Smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in the U.S. (about 20%) and possibly anywhere in the world where smoking is common. Half of all smokers who don’t quit will end up dying from smoking-related ailments. Harmful chemicals contained in cigarette smoke number in thousands and some of them are carcinogenic and can be linked with many types of cancers developed by smokers.
The Benefits of Smoking Cessation
One of the best things about giving up smoking is that the beneficial effects are almost instantaneous and over time, the body can make a full recovery from the harmful effects of smoking to the point that it is identical to someone who has never smoked before.
Some of the most immediate benefits of quitting smoking include:
- Better appearance
- Better breath and whiter teeth
- Appetite for food is rediscovered
- An improved sense of smell
- Better lung capacity
If one quits smoking for a longer period of time, the benefits include:
- Money saved. A smoking habit can cost anywhere around $2000 a year
- Lungs and other organs of the body heal themselves and after some years, your body will become like someone who had never smoked before
- Social acceptance: Smoking is no longer fashionable and they are looked upon with disapproval
These and much more are the likely benefits of giving up smoking. It is non-debatable that this is a goal that every smoker should strive for.
How to Successfully Quit Smoking — An Overview of the Different Methods
To quit smoking takes a lot of dedication and commitment. Rarely do people succeed on their first try but a determination to quit smoking, if strong enough, is almost certain to succeed. Most people first try to quit smoking by going cold turkey but they often fail because they have underestimated the enormity of their task. Quitting smoking is something that should not be taken for granted and it takes much more than a desire to quit to be successful. The problem with some smokers trying to quit is that they don’t even know that there is help out there for them. They believe it’s either one gives up smoking or one continues but there is help out there, lots of it and some are more effective than others. There have been many innovations, products, and programs that have been devised to help smokers quit this harmful habit. We will now take a broad look at the most common ones among them.
These quitlines are telephone hotlines where people who are trying to quit smoking can call for help and get assistance from trained counselors. Sometimes this help comes in the form of advice or as a referral to a more suited smoking cessation program that will assist the caller to quit smoking. National quitlines have been to have excellent success rates at about 30% to 50% better chance of success than programs conducted under controlled conditions. All states of the U.S. have established their own quitlines because of its effectiveness.
Nicotine Replacement Therapy
Nicotine replacement therapy or NRT for short is a method of quitting smoking by weaning the smoker slowly off the nicotine addiction while getting rid of the far more dangerous act of smoking. Smoking and the thousands of harmful chemicals that come with it are by far the most dangerous aspect of smoking rather than the nicotine itself. Nicotine replacement therapy seeks to allow the smoker to control and eventually taper off nicotine consumption and this can take up to three months to achieve. Meanwhile, smoking itself is no longer required in order to get the nicotine that the body and brain craves. Nicotine replacement therapy exists in various creative forms which include: nicotine patches, nicotine gums, nicotine lozenges, nicotine nasal spray and nicotine inhalers.
All these products allow the user to get a daily dose of nicotine and stave off the withdrawal symptoms from the lack or reduction of nicotine in the blood. Then, the nicotine consumption is gradually lowered till the user no longer needs the product as well and can then be considered smoke-free. Electronic cigarettes might be considered as a form of NRT but since they are not recognized as drugs by the U.S. government, this might not be technically correct but there is no denying that their function is similar to other NRT products. It should be noted that these products are to be used strictly in the prescribed form by the product manufacturers in conjunction with advice from a physician.
This highly controversial method of quitting smoking has mixed receptions especially from the scientific community. However, despite this fact, a lot of people put their trust in its efficacy and have been positively rewarded. This is why there are many centers that offer this type of smoking cessation program. Acupuncture, when used in a bid to quit smoking, usually involves the piercing of several points in the ear that are responsible for the functioning of some of the organs in the body like the liver, lungs and kidneys. When these points are stimulated correctly, it may lead to much reduced cravings to smoke tobacco and this ultimately helps in the battle against smoking.
This is a method offered by websites which seek to guide the smoker through the steps and actions to take in order to quit smoking. Part of the program may include customized exercises, critical information about smoking, forums and expert advice by an experienced counselor. It is a good way to get help while remaining relatively anonymous and some of them are in the form of free quit smoking programs/websites.
This method explores the power of collective affirmation which helps the members to stay strong in their quest to quit smoking. They are often led by a professional who is versed in smoking cessation counseling. They usually share stories and experiences of how smoking has affected them negatively or how quitting smoking has shown an upturn in their fortunes in several parts of their lives. These types of support can go a long way in helping someone quit smoking.
