MILLERSBURG — Anyone who has ever smoked knows how hard it is to quit.
No one needs to tell you that smoking is bad for you. We all know that. Sometimes, though, it’s good to take a step back and look at how smoking cigarettes affects our bodies.
According to a panel of health experts made up of doctors, nurses and medical journalists, gathered by the American Cancer Society, smoking can harm just about every one of your organs and it is associated with nearly one in five deaths in the U.S. each year.
The key to a successful quit is to have a reason. A personal, powerful reason to want to quit smoking can help fuel your determination to realize a smoke-free life.
Successful habit kickers point out that it is important to reward yourself for quitting.
Quitting isn’t easy, and you deserve a reward. Put the money you would have spent on cigarettes or tobacco in a jar every day and then buy yourself a weekly treat. Buy a book or some new music, go out to eat, start a new hobby or join a gym. Or save the money for a major purchase.
Withdrawal from nicotine has two parts — the physical and the mental. The physical symptoms are annoying but not life-threatening. Still, if you’re not ready to resist them, they can tempt you to go back to smoking or chewing. Nicotine replacement and other medicines can help reduce many of these symptoms.
"Most people who use tobacco find that the mental part of quitting is the bigger challenge," one medical expert said.
If you’ve been using tobacco for any length of time, it has become linked with a lot of the things you do — waking up in the morning, eating, reading, watching TV and drinking coffee, for example. It will take time to "un-link" tobacco from these activities. This is why, even if you’re using nicotine replacement therapy, you may still have strong urges to smoke or chew.
The following is a list of suggestions provided by the ACS to help smokers kick the habit:
• Avoid temptation. Stay away from people and places that tempt you to smoke/chew. Later on you’ll be able to handle these with more confidence.
• Change your habits. Switch to juices or water instead of alcohol or coffee. Choose foods that don’t make you want to smoke/chew. Take a different route to work. Take a brisk walk instead of a tobacco break.
• Choose other things for your mouth: Use substitutes you can put in your mouth like sugarless gum or hard candy, raw vegetables such as carrot sticks, or sunflower seeds. Some people chew on a coffee stirrer or a straw.
• Get active: Do something to reduce your stress. Exercise or do something that keeps your hands busy, such as needlework or woodworking, which can help distract you from the urge to use tobacco. Clean out a closet, vacuum the floors, go for a walk or work in the yard.
• Breathe deeply: When you were smoking, you breathed deeply as you inhaled the smoke. When the urge strikes now, breathe deeply and picture your lungs filling with fresh, clean air. Remind yourself of your reasons for quitting and the benefits you’ll gain as an ex-smoker. Deep breathing may help you also remember that you’re cleaning the toxins from smokeless tobacco out of your body.
• Delay: If you feel that you’re about to light up, hold off. Tell yourself you must wait at least 10 minutes. Often this simple trick will allow you to move beyond the strong urge to smoke. This works for smokeless tobacco too; wait 10 minutes until the urge lessens.