Smoking cessation is the process of discontinuing tobacco smoking. It can take many forms, including counseling, behavior therapy, medication and gradual weaning using nicotine-containing products such as gum, lozenges, nasal sprays, inhalers, and patches. Quitting smoking is difficult for most people, but it can be done. In fact, according to a report by the U.S. Surgeon General, there are more former smokers today than there are smokers.
The Benefits of Smoking Cessation Programs
No matter how old you are or how long you have been smoking, you can quit. When you do, there are many immediate and long-term benefits, including:
- Reduced respiratory symptoms like coughing, shortness of breath and wheezing
- Decreased risk for lung cancer and many other types of cancer
- Lower risk for stroke and heart disease
- Reduced risk of certain lung diseases such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
- Decreased risk of giving birth to a low birth weight baby
- Reduced risk for infertility in women
One of the reasons that it is difficult to quit smoking and that it may take multiple attempts to be successful is that most people who smoke regularly become addicted to nicotine, a naturally occurring chemical in tobacco. Nicotine withdrawal can produce unpleasant symptoms including:
- Irritability, anger, and anxiousness
- Difficulty concentrating
- Increased hunger and associated weight gain
- Distracting tobacco cravings
That is why a supervised smoking cessation program and the support it provides may be most effective.
Are You Ready to Quit? The 5 Stages of Cessation.
Most smokers progress through five stages on their way to quitting and staying tobacco-free. They are:
- Pre-contemplation. They are not considering quitting. This may be because they don’t understand the health risks, have tried unsuccessfully to quit before or for other reasons.
- Contemplation. They are thinking about quitting sometime in the near future and are aware of the consequences if they continue smoking.
- Preparation. They have made the decision to quit and may have started to reduce the number of cigarettes and/or set a date for beginning the cessation process.
- Action. They are actively working on quitting and may turn to friends and family for support. This phase is very challenging and may last up to six months.
- Maintenance and Relapse Prevention. They are now a non-smoker and are working to anticipate and address conditions that may increase their risk of relapse. The sense of accomplishment is rewarding, but they must continue to battle temptation.
You Don’t Have to Face this Challenge Alone
A smoking addiction can be very powerful and difficult to overcome. Fortunately, there are many treatments available and many programs that can provide insights and support for staying on the path to smoke-free living. Your doctor can answer your questions about the cessation process and connect you with helpful resources, including a cessation program.