Smoking or chewing tobacco has been a pleasurable activity for you over the years, but now it is becoming a problem. It is a real threat to your health and to the health of those you love. Perhaps it is interfering with social relationships. Maybe it’s putting your job at risk. You may be finding it harder to find places to smoke in public. Non-smokers are becoming less tolerant of smoking.
Whatever your reasons, you know that it is time to seriously consider quitting smoking or chewing tobacco. Perhaps you have tried to quit and started again, maybe several times. You may feel discouraged because quitting is so difficult. On the other hand, tobacco has been an important part of your life and consistently reliable at helping you deal with stress and strong emotions. The thought of giving it up may make you feel a little as you would at the loss of a close friend – sad and maybe even frightened at how you’ll cope with life afterward.
Difficult as it is to give up tobacco, more than a million Americans quit each year. Most stop on their own without using outside groups or counseling, but many find that formal smoking cessation groups (such as those offered by the American Lung Association, the American Cancer Society and many local hospitals) are helpful. Others use self help books or recordings to succeed in becoming tobacco free. We all know there is no painless short cut to “make” you quit. It is you who must decide that you will quit, when you will quit and how you plan to accomplish your goal.
Preparing to Quit
Becoming permanently tobacco free is a process that sometimes takes more than one attempt before success is achieved, however some people may be successful on their first attempt. Research shows that most who are successful at quitting think about it and allow time to prepare before they stop. Sufficient preparation may be the most important factor in your success. This period of preparation may take days or several weeks, but it should be a time of steady progress. Think about changing your tobacco using behavior and about the day when you will quit permanently. You can also use this time to learn strategies that will help you become permanently tobacco free.
Here are some activities that may be helpful in your preparation:
1. Make a list of your reasons for quitting, stated as positive benefits. Keep adding to your list.
Here are some examples:
➨ My health will improve, my body will start to heal itself.
➨ My family will be safe from the dangers of passive smoke.
➨ My family and I will have fewer respiratory infections.
➨ I will have more energy and endurance for athletic activities.
➨ The odors from smoking will be gone.
➨ I will save money.
➨ Barriers to personal relationships will be removed.
➨ I will reduce my risk of high blood pressure, heart and lung disease and some cancers that are more likely to occur with tobacco use.
➨ I will be able to smell and taste things better.
2. Assess the role tobacco plays in your life. The nicotine in tobacco is a powerful drug which both stimulates and relaxes. You may feel that tobacco helps you:
➨ Cope with stressful situations.
➨ Deal with painful or unpleasant emotions.
➨ Improve your concentration.
➨ Take a break from work.
➨ Get a lift when you’re feeling sad.
➨ Pass the time when you’re bored.
➨ Give your hands something to do.
➨ Make an enjoyable time more enjoyable.
➨ Keep from gaining weight.
➨ Keep from having withdrawal symptoms.
➨ Feel more comfortable in social situations.
There are situations that may trigger an automatic urge for tobacco that don’t involve emotions such as:
➨ Picking up the telephone.
➨ Starting the car.
➨ Finishing a meal.
➨ Taking a coffee or tea break.
➨ Drinking alcohol.
➨ Watching TV, reading or enjoying a conversation.
3. A good way to take note of your tobacco use patterns and triggers is to keep a journal of your smoking or chewing behaviors. Some people like to use a piece of paper and wrap it around the tobacco container. Make a list of each time you smoke or chew; noting time or day, what activity is occurring, how you’re feeling and a way of rating how strong the urge is. Notice when urges to smoke or chew are stronger.
4. Plan activities that will add to your health and enjoyment of life and remove barriers to quitting.
➨ Begin an exercise program.
➨ Learn relaxation and meditation techniques.
➨ Begin a hobby or a healthy social or spiritual activity to keep your mind and hands busy and help you to feel good about yourself.
5. Do whatever you can to reduce stress in your life before you select a quit date. If you are expecting a major life change (such as job change, moving, project deadline, marriage or divorce), wait until your life is more settled. However, don’t use this postponement as an excuse not to quit as soon as possible! There will always be stress in your life.
