- Smoking places you at greater risk of coronary artery disease, cerebrovascular disease, lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
- Studies show that those who stop smoking abruptly (cold turkey) tend to be more successful at quitting than those who gradually taper off.
- There are medications that help reduce the urge to smoke. However, some must only be prescribed by doctors due to their side effects and limitations when used in patients with pre-existing medical conditions such as cardiovascular disease and epilepsy.
Why should you quit smoking?
It is well known that regular smoking carries a large number of adverse health outcomes, placing smokers at increased risk of coronary artery disease, cerebrovascular disease, lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Not only does smoking affect the personality of the smokers themselves, but it also puts those surrounding them at similar health risk known as passive smoking. Giving up the habit of smoking is therefore beneficial not only to one but a number of people related, medically and socially.
What makes smoking so addictive?
Nicotine, one of the substances found in cigarettes, is the ingredient which stimulates dopamine secretion, a chemical responsible for feelings of happiness and satisfaction. Thus, whenever a regular smoker is between cigarettes; for instance, when travelling long-haul on an airplane, the level of dopamine in their brain drops, making them crave and feel a need for a cigarette to restore the falling dopamine level. In several occasions, smoking is just part of a routine with apparent link to a trigger. For example, many people light up after seeing someone else smoke, during coffee sipping or even before going to bed each night.
What should you do if you wish to quit smoking?
- The most important aspect of the cessation process is to have a strong commitment with a clear goal. The more determined you are, the greater your chances of success. Set a quit date. An inspirational goal, such as giving up smoking for my daughter’s birthday present, can help enhance the chance of success.
- Be aware of the possible withdrawal symptoms that may occur, such as frustration, anxiety, stress, insomnia and headache. People who previously failed giving up smoking are usually unable to tolerate these symptoms. Keep in mind that these symptoms only last for the first 2-4 weeks after giving up, and will gradually disappear, so perseverance during this time is required to ensure success.
- When you find yourself craving for a cigarette, the best thing is to divert your attention so that you are not tempted to pick up a cigarette. Diversions can be activities such as exercising, taking up a hobby, watching a movie, listening to music, drinking plenty of water, breathing deeply and meditating. Generally, cravings tend to last for around 3-5 minutes at a time, and will dissipate soon after.
- Creating a suitable environment for smoking cessation is also crucial. This includes putting cigarette packets out of sight, not carrying cigarettes with you when travelling, and staying away from groups of friends who smoke while you are still trying to quit. Encouragement and support from family members and loved ones also play an important role as they will constantly remind us as to why we are kicking the habit.
- Although studies show that people who go cold turkey tend to attain success at quitting smoking than those who gradually taper off, both methods work and choosing the method that suits you is the way to go.
Are there medications that can help quit smoking?
There are a number of medications available to reduce our cravings. In Thailand, chewing gums and skin patches containing low levels of nicotine are available over the counter. In pill forms, namely bupropion and varenicline (the latter not yet available in Thailand), can be prescribed by doctors as they require close monitoring for potential adverse effects, and are contraindicated in patients with certain health conditions such as preexisting heart disease and epilepsy.