break this cycle, it's important to first identify all of your triggers and avoid or replace them with other activities, like steering clear of places you associate with lighting up, or taking a different route to work. If coffee is a trigger, try drinking tea instead. These can help you control cravings until the urge passes. Each time you resist a tobacco craving, you're one step closer to quitting for good.
    Page 2 of 2 - If nicotine replacement therapy will help you, by all means try the patch, gum or lozenges. I cannot recommend the electronic cigarettes recently on the market, as many regulatory agencies and health experts consider them drug-delivery devices that have not been proven safe.
    If you've failed at quitting before, try to identify what went wrong and do things differently. With a better understanding of why you smoke and the tools and support available, you can create a personalized plan to quit. Exercise, support groups and relaxation techniques should all be employed in your quest.
    Above all, remember why you are quitting and the benefits of doing so. Write down or recite what you are gaining by not smoking, whether it's health, feeling better, saving money, or perhaps saving yourself for your loved ones. And, while the old adage may be clich, in this case, its true: If at first you don't succeed, try, try again."
     
    Lera Foster is a respiratory therapist and the Regional Director of Pulmonary Services and Sleep Centers at St. Mary's Medical Center. She can be reached at 816-655-5237.
     
     

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