6. Line up your support system. Your effort to quit tobacco can be enhanced by support from key people in your life. You’ll need to be selective. Some important people in your life will not be supportive and may even sabotage your efforts (for example, other tobacco users). Tell one or two supportive people that you’re planning to quit. Explain that you would appreciate their being available to talk to (or cry or laugh with) while you go through the first few weeks of the quitting process. Plan to minimize contact with those who might interfere with your efforts. If this is your spouse or significant other, it will be necessary to negotiate a compromise to minimize their tobacco use around you.
7. Begin to alter your smoking and chewing patterns.
➨ a)Stop buying tobacco by the carton. Buy one package at a time and only when you’re out of tobacco.
➨ b)Buy brands of cigarettes that are lower in tar and nicotine. (Monitor your smoking so that you don’t smoke more of them, inhale more deeply or take more frequent puffs to increase nicotine intake).
➨ c)Begin to smoke less of each cigarette, cigar or pipe. Make your pinches of tobacco smaller and leave them in your mouth for shorter periods of time.
➨ d)Begin to postpone your first smoke or chew of the day as far toward noon or later as possible.
➨ e)If you can stand it try buying the least tasteful brand you can find.
➨ f ) Delay smoking or chewing when the urge strikes. Begin to employ alternative strategies. Notice which ones help you best to postpone smoking or chewing and use these strategies at the times when your urge for tobacco is greatest.
➨ Drink water or juice.
➨ Suck or chew on something (toothpicks, a coffee stirrer) or eat a low calorie snack.
➨ Take a series of slow, deep breaths.
➨ Get up and move around or take a walk.
➨ Do something else with your hands (for example, doodle or knit).
➨ Practice relaxation and meditation techniques.
➨ Change your routines and habits, begin new ones.
➨ g)Make it harder to smoke or chew without having to think about it. Stop carrying your tobacco in your pocket or purse. Put it where you have to go get it.
➨ Begin to disconnect tobacco use from other activities. It isn’t eating or driving or talking on the phone you need to quit, it is tobacco.
➨ Designate a place to smoke or chew away from all other activities–not in front of the TV, not at the meal table, not at your desk nor in your car. Do not read or listen to music there, just smoke or chew tobacco.
➨ h) Discuss getting a prescription for nicotine patches or nicotine gum with your health care provider. Symptoms of nicotine withdrawal, which usually only last a few days, can interfere with developing new skills of coping with life without tobacco. They can be used for the first weeks or months after you quit tobacco and then can be tapered off, usually without much difficulty. They are not to be used while you are still using any amount of tobacco or serious side effects may result.
➨ i) Consider Vaping. There are vaping stores opening everywhere and it is becoming the ‘new’ craze. Vaping is somewhat safer than smoking or chewing. And it still gives you a measured amount of nicotine.
Some advantages of vaping are:
➨ Variety of flavors
➨ Pleasant odor
➨ Can use it in many places where smoking is prohibited
➨ You can regulate and gradually lower the amount of nicotine you are getting until you reach zero.
Buy a higher quality vaping unit rather than the cheaper e-cigs which are not as satisfying.
Quitting (First 2 Weeks)
Set your quit date. Pick a time that will be as calm as possible, when you will be able to focus as much energy as needed to get through your first week or two of being tobacco free. You may want to share your quit date with one or two of your key support people.
Have your last tobacco, privately or in a sort of public celebration ritual of freedom from tobacco. Then throw away all your tobacco and everything related to it, ashtrays, pipes, matches and lighters from your home and office. Clean out the ashtrays in your car and fill them with toothpicks, coffee stirrers or sugarless gum. If you’ve chosen to use nicotine patches or nicotine gum, start now. Follow the manufacturer directions or the instructions given by your doctor.
What to Expect in the Early Stages of Quitting
Everyone varies in how they feel during the first days or weeks of quitting tobacco. Some effects, related to nicotine withdrawal, are common to both smokers and chewers of tobacco. They may include: craving for tobacco, irritability, anxiety, nervousness, difficulty concentrating – especially under stress, dizziness, changes in temperature and heart rate, headache and upset stomach.
There are other effects that smokers may experience. There is an escalator – like system in the lungs to remove “trash” (dust, smoke, air-pollution) that is hampered by smoking. When smoking stops, it begins to work again. As a result, you may notice an increase in shortness of breath. You may cough more and bring up discolored mucus. This can be scary but it is actually a sign of your lungs working to improve their function.
All these effects of tobacco withdrawal will disappear in time, usually in 1-2 weeks. If you are experiencing other problems or these withdrawal effects continue, consult your health care provider.
Strategies to Help You Through the Early Stages of Quitting:
Put your list of the benefits of quitting on file cards or in a small notebook. Keep this list with you at all times and read it often. Visualize yourself as a tobacco free person. Drink lots of water, juices or caffeine-free drinks. Employ your relaxation techniques, use your new coping skills and exercise! Remember that the urge for tobacco will go away even if you don’t use tobacco and that it will get less and less strong as time passes.
➨ Plug into your power source(s):
➨ Stop smoking programs, books, recordings, support groups.
➨ Hobbies, classes, self-esteem builders.
➨ Meditation, prayer.
➨ Your support people.
➨ Give yourself rewards and treats:
➨ Buy yourself gifts with the money you’re saving.
➨ Get a massage.
➨ Take long soothing bubble baths or hot tub.
➨ Listen to your favorite music.
➨ Get your teeth cleaned.
➨ Get your carpets and drapes cleaned.
➨ Engage in pleasant, peaceful, nurturing activities.
➨ Celebrate how much better your food tastes and smells.
➨ Celebrate the fact that your family will be healthier.
➨ Know that healthy changes are going on in your body:
➨ Decrease in blood pressure and pulse rate.
➨ Decrease of carbon monoxide in your body.
➨ Better circulation to your hands and feet.
➨ Increase in oxygen to all parts of your body.
➨ Risk of heart attack is decreasing.
➨ Risk of lung cancer will decrease.
➨ Your respiratory system is improving and you are preventing further damage.
➨ Energy and endurance are increasing.
Avoid places and events where people are likely to be smoking. Minimize as much as possible your contact with persons and situations that will increase your stress and your urge for tobacco. Laugh a lot! Laughing is good for your spirit and releases chemicals in the body that are calming. Just be tobacco free one day at a time.
Staying Tobacco Free
Set a time each week to review your progress, perhaps with a key support person, perhaps in your journal. What has been difficult or may be a problem in the future? When are you most likely to have the urge to smoke or chew? Which coping strategies work or don’t work? Review your list of the benefits of quitting. Be watchful for situations that may cause a relapse:
➨ Drinking alcohol, especially with tobacco users.
➨ When you’re stressed, frustrated or angry.
➨ Relaxing after eating.
➨ Times of boredom.
➨ When you’re feeling sad, depressed or sorry for yourself.
➨ When that addict’s voice is sitting on your shoulder saying “just one won’t hurt,” “you’ve been good, you deserve it” or “you can control it now.”
If you slip up and smoke or chew, don’t waste time and energy being hard on yourself. You are not a failure, you have hit a risky situation and your coping technique wasn’t adequate at the time. Start over, learn from the relapse, take control again and proceed with your campaign to become smoke free. The only real failure would be to allow a relapse to convince you that it is of no use for you to try to quit. Many who have successfully quit experienced a slip or two. Learn from these mistakes and avoid making them in the future.
Plan long term rewards for yourself when you have been tobacco free for three months, six months, a year. Keep the vision and benefits of being tobacco free in your mind and heart. Finally, congratulate yourself on accomplishing one of the most important and difficult tasks of your life.
Make A Big Deal Out Of It! — It Is A Big Deal!
