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How to Effectively Wean from Smoking

We have heard the warning “Smoking is dangerous to your health” many times over. In fact, in the Philippines and other countries in Asia Pacific, this warning comes with graphic images of the deteriorating effect of smoking to the body on the packaging of cigarette boxes.

The Philippine government took actions to implement a national ban on public smoking through Executive Order No. 26 issued in 2017. The EO prohibits smