The constant ranting of a concerned wife and incessant pleading of worried kids for you to stop smoking have fallen on deaf ears for years; it seems no amount of pestering from colleagues and loved ones will make you change your mind. Of course, you have had half-hearted attempts to quit smoking in the past, primarily to appease the people around you. But you knew these were just for show.
The Surgeon General’s vague warning on tobacco packaging that simply said “Cigarette Smoking May be Hazardous to Your Health” wasn’t forceful enough to make you quit smoking. Neither did the more direct and forbidding “Smoking Causes Lung Cancer, Heart Disease, Emphysema, And May Complicate Pregnancy” notice that followed. Not that you doubt the truth of those messages; you just think your body is invincible to the onslaught of cigarette-related illnesses.
Even the explicit and frightening images plastered on tobacco labels – already implemented in Australia, New Zealand and Brazil which will become mandatory in US by 2012 – aren’t compelling enough to make you kick the habit. The graphical images affected you somehow, but not enough to keep you from lighting up a stick when the urge came. It seems nothing will make you stop smoking. Ever.
Waning health and doctor’s orders
But nature shows its displeasure by making the bodies of smokers deteriorate faster compared to non-smokers. Smokers experience shortness of breath, aching muscles and painful joints when doing physical activities such as climbing staircases much earlier than non-smokers. This health decline is manifested internally and externally, and is directly related to the amount of cigarettes one consumes.
The initial manifestations gradually turn into more serious symptoms. Chest pains, cramps, hypertension, and stroke indicate organs are not getting the oxygen they need; smoker’s coughs, pulmonary infections and recurring colds mean trouble in the respiratory system; while peripheral vascular disease and erectile dysfunction are signs of clogged arteries.
Even before the onset of illnesses, doctors usually suggest cessation of smoking to patients. But these suggestions are rarely heeded by smokers; it is only after diagnosis of a serious condition – such as cancer or atherosclerosis – when patients take notice and begin to heed a doctor’s advice to stop smoking. Still, some recalcitrant smokers bravely defy doctor’s orders to quit smoking, while those confined in medical facilities are simply forced to stop due to smoking bans in hospitals.
Smoking cessation options
There are many ways available to help smokers cope with withdrawal symptoms and other behavioural changes associated with smoking cessation – smokers can truly have it their way when it comes to choosing which method or treatment regimen to use. The techniques can be grouped in the following broad categories:
- Pharmacological methods
Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) is the most common of the synthetic ways to cope with cessation of smoking. It involves delivery of nicotine, typically in gradually decreasing doses, to the body through transdermal patches, gums, lozenges, inhalers, sprays or the new electronic cigarette device. NRT prevents nicotine cravings, especially in the first few weeks after breaking the habit.
Other medications used by quitting smokers are the antidepressant bupropion (Zyban) which dampens the reaction of nicotine receptors, and the agonist varenicline (Chantix) that reduces both cravings for nicotine and the pleasurable effects derived from the addictive substance.
- Self-help and psychosocial techniques
Many successful quitters do it on their own without medication, using self-help books for guidance; interactive web programs for setting goals; and quit meters for counting the number of cigarettes skipped and the amount of money saved. One or a combination of these methods, coupled with strong determination of the smoker to quit, usually results in a high success rate.
Once a smoker had ceased smoking, it is important to avoid friends, places and activities that instigate smoking cues, such as partying and drinking alcohol. Joining Nicotine Anonymous, religious groups, or Internet-based support groups are great ways to share experiences and tips to help one stay on a nicotine-free course.
- Psychotherapy and alternative strategies
Hypnotherapy involves putting a person on a relaxed but focused state of extreme suggestibility, to allow the hypnotist to deliver specific suggestions to induce behavioural change in the subject. The imaginative experience during hypnosis brings about after the trance altered perception on the things suggested by the hypnotist.
Neuro-linguistic programming, on the other hand, uses modelling and learning techniques to overcome limitations and improve one’s personality. By analysing the thoughts underlying each experience, the person becomes self-aware and can be subjected to a reframing exercise wherein the context of behavioural patterns is shifted into something positive or useful.
There are many more non-conventional ways that smokers can use to help them stop smoking, such as acupuncture and using herbs, either as medication or substitute for tobaccos. It is indeed up to the smoker to employ the methods that suit him most.
Tobacco packaging warning messages