How to Quit Smoking: 7 Myths and the Truth about Quitting Smoking
We know it’s not that easy… and we know that about 70% of tobacco users want to quit smoking, but don’t know how to quit.
Images of blackened lungs and yellow teeth are not a good way to encourage people to quit smoking cigarettes. Everybody knows that smoking is unhealthy. What many people don’t know is the difference between nicotine withdrawal and medication side effects; the many practical strategies and motivators to help quit smoking; and the nature of nicotine addiction, how to beat it, what to expect when you quit using tobacco.
So let’s dispel a few myths and share of few of the well kept secrets of successful quit attempts.
- “If I’m going to use the nicotine gum or the nicotine patch, I might as well smoke.” Nicotine is the addictive portion of a cigarette, it is NOT the harmful portion. Nicotine on its own does not cause cancer, heart disease, or other illnesses—it is the nearly 3000 other chemicals in a cigarette that are to blame.
- “I tried ____ , but the side effects were so bad, so I stopped using the medication.” Nicotine withdrawal symptoms (nausea, insomnia, dizziness, fatigue, irritability) may seem like side effects of drug medications used to stop smoking. Withdrawal symptoms are often blamed on the medication, and the therapy is stopped for the wrong reasons. This may lead to a failed quit smoking attempt.
- “I coughed more when I quit smoking, so I started again.” This a common reason for quitting “quitting.” When you smoke cigarettes, the little hair-like things called cilia that filter your lungs basically lay down and go to sleep, as the tar and other toxins in a cigarette disable these filters. When you quit smoking, these cilia spring back to life and filter your lungs again, causing you to cough up all sorts of yucky things. This a “recovery symptom” (a good cough) and is only temporary.
- “I was so irritable when I quit, I could have…” If you drink caffeine, caffeine levels in your body can increase by 2-3 times when you quit using tobacco. Too much caffeine feels much like nicotine withdrawal or medication side effects (irritability, insomnia, jitters, and dizziness). Cutting your caffeine intake in half when quitting can help avoid this problem.
- “I just can’t get motivated to quit.” There are about 3000 chemicals in a cigarette, all put there to alter the taste, burn, flavour, and addictive nature of the cigarette. Anger can be a motivating emotion, and if this quote from a former J.R. Reynolds executive doesn’t anger or motivate you…
“We don’t smoke the @#$%. We just sell it. We reserve the right to smoke for the young, the poor, the black, and the stupid.” Former J.R. Reynolds executive. Source: You Are the Target
- “I can’t afford the patch or a prescription.” Many drug plans pay for medications to help you quit smoking, including provincial plans like social services and senior’s plans. Samples and payment cards may also be available from your Doctor or Pharmacist to get you off to a good start.
- “I’ve tried everything, and I can’t quit.” Like anything in life, the more you practice, the better you get at it. The average person makes 4-7 quit attempts. Also, many people don’t take the proper dose of medication to help them quit successfully. Think of each little quit attempt as a step closer to getting it right.
Knowledge is power, and the more you understand about why it is so hard to quit smoking, the more likely you’ll be to overcome those barriers. One-on-one tobacco reduction consultations are available at no charge to you at Imagine Health Centres (click here to request an appointment, or walk-in during our clinic hours).
-Valerie Kalyn, BSP, APA
Pharmacy Manager, Imagine Health Centres Calgary Downtown