Borrowing heavily from the 12-step process used with Alcohol Anonymous, this program provides a non-judgmental safe haven for random people to share their experiences and draw comfort from other people battling addiction just like them.
Smoking Cessation Programs
There are numerous support groups and organizations out there for people who would like to quit smoking and who need some help doing so. It can be a struggle to quit smoking and fight the addiction, but it does not have to be one that anyone battles alone.
Every state in the US has a dedicated organization for smoking cessation. Also, many hospitals, churches, and charitable organizations have smoking cessation programs as well.
For those wanting specific organizations that operate nationwide, here is a list of some of the best ones.
Freedom from Smoking Online
A lot of the smoking cessation programs available use physical locations and phone lines to help people who are trying to quit. But Freedom from Smoking online is an online-dedicated organization that is geared toward reaching people solely through their electronic devices.
It contains a quit smoking program that helps smokers go through a series of steps to curb their habits. It also offers tons of support channels, such as a phone line, forums and one-on-one chat.
The Mayo Clinic
The Mayo Clinic is one of the most respected hospitals in the world and it is renowned for its drug rehabilitation programs. These include a stop smoking program that takes 5-10 days and accepts walk-in patients.
The hospital has several locations around the United States, each of which is staffed by experienced and knowledgeable physicians. These are people who have helped numerous smokers quit their habits and overcome their addiction. For those wanting professional help, this is one of the best resources out there.
This is like Alcoholics Anonymous but for smokers. Here, people trying to quit can get together with like-minded people and hear stories about their struggles and find encouragement and be strengthened in their resolve.
For many people trying to quit smoking, it can feel like they are all alone and that no one really knows what they are going through or are offering them support. But at Nicotine Anonymous, people who smoke, vape, and chew can all find the support they are looking for. Rather than talking to a faceless someone over the phone or trying to carry on a conversation on an online forum, they can meet actual people and have real conversations about what they are going through.
Quit Smoking Journals
This isn’t an organization so much as it is a website that serves as a resource for people who are trying to stop smoking. There they can post what they are feeling and the struggles they are dealing with.
These journals allow them to vent their frustrations and celebrate their victories with other people. It also gives struggling quitters a chance to read what other people have done to help them quit and understand that they are not the only ones experiencing that particular problem.
Both the quit-line and the website are administered by the National Institutes of Health along with the Department of Health and Human Services and the Centers for Disease Control.
Whether you call the quit-line or visit the website, you can get free advice and counseling from a tobacco cessation coach, free materials on how to quit smoking, get referred to free smoking cessation programs in your area and possibly receive free quit smoking products like patches and gum.
The QuitNet network of websites “is an Internet-based service designed to help individual tobacco users through the quitting process”. The QuitNet plan offers users (you have to sign up but there are no charges) access to a community of almost a million ex-smokers who provide peer-to-peer counseling, personalized quit plans and advice from tobacco control experts.
The ucanquit2.org website is a free smoking cessation program described by the Department of Defense as an “educational campaign for the US military” that “provides the opportunity to learn more about tobacco cessation, develop a personalized plan for quitting, and get live online help”.
Quit for Life
Depending on what state you live in, the American Cancer Society runs a Quit for Life smoking cessation program that offers “phone-based coaching and web-based learning support service to help smokers quit”.
The program is currently only offered in 26 states and is also available through your company’s health plan. If you are eligible and willing you will be offered telephone coaching calls, web-based support and information and help deciding which cessation medication is right for you.
Smoking Cessation Leadership Center
The Smoking Cessation Leadership Center is entering its 14th year of providing technical assistance and resources to healthcare providers and other smoking cessation professionals to increase smoking cessation rates across the country.
The SCLC is an effort between the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the University of California San Francisco and the Truth Initiative to assist in the treatment of mental health and tobacco cessation issues.
The SCLC seeks collaborative partnerships with different groups and institutions to create and put into effect successful tobacco cessation programs with an eye also to preventing tobacco use in the first place.
The Bottom Line
All these methods of quitting smoking are not guaranteed to work, especially the first time around. What is paramount is a real desire to quit smoking as many people fail in their first attempt and many people are not successful at all, preferring to continue the habit rather than face the task head on. Many of these programs work better in tandem with one or more other smoking cessation program. The combined effect can lead to a higher chance of a successful quit. The famous writer, Mark Twain, put it so well when he said it is easy to quit smoking and he had done is thousands of times himself which signifies the difficulty involves in quitting. Despite his famous saying, he almost certainly did not have any of the wide arrays of smoking cessation help available today and the chances of success are much higher now. Take the first step and you can be smoke-free in a matter of weeks.