Is 2017 the year to quit? We think so!
Many smokers are intimidated by the idea of quitting and there are many reasons why. Quitting tobacco use is extremely difficult once a habit is formed. According to an article on SmokeFree.gov, “An important first step of the quit process is learning why you feel like you need to smoke. When you understand why you smoke, you can prepare yourself to find the best ways to quit.”
Many people pick up smoking and/or continue smoking for a reason. Perhaps their friends, neighbors, colleagues, or family members are smokers or use tobacco. Perhaps they feel lots of pressures and stress from life and become dependent on cigarettes to feel calm. Whatever the reason, quitting smoking is the best thing you can do for your mental and physical health. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are more former smokers than current smokers today, which mean that many have committed to quitting and have succeeded!
There are many reasons why it is beneficial to quit smoking or use tobacco in any form. According to the American Lung Association, benefits can begin as soon as 20 minutes after you choose to quit.
Tobacco contains harmful chemicals that cause various health problems, cancers, and even death. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, quitting smoking provides the following health benefits:
- “Lowered risk for lung cancer and many other types of cancer.”
- “Reduced risk for heart disease, stroke, and peripheral vascular disease (narrowing of the blood vessels outside your heart).”
- “Reduced heart disease risk within 1 to 2 years of quitting.”
- “Reduced respiratory symptoms, such as coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath. While these symptoms may not disappear, they do not continue to progress at the same rate among people who quit compared with those who continue to smoke.”
- “Reduced risk of developing some lung diseases (such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, also known as COPD, one of the leading causes of death in the United States).”
- “Reduced risk for infertility in women of childbearing age. Women who stop smoking during pregnancy also reduce their risk of having a low birth weight baby.”
The earlier you quit, the more impact these health benefits can have, but there are always benefits to quitting no matter what your age. With that in mind, you are NEVER too old to quit!
One of the major mountains smokers must climb in order to successfully quit is the feeling of withdrawal. The lack of nicotine, a highly addictive substance, can cause smokers to experience withdrawal very quickly. Symptoms of withdrawal include cravings, discomfort, etc. During this period, don’t give up! According to SmokeFree.gov, the withdrawal feelings come on the strongest during the first week. They say, “The first week after quitting is when you are most at risk for a slip.” Because of this, there are a variety of nicotine replacement therapies that, if used properly, can increase your chances of quitting by nearly double.
After one overcomes the feeling of withdrawal, smokers need to navigate triggers. Triggers are various feelings, places, or things that cause a desire to smoke. Every smoker’s triggers are different, so it’s important to understand what yours are before quitting. According to WedMD, keeping a journal of when you smoke and the circumstances you encounter during those times (Feelings, actions, people, places, etc.) can help you understand yourself better and what items trigger you to smoke.
Once you do this, WebMD says to “look over your list of triggers and put a check mark beside those that you can reasonably avoid.” Avoiding your triggers is a great tool to creating an environment of success. If and when you do experience cravings, it’s important to know that most cravings last just a few minutes. “If you can ride them out, you’ll be one step closer to a lifetime free of nicotine” (WebMD).
No matter what age or stage of life you’re at, you can choose to quit TODAY. More than handling triggers and withdrawal, there are a variety of programs that offer counseling, encouragement and emotional support for those struggling with quitting. The Harrisburg Area YMCA collaborates with the American Lung Association to provide a FREE 8-week Freedom from Smoking tobacco cessation course for those looking to quit! Find out what Tiffany, a past Freedom from Smoking participant, had to say about the course:
“My journey began with a friend asking me if I would be interested in joining her in a quit smoking class. I agreed to attend, unsure if I was actually ready to quit my pack a day. After our first class, I decided that I was ready to make an attempt. Our instructor, who has never smoked, was very kind, patient, and non-judgmental. She only ever wanted us to take accountability for our decisions and actions so that we could realize what was causing us to want to smoke in the first place.
It has been 3 weeks since my quit day. At times I have stumbled, however, I keep pressing forward using the wonderful tips, tricks, and materials that we were given in class. I am so thankful for this free quit smoking course! It has given me control over my life again, and I have already begun feeling the health benefits of quitting. So if you are tossing around the idea of wanting to quit smoking, I urge you to check out this free course. The support is very helpful. It is a hard addiction to kick, but is worth all the effort and work!”
If you or someone you know is struggling with smoking and wants to quit in 2017, contact our Northern Dauphin County or West Shore YMCA Branches to find out when the next program will be held. Quitting smoking and tobacco use can truly save your life!
–Emily Sanville, Digital Communications Coordinator