Smoke-free in 2020

Are you ready to finally toss that pack of cigarettes in the trash?

By Barbara Pierce

Bax
Bax

Smoking rates have gone down in the Mohawk Valley over the past five years. What great news!

We celebrate those of you who made this important decision and made it happen!

Those of you who are still lighting up: It’s the start of a new decade. Consider that this may be a good time to make the critical decision.

To quit smoking is the single-most important step you can take to improve the quality of your life and your overall health.

“Ask yourself, ‘What would it take for me to take that first step?’” said Patricia Bax of the New York State Smokers’ Quitline, Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center, Buffalo.

“Each person’s motivation to quit is different,” she added. Before you actually quit, it’s important to know why you’re doing it. Knowing your reasons for quitting will help you get past the cravings when you feel an urge to smoke.

“It’s really hard to quit. You have to keep reminding yourself of your reasons for quitting and they have to be stronger than your reasons to keep smoking,” said Mary Lou Vorhees, 67, of Naples, Florida, who quit cold turkey years ago.

Everyone’s reasons are different. Get ready to stop smoking by thinking about why you want to quit.

Do you want to be healthier? Save money? Keep your family safe?

Instead of thinking of quitting as giving something up, think of all of the great things you’ll gain. Think of what you’ll gain, not what you’ll lose.

Food will taste better; you’ll breathe better; you’ll save money; you’ll sleep better.

“97 reasons to quit smoking” on www.health.com adds some reasons you may not have thought of: “Quitting is a plausible excuse to play computer games to distract yourself from cravings,” and “smoking can cramp your style in the bedroom.”

Trial runs may be necessary

It’s overwhelming to quit, Bax agrees. Cigarettes are designed to deliver nicotine quickly to your brain. Because your brain is addicted to nicotine, it’s difficult to quit, both physically and mentally.

Because of that, Bax suggests you think of it like an experiment. Make a quit attempt — just give it a try — to discover what you can learn by that. What helped you get through withdrawal symptoms? What triggered your cravings? What helped?

Many smokers need to make several trial runs before succeeding.

Next step to take:

“It’s more than just a physical addiction; quitting takes more than just chewing a stick of gum,” said Bax. Don’t try to quit alone. One of the hardest ways is to quit alone, cold turkey.

There are several better ways to quit. Find what works for you, whether it’s talking to your health care provider, group or individual coaching, or nicotine replacement products.

The most effective strategies combine nicotine replacement products and counseling, say the experts. The combination of medications and counseling is better than either one alone.

Nicotine replacement products help you reduce your nicotine dose over time. They are available over the counter and by prescription. OTC nicotine replacement products come in the form of a patch, gum or lozenge. These products double, even triple, your chances of quitting.

Quitline offers coaches to work with you one-on-one. Coaches are trained in strategies, explained Bax. For example, you may need to change your routine. If you have a cigarette with your morning coffee, switch to tea to change that routine.

Or, if lighting a cigarette when you get in your car after work is part of your routine. What can you do differently? Little changes in your routine break the connection you have with cigarettes.

Counseling and coaching also generally double your chances of quitting — the more counseling the better. It can be done over the phone.

“Calling the Quitline, hearing a friendly voice on the other end, and receiving the nicotine patch finally did it for me,” says Tracy K. of Blasdell in regards to the NYS Smokers Quitline at https://www.nysmokefree.com.

Anyone in New York state is eligible for its services. “It’s very simple to get involved,” said Bax. “Call us at 866-NY-QUITS (866-697-8487) to speak to a quit coach. The coach will help you make the decision to give it a try, provide resources, and coach you along.

“Or visit our website (https://www.nysmokefree.com) and request to talk with a coach,” she added. There’s a lot of tremendous information on the website.”

Quitline also helps stop vaping with e-cigarettes.

Smoking cessation classes are available at Rome Memorial Hospital, offering the information and encouragement people need to understand the addiction and tools that are available to help them overcome the challenges.

To learn more about the class, call RMH’s Education Department at 315-338-7143.

In addition to  www.nysmokefree.com, other helpful websites include www.freedomfromsmoking.org, www.newyorksmokefree.com and www.quit.com.

Quitting is possible! You can do it! What’s the best thing that will happen? You’ll change your life!

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