For Patrick Reynolds, it was natural to start smoking cigarettes. He's the grandson of R.J. Reynolds, founder of the tobacco company that bears his name. But he made the decision to stop smoking after his father, a brother and other family members died of smoking-induced emphysema and lung cancer. Today, Reynolds heads the Foundation for a Smokefree America, an organization that is dedicated to motivating youth to stay tobacco free and to empowering smokers to quit. He knows firsthand how difficult that can be. Reynolds tried to stop smoking 11 times before he succeeded in April 1985.
After just 20 minutes of not smoking, blood pressure and pulse rate decrease, says the American Lung Association.
After 24 hours, the risk of a heart attack decreases. After 48 hours, there's improvement in the ability to smell and taste.
Between two weeks and three months after quitting, circulation improves, walking becomes easier and lung function improves. A few months later, there's less coughing, sinus congestion, fatigue and shortness of breath.
After one year, quitters run less risk of coronary heart disease, and after five to 15 years, former smokers have the same risk of a stroke as people who never smoked.
After 10 years of not smoking, the risk of lung cancer drops by as much as 50%, and there's less chance of developing cancer of the mouth, throat, esophagus, bladder, kidney and pancreas.
After 15 years, the risk of coronary heart disease is about the same as it is for people who never smoked.
Just because you've tried unsuccessfully to stop smoking, don't give up. Becoming a nonsmoker will increase your chance of living a longer and healthier life.
Problem: Each time you try to stop smoking and fail, you believe more and more that quitting is impossible. In fact, the majority of former smokers made several attempts before they succeeded.
Instead of looking at failures as evidence that you can't quit, think of them as normal steps on the road to becoming a nonsmoker.
The nicotine in tobacco is addictive. Giving it up can be as difficult as turning away from other powerful drugs. The biggest mistake smokers make when they decide to stop is believing that they can do it on their own. Most statistics show that chances of success double or triple for people who follow a structured stop-smoking program.
Because addiction affects people differently, a stop-smoking program that's effective for one person may not be helpful for another. But the good news is that today smokers have more ways to get help than ever before. Some of the most effective programs are listed below.
Pick a program based on your personality. If you enjoy meeting with other smokers who are trying to quit, consider a program with support meetings. If you prefer to work alone, try an on-line program or one based on written materials.
If a particular stop-smoking program doesn't work, try it again or look for another one.
KEYS TO SUCCESS
Stop-smoking methods that are proven to work…
- Nicotine replacement. Accessing nicotine by a skin patch, lozenge or gum satisfies the craving without exposing you to dozens of harmful substances in tobacco.
Once the craving is satisfied, smokers have an easier time giving up tobacco products. After about a month, reformed smokers can usually reduce their use of replacement devices. Nicotine patches, lozenges and chewing gum are available over the counter at pharmacies.
Typical prices per day: $4 for patches, $6 to $72 for lozenges and $5 for chewing gum.
Important: Consult your doctor about this and any other type of medication or therapy.
- Zyban (bupropion hydrochloride). This prescription drug contains the same active ingredient as the antidepressant Wellbutrin and has been successful in reducing the craving for tobacco products, especially in combination with nicotine replacement.
Typical price: About $3 a day for a generic form, or less with insurance coverage.
Caution: The FDA has issued a warning for this drug. Consult your doctor.
- Hospital programs. Many hospitals throughout the country offer smoking-cessation programs that usually include counseling plus nicotine replacement therapy.
Typical price: Less than $200 for counseling.
A few hospitals treat smokers on an inpatient basis, including the St. Helena Center for Health in Deer Park, California (800-358-9195 and 707-963-6475, www.sthelenabospital.org) and the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota (800-344-5984, www.mayoclinic.org).
Week-long programs include psychological services, lectures, nutritional instruction, exercise, medical assessment and a lung screening.
Price: $4,455 at the St. Helena Center, $5,600 to $6,100 at the Mayo Clinic.
Though inpatient programs are expensive, for people who enjoy being pampered, treatment is effective because it can reduce the stress that comes in the first days after giving up tobacco. Some insurance plans, such as Medicare, cover all or part of the cost of inpatient and outpatient treatments. To find convenient programs, contact your doctor, local hospitals or state health department.
- Nicotine Anonymous. The organization's 12-step program—modeled to some extent on the Alcoholics Anonymous regimen—is taught at free meetings in many cities. Smokers get support from former smokers who have quit as well as from fellow smokers who are trying to quit.
Information: 877-879-6422, www.nicotine-anonymous.org.
- National cessation programs. Popular programs are run by the American Cancer Society (800-227-2345, utDu.cAncer.org) and the American Lung Association (800-586-4872 and 212-315 -87 00, uuu. lungu s a. org).
The programs offer a combination of written materials, help in avoiding triggers that stimulate the urge to smoke, advice on using medication and support by telephone hotline and/or the Internet.
Whether or not the program you choose includes the following steps, we at the Foundation for a Smoke free America have found them especially helpful…
- Deep breathing. Every time you want a cigarette, take three deep breaths, each time exhaling slowly. As you exhale, visualize the tension leaving your body.
- Drink lots of water and other nonalcoholic liquids. They help flush nicotine from your body.
- Stay away from alcohol, sugar and coffee. They can stimulate the desire for a cigarette.
- Nibble on low-calorie foods, such as celery, apples and carrots. They help satisfy the need for oral stimulation.
- Get more exercise.
- Write down 10 good things about being a nonsmoker and 10 bad things about smoking. The effort can reinforce your self-image as a person who is a permanent nonsmoker. .Ask for support from coworkers, friends and family members. Request that they don't smoke in your presence.
Very helpful: The National Cancer Institute's toll-free Smoking Quitline. By phoning 877-448-7848, smokers can talk to professional counselors trained to help smokers quit.
Most valuable secret: Even after the urge to smoke has diminished, overwhelming surprise nicotine attacks can—and will—happen. For instance, you may be at a party and someone will light up, and you'll be tempted to have "just one." This is where most would-be quitters fail.
Knowing it will happen and being prepared for it will help ensure that you succeed.
Best plan of action: Try to wait five minutes after the onset of an urge. It will pass. Deep breathing while you wait also helps.