Why (and How) You Should Stop Smoking

Last month, a very near and dear member of my family was diagnosed with lung cancer.  The diagnosis was devastating to our family, of course, as was the stress of the subsequent lung surgery and recovery.  My family member was a longtime smoker in her youth, who quit over a decade ago.  I had the conversation with her about smoking for so many years of her life, and she said “I never thought that I would be the one to get lung cancer”.

It brought to the front of my mind the importance of trying to convince the smokers in my practice to quit.  I counsel every patient who is a smoker to stop smoking, almost as a matter of routine.  Most of my patients are young women, and there is a disconnect for a lot of young people that this habit directly results in lung cancer later in life.  There is no doubt that it does.  So quit already!

As I tell my patients, I can wax poetic about the reasons that you should stop smoking, but YOU are the only one who can make that decision.  Until you do, there is little that I can do to help you other than quote scary statistics about how smoking:

-causes lung cancer, which is the number one cause of cancer deaths in the US today

-causes heart disease by damaging the arteries in your body

-has a direct correlation to abnormal pap smears, as the nicotine in cigarettes can be found in cervical secretions, impairing your body’s ability to fight HPV

-etc, etc.

If the medical stuff doesn’t bother you, then there are the untoward cosmetic effects:

-bad breath and smelly clothes

-yellow teeth

-wrinkles! (enough said.)

Once you have made the decision to stop smoking, your doctor can help you.  There are a variety of methods smokers use to quit successfully, including:

-nicotine replacement patches, gum or inhalers

-antidepressant medications that help decrease cravings

-acupuncture and alternative therapies

The most important thing to remember if you are trying to stop smoking is that it takes most smokers multiple tries to kick the habit.  Nicotine is highly addictive, and there is a real physical dependence that develops from its use.  Don’t become discouraged.  I have found that smokers who are trying to quit while living with another smoker (usually a spouse) have the hardest time, because cigarettes are so readily available to them.  Keep trying, and try to get your significant other on board too.

Dr Richard Hurt, director of the Nicotine Dependence Center at the Mayo Clinic put it best when he said “This is only product that I know on the face of the Earth which, if it is used as recommended by manufacturer, kills 60 percent of its customers.”

Now that’s reason to quit.