For people living with chronic lung conditions such as emphysema, chronic bronchitis and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), quitting smoking is an important step to managing the condition and improving their overall health. However, many struggle to quit for a number of reasons.
According to a recent study published in Tobacco Induced Diseases, “Why do smokers diagnosed with COPD not quit smoking? - A qualitative study,” participants understood the harmful effects of smoking and the consequences of COPD; however, their lives were governed by a lifelong smoking habit that was difficult to break. In addition, participants described incidents in their lives as the reasons for never finding time to quit.
“Sometimes people feel like it’s not a good time to quit smoking –there’s too much stress in their life or too much going on at that moment. And many believe that they will be more stressed after they quit,” said Tanya R. Schlam, Ph.D., with the Center for Tobacco Research and Intervention at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health. “However, research has shown that once smokers make it through the withdrawal period (which usually lasts two to four weeks), stress is actually reduced. In fact, one year later people were less stressed than they were when they smoked.”
The reality is that it may never feel like the perfect time to quit smoking. So a better plan is to find a “good enough” time in the near future, because for people living with chronic lung conditions, quitting is the most important thing they can do for their health.
To that end, Dr. Schlam provides a number of tips to improve the chances of kicking the habit for good.
· Get counseling. Smoking cessation counseling provides smokers with emotional support as well as problem-solving tips to help limit access to cigarettes and avoid relapse. There are two great ways to receive this type of counseling. The first is by calling 1-800-QUIT-NOW, which provides free counseling around the clock. The second is by speaking with your physician.
· Use medication. There are a number of medications on the market that can improve the chances of quitting. However, Dr. Schlam notes that two of these rise above the rest and almost triple the chances of quitting successfully. The first is Chantix, a prescription medication that blocks nicotine receptors and makes smoking less enjoyable. The second is a combination of two nicotine replacement therapies, such as over-the-counter nicotine patches for a steady dose of nicotine plus nicotine lozenges for an extra boost when a craving arises.
· Avoid alcohol. Avoiding alcohol, at least for the first month, can reduce the chances of relapse. That is because, of those who relapse, many say that they were drinking at the time. If avoiding alcohol completely is not an option, consumption should be limited to two drink equivalents.
· Review your past experiences of quitting. Although many people do not successfully quit smoking on their first attempt, there is a great deal that can be learned from previous attempts. What helped and what hurt? What led to relapse, and how can you avoid that? By planning fully for any obstacles, you will be more prepared than previous attempts and more likely to quit.
· Talk to your family. Support and encouragement from family and friends is often the push people need to successfully quit. The most helpful thing that family members can do is agree to remove all smoking from the home to reduce temptation. In addition, having an honest conversation with family members about the changes taking place in your life will prepare them for any ups and downs you may experience on your journey.
It is important to note that while support from family and friends plays an important role in quitting, smokers must make their own decision to quit. In fact, the previously mentioned study found that demands from others to quit can contribute to continued smoking or relapse after cessation, as participants did not want to be patronized.
“Most smokers try to quit multiple times before they succeed,” said Dr. Schlam. “While it is hard to quit, it can be done. The key is sticking to it, not getting discouraged and being willing to try again. It is also about getting better at quitting – quitting more plan-fully and getting the help that you need to succeed.”
For more information on how to improve your chances of quitting, visit smokefree.gov.