Thinking about quitting? Not sure if you are ready to quit? Tried to quit before and it didn’t quite work? You’re not alone. Each year, many think about quitting but aren’t sure what to expect or how to do it. Like any new habit, it takes practice.
What is tobacco use cessation?
Cessation means “a bringing or coming to an end”, or “to stop”. In other words, tobacco cessation means to stop using tobacco. It is also used to describe the process of quitting— preparing to quit, quitting, and staying quit.
Why is it hard to quit?
Tobacco use has been referred to as an addiction. Tobacco is addictive in three ways: physical, emotional, and habit. The physical addition is due to nicotine. Nicotine enters the blood stream within 6-8 seconds of puffing on a cigarette and causes receptors in the brain to feel as if they have received “pleasure chemicals” like dopamine, which the body produces naturally. With smokeless tobacco, nicotine can be absorbed more quickly. When a person stops using tobacco, he/she experiences withdrawal symptoms. The most common symptoms are irritability, difficulty concentrating, thirst, tiredness or trouble sleeping, hunger, and feeling down. These usually peak (become the most intense) at about 2-3 weeks and go away after 4-5 weeks.
The emotional addiction is caused by items called triggers. Triggers are emotional reasons why people use tobacco. Many people use tobacco due to stress because they say it relaxes them. In reality, it’s the deep breathing associated with smoking that makes cigarette use relaxing, as well as the minute or two of “alone time” taken to smoke. Some other triggers are happiness, boredom, and sadness.
Tobacco use is also a habit. It’s something that, for many tobacco users, has become a part of daily life. Wake up. Smoke / dip. Eat breakfast/have coffee. Smoke / dip. Drive to work. Smoke / have a dip on the way. Take breaks at work. Smoke / dip. Drive home. Smoke / dip. Eat dinner. Smoke / dip. Talk to mom on the phone. Smoke / dip while talking. Sound familiar? It is for many people.
The average person takes about 10 puffs or drags on a cigarette to finish it. A pack-a-day smoker puts their hands to their mouth on average 200 times per day. Some individuals take 10 dips per day of smokeless tobacco. At 10 per day, that's 70 times per week of doing the same thing. That’s a big habit!
Remember, it might be difficult to quit, but it’s not impossible. In the long run, not quitting is more harmful.
Not sure if you’re ready to quit?
That’s okay. Quitting tobacco use is an important decision. The fact that you are thinking about it is a good start. If you’d like to quit but aren’t sure if you are ready, one good idea is to make a list of why you like to use tobacco and why you want to quit. People use tobacco for different reasons. Stress, peer pressure, and boredom are but a few of the many reasons why people smoke or dip/chew. These are called triggers, and are something you’ll address during the quitting process. People decide to quit for many reasons. Concern about the health effects from smoking, worry about second hand smoke, to feel better, or because a loved one asked you to are just some of the reasons why people quit.
Many wait to quit until they are sure there will be no withdrawal symptoms—they want a “magic bullet”. Unfortunately, there isn’t a magic bullet, but there are ways to help ease the craving and quit successfully. Another good idea to determine when you might be ready to quit is to ask questions about things you don’t know, don’t understand, aren’t sure of, or may even be afraid of. Your doctor, local health department, or someone who has quit smoking are all good resources for you.
How can I quit using tobacco?
There are many ways to quit using tobacco. The trick is to find out what works best for you. Cold turkey, nicotine replacement therapy, a tobacco cessation class, and prescription medication are some of the many ways that can help someone quit.
A tobacco cessation class will help you identify why you use tobacco, whether or not nicotine replacement therapy is right for you, and provide tools that will help you work through withdrawal symptoms and stay tobacco free. If you aren’t sure if a class is right for you, one-on-one counseling, telephone, and internet resources are also available.
Nicotine replacement therapy (the patch, gum, etc.)
The patch. Gum. Lozenges. Inhalers. Medication. Not sure what to use? When you participate in a tobacco cessation class, whether in a group, one-on-one, over the telephone, or on the internet, trained professionals can assist you with deciding which method may be the right one for you. Your physician or local pharmacist may also be able to help you decide which method is right for you.
Many insurance companies will cover nicotine replacement therapy. Some employers will also assist employees who wish to quit. In addition, the health department and many of its partners can provide the first two weeks of nicotine replacement at no cost to those who enroll in a tobacco cessation class and qualify.
Want to Learn More?
This information is distributed by Erie County Department of Health, 606 W. 2nd Street, Erie, PA 16507, 814-451-6700, www.ecdh.org