The Lung Association New Years’ Quit Smoking Tips
After you’ve had your last cigarette, here are eight tips from The Lung Association to help you stay smoke-free in the future:
1. Stay busy. Keep your mind and body occupied so the urge to smoke does not sneak up on you.
2. In the first few weeks at least, avoid bars, parties and functions where smoking may be commonplace. Socialize with people who do not smoke.
3. Make a list of the reasons you should not smoke and read it when you are tempted to light up.
4. Put aside the money you are saving by not smoking and treat yourself to a reward after three, six or nine months. You’ll be amazed how the dollars will add up.
5. When you have an urge to smoke, eat a sugarless candy, chew sugarless gum or bite on a toothpick.
6. Enroll a friend or relative you a can count on to talk to when you have an urge to have a smoke.
7. Don’t let the nicotine withdrawal symptoms like sore throat, lack of concentration or trouble sleeping bother you too much. They won’t hurt you and will go away in a few days.
8. Never give up! Most people who quit have tried a number of times before. This may be the final time for you, too.
IF YOU CHEW, QUIT!
Smokeless tobacco use in the United States continues to increase each year. It may be smokeless, but it isn’t harmless. Why should you care? Keep reading.
Tooth Abrasion — Grit and sand in smokeless tobacco products scratches teeth and wears away the hard surface or enamel. Premature loss of tooth enamel can cause added sensitivity and may require corrective treatment.
Gum Recession — Constant irritation to the spot in the mouth where a small wad of chewing tobacco is placed can result in permanent damage to periodontal tissue. It also can damage the supporting bone structure. The injured gums pull away from the teeth, exposing root surfaces and leaving teeth sensitive to heat and cold. Erosion of critical bone support leads to loosened teeth that can be permanently lost.
Increased Tooth Decay — Sugar is added to smokeless tobacco during the curing and processing to improve its taste. The sugar reacts with bacteria found naturally in the mouth, causing an acid reaction, which leads to decay.
Tooth Discoloration and Bad Breath — Common traits of long-term smokeless tobacco users are stained teeth and bad breath. Moreover, the habit of continually spitting can be both unsightly and offensive.
Nicotine Dependence — Nicotine blood levels achieved by smokeless tobacco use are similar to those from cigarette smoking. Nicotine addiction can lead to an artificially increased heart rate and blood pressure. In addition, it can constrict the blood vessels that are necessary to carry oxygen-rich blood throughout the body. Athletic performance and endurance levels are decreased by this reaction.
Unhealthy Eating Habits — Chewing tobacco lessens a person’s sense of taste and ability to smell. As a result, users tend to eat more salty and sweet foods, both of which are harmful if consumed in excess.
Oral Cancer — With the practice of “chewing” and “dipping,” tobacco and its irritating juices are left in contact with gums, cheeks and/or lips for prolonged periods of time. This can result in a condition called leukoplakia. Leukoplakia appears either as a smooth, white patch or as leathery-looking wrinkled skin. It results in cancer in 3 percent to 5 percent of all cases.
Other Cancers — All forms of smokeless tobacco contain high concentrations of cancer-causing agents. These substances subject users to increased cancer risk not only of the oral cavity, but also of the pharynx, larynx and esophagus.
Danger Signs — If you use smokeless tobacco, or have in the past, you should be on the lookout for some of these early signs of oral cancer:
Pain is rarely an early symptom. For this reason, all tobacco users need regular dental check-ups.
Legal CMA Disclaimer:
Although this article may contain factual information, the information contained in this article has probably not been evaluated by the FDA nor is it in any way intended to be medical advice.
Unfortunately I must recommend that for any change in medical or health behavior or for any change in the way you use prescribed drugs by your healthcare providers or before acting upon any of the advice given in this or any other article, that you consult with your licensed healthcare provider or physician.
Dr. Locker and his friendly, knowledgeable staff invite you to call Gentle Family Dentistry in Duncansville, PA for the greatest, most advanced, painless dental experience you have ever had.