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House Calls: nicotine kick: give it the boot

House Calls is published monthly. Today’s article was written by Doron Andrews, a respiratory therapist at Sutter Coast Hospital.

Crescent City is a beautiful city on California’s northern coast. It’s well known for its lush nature and giant redwood forests that generously promote flora and beauty. Crescent City is a great place to walk outside, feel the ocean breeze, take in a deep breath of air and exhale the freshness that the coastal city offers.  

Unfortunately, not all of us are able to take in a full, deep breath of air, and in certain cases some individual’s struggle to take in a deep breath at all. 

What can possibly prevent someone from taking a full breath of air?  You guessed right — smoking tobacco.

 

If you’re like many smokers and other tobacco users, you know you should quit, you just haven’t figured out the correct technique to actually do it. Here at Sutter Coast Hospital we understand how hard it may be to kick the old habit of smoking, and we can give you the most recent information to help you along your journey of becoming tobacco-free for life.  

We all know that individuals choose to smoke for different reasons. Most smokers will tell you they started when they were teenagers or in the military and have never been able to kick the habit since. Others state that they must smoke after a good meal, a cup of coffee, an outing, etc. 

Studies have explained that the top reason individuals start the poor habit of smoking tobacco is peer pressure, where a role model smokes and an individual perceives it as being “cool.” 

Some smokers developed the habit due to the misconception that smoking is a pleasurable experience when faced with the normal or abnormal stresses, anxieties and tensions of everyday life.  

Lastly, but most important, a smoker may start because one or both parents smoke.  Believe it or not, parents, if you smoke in front of your child or children, there is a 75 percent chance one of them will follow your smoking habits during their lifetime.  

Statistics and facts 

Smoking leads to more deaths than AIDS, alcohol, car crashes, illegal drugs, murders and suicides combined.

Cigarette smoking causes an estimated 443,000 deaths each year, including approximately 49,000 deaths due to exposure to secondhand smoke (www.cancer.gov). 

Smoking is a major cause of coronary heart disease, which is currently the leading cause of death in the United States (www.cdc.gov).

People who smoke are up to six times more likely to suffer a heart attack than nonsmokers, and the risk increases with the number of cigarettes smoked.

A person who smokes 8–10 cigarettes a day is up to 180 percent more likely to die from lung cancer or obstructive chronic lung disease  compared to a non-smoker.

Nearly 12 million Americans with COPD remain undiagnosed (copd.org).

Why is nicotine addictive?

In order to remain tobacco-free for life, it’s important to know what we are up against.  

First of all, as most of us know, nicotine is the primary chemical in tobacco and is highly addictive. 

But what you may not know is that nicotine is considered a psycho-active chemical. That means that when inhaled, the chemical substance found in nicotine will cross into a human’s blood stream and almost immediately have an effect on the brain, resulting in alterations in perception, mood, consciousness and overall behavior. This is known as a “nicotine kick.”  

It takes about 10 seconds for nicotine from tobacco to reach the brain and deliver the kick. As nicotine levels decrease in the brain, withdrawal symptoms cause the brain to scream for more nicotine.  Unfortunately, because of the cycle of addiction, people feel like they have to smoke again to get rid of the symptoms of nicotine deficiency.  For this reason, smoking cessation strategies were created. 

Smoking cessation

Smoking cessation is the process of discontinuing the practice of inhaling any smoked substance. I commend anyone who has attempted to quit smoking.  Nobody said it would be easy, but trust me when I say your hard work will pay off!   

Here are some courtesy steps to help you become tobacco-free for life. 

First, develop a strategy:  

Some people keep a journal about their tobacco use patterns that state: when (the date and time you chose to smoke), what triggered the use and how badly you needed the tobacco. If you start writing these patterns down, it may help with organizing your strategy to become tobacco-free.   

Next, develop a seven-step plan:  

Step 1: Commit to quit. A tobacco free lifestyle is a major lifestyle change, so commit yourself to being successful and make this your final quitting.

Step 2: Seek help. Tell your friends and family that you quit so you are held accountable. Also, please ask your health care provider about medications and how to join a smoking cessation program.  

Step 3: Get medication. Some states offer free or discounted medications to help you meet your goals. These medications include nicotine patches, gum, inhalers, lozenges and nasal sprays.  

Step 4: Set a quit date.  Write your quit date on a calendar and circle it with a red permanent marker.  

Step 5: Prepare for challenges. A tobacco free lifestyle is not easy, so pat yourself on the back, spend time in non-smoking places and avoid triggers that seem to make you want a cigarette.  

Step 6: Avoid relapse. Slips may occur. It’s the natural progression of quitting.  Don’t think of yourself as a failure. Instead, identify what trigger caused the relapse and start back with Step 1. 

Step 7: Congratulate yourself. You are now on your way to becoming tobacco-free for life. 

Follow these steps and you will find success! 

Benefits after quitting:

Within 48 hours of living a tobacco free lifestyle, your sense of smell and taste will immediately start to recover. 

Within three months blood circulation and lung function will improve.

Within nine months, you will notice decreases in coughing and shortness of breath.

Within 1 year, the risk of coronary heart disease is cut in half.

Reasons to quit

Please remember the reasons why we want to quit:

1.  For your own health

2. For the health of your family and friends

3. For the money you will save by reducing or living a tobacco-free lifestyle

4. Last but not least, you will look better and most importantly, smell better too


 


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