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Why Should I and How Can One Quit Smoking

An answer by Thomas Petty, M.D.

“IT’S NEVER TOO LATE TO STOP SMOKING.” Almost everyone knows of the harmful effects of tobacco smoke. It has been conservatively estimated that regular smokers of cigarettes sacrifice seven years of life. If one divides the number of cigarettes smoked in a lifetime on the average into this seven years loss, it turns out to be 5 ½ minutes for each cigarette! What an astonishing statistic. The premature loss of life is primarily due to doubling the risk of heart attack, lung cancer, and emphysema. There are other cancers such as bladder, larynx, esophagus, pancreas, and uterus which are also caused by tobacco. Thus, it becomes pretty clear that stopping smoking is critical to future health. Never starting, of course, is better.

“But I have already smoked too long, doctor” is a common statement of my patients. “It won’t do me any good now because too much damage is already done,” they will continue. Nothing could be further from the truth. It is now known that there is benefit from stopping smoking no matter how long you have smoked. The risk of heart attack returns to normal after five years of non-smoking, and cancer risk goes way down also after five years or more of smoking cessation. In emphysema, the rate of loss of breathing capacity slows once people finally stop. Even patients over the age of 60 with advanced degrees of impairment live longer if they stop smoking. Thus, it is pretty obvious that no one should continue to smoke no matter what their preconceived notions about damage already done may be.


But how to stop—-ah-h-h—that’s the question! There is no simple answer. A personal commitment to quitting is, of course, fundamental. Setting a date for stopping, substitution with candies, chewing gum or something else to chew on helps a bit. Nicotine containing gum is useful in many patients in dealing with the withdrawal symptoms which plague many nicotine addicts. Nicotine patches and nasal spray are also effective. The changing of life patterns and avoiding social signals which call for a cigarette is also extremely helpful. There is no way that I can tell everyone who reads this newsletter exactly how to stop smoking, but in fact, nearly everyone can stop now. It is not really later than you think. Plan for your first no smoking day in a long time soon because, after all, “it is the first day of the rest of your life.”

Thomas L. Petty, M.D.

Thomas L. Petty, M.D., Professor of Medicine, University of Colorado.

For those who live in Southern Connecticut, we recommend you to go through our smoking cessation program at Norwalk Hospital. This program consists of seven sessions which are listed as following:

  • Session l. Building motivation to quit
  • Session 2. Motivation (part 2)- getting ready for Quit Night
  • Session 3. Quit Night - A New Beginning
  • Session 4. Days Later - how’s it going
  • Session 5. A Week’s Worth of Quitting
  • Session 6. Two Weeks of Cleaner Air
  • Session 7. Back to the Future

All sessions start promptly at 6:00 PM and end at 7:30 PM. Sessions will be held in the Perkin Auditorium at the Norwalk Hospital (first floor on your left as you enter the lobby).



The sessions will be facilitated by Gail Ullrich, RN, RRT, BSN and Gary Falcone, AS, RPFT, RCP, CCPT. The coordinator is Margaret Haggerty RN, M.S.

Please call (203) 852-2484 at the Section of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine to sign up.

If you are considering nicotine replacement therapy, be sure to contact your physician first. If nicotine replacement therapy is recommended for you, it is best used in conjunction with a smoking cessation program.

For further information on smoking cessation you may contact the American Lung Association at 1-800-992-2263 or the American Cancer Society at 1-800-ACS-2345.