It’s a well-established fact that smoking is bad for your health. Tobacco consumption affects you at every level – it damages your skin and hair, yellows your teeth, affects your ability to taste and smell, damages your organs and fills your body with harmful chemicals. Smoking is a major contributor to chronic disease: it’s the cause of most cases of lung cancer, and plays a role in other chronic heart and lung diseases, including chronic bronchitis, emphysema, heart attack and stroke, and cancers of the mouth, throat and esophagus. Smoking can even contribute to infertility problems – for both men and women.
Even though the negative effects of smoking are clear, 22.1 percent of Nova Scotians smoke – well over the average rate in Canada. And that bad habit comes at a cost: In Nova Scotia, more than 1,700 people die each year from illnesses caused by smoking or second-hand smoke.
As a smoker, the single best thing you can do for your health is to quit smoking. Quitting reduces your risk of chronic heart and lung disease, helps you avoid minor illnesses such as coughs and colds, and protects your loved ones from the effects of second-hand smoke. (It will also save you money – at $15 to $20 per pack, you could save hundreds of dollars a month, depending on how much you smoke.)
But quitting smoking is easier said than done. If you’re ready to make the change, here are some tips to help you quit for good.
Ask yourself why
The addictive components of tobacco make it very difficult to quit smoking – it you’re going to outwit them, it might help to be able to clearly identify why you want to quit. Spend some time thinking about why you’re quitting (for example, to improve your health or provide a better example for your children). Write your reasons down and post the list somewhere as a reminder to yourself.
Make a plan
Some people have success with quitting cold turkey, but many people find that a bit of preparation makes quitting smoking easier. If quitting cold turkey hasn’t worked for you, choose a quit date and write it on your calendar. Some people choose a day at random; others choose a special date, like a birthday. Pick a day that won’t be too stressful (don’t choose the busiest time at work or during the holiday season, for example).
As your quit day approaches, use your time to line up support. Contact Tobacco Free Nova Scotia for a free “quit pack,” full of resources to help you quit smoking, or download the “On the Road to Quitting” guide to becoming a non-smoker. This would also be a good time to make an appointment with your family physician to talk about smoking cessation aids.
There are lots of resources available to help you quit smoking – and many of them are available free of charge or are covered by your health insurance. You can call a smoking cessation support line or chat with counsellor online, attend a support group, or use nicotine replacement therapy (via a patch, lozenges or gum, for example). Some prescription medications also help people quit smoking – talk to your doctor about whether that option is right for you. Finally, don’t forget to ask your family and friends to support you in your quitting quest.
Pick a reward
You might like to reinforce the good choices you’ve made by quitting smoking by choosing a few tangible rewards. You might choose to connect with a friend for a walk, rather take than a smoke break; to reward a week without smoking with a new haircut; or to celebrate a year smoke-free with a holiday. (After all, a pack a day adds up to thousands of dollars per year!) Whatever you choose, make sure you take the time to recognize the hard work you’ve put into quitting.
Reap the benefits
Quitting smoking improves your health almost immediately. You’ll reduce your risk of stroke and heart and lung disease and you’ll be less likely to get lung cancer – or any of the other cancers associated with smoking. Your food will taste better and your sense of smell will return. You’ll find it easier to breathe, and your fitness level will improve. Best of all, you’ll dramatically increase your lifespan – so you can enjoy your newfound good health for longer.
Your turn: What helped you quit smoking? Tell us about it in the comment section below.