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Quit smoking and live longer

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  • Written By: St. Mary's Medical Center

The American Lung Association recently released the State of Tobacco Control report and Missouri received F's in four of five criteria and the fifth was a D.

The good news is that tobacco use overall has decreased; nationally, the U.S. has dropped from approximately 21 percent of adult smokers to around 15 percent, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Not only has the number of new smokers decreased, but as of 2015 approximately three in five adults who had ever smoked had quit and two thirds of smokers are interested in quitting.

Why is this good news? Well, we all know how bad smoking is for us. There are hundreds of facts and figures we can give you to back that up, but we are just going to give you one. Smoking is the leading cause of preventable disease, disability, and death in the United States.

What we really want to offer is information to help you or your loved ones quit. It's a tough road but quitting has benefits at any age.

While every smoker's recovery is different, a few things remain true. Physical withdrawal from nicotine, while often compared to heroin or cocaine, is actually short-lived. The worst is over within four days and completely gone within a month.

It's the smoker's mindset that is the most challenging. We like to ask patients, "How would your life be different, if you weren't a smoker?" Many patients fear the answer to this question. "Will I put on weight?" "Will I be able to sleep?" "Will I get depressed?" Life for many smokers often revolves around smoking. Another roadblock is the potential for failure, or the notion that "it's too late to quit."

To break this mindset, it's important to first identify all of your triggers and avoid and replace them with other behaviors, like staying away from things you associate with lighting up. If you smoke on the way to work, take a different route. If coffee is a trigger, try drinking tea instead. These can help you control cravings until the urge passes – and they do pass. Each time you can resist a tobacco craving, you're one step closer to quitting for good.

If nicotine replacement therapy will help you, by all means try the patch, gum or lozenges. We DO NOT recommend the electronic cigarettes. While the aerosol of e-cigarettes generally has fewer harmful substances than cigarette smoke, e-cigarettes and other products containing nicotine have not been proven as a safe alternative.

If you've failed at quitting before, identify what went wrong and do things differently. With a firm understanding of why you smoke along with the tools and support available, you can create a personal plan to quit. This should include exercise, support groups and relaxation techniques.

Don't be afraid to ask for help. Ask a friend to hold you accountable with a dollar every time you give in or to throw the pack away if they see it. There are also numerous resources available to help you quit. Check out or call 1-800-QUIT-NOW.

Above all, remember why you are quitting and the benefits of doing so. We are sure you can come up with another few thousand reasons.

-- The Respiratory Care Department at St. Mary's Medical Center can be reached at 816-655-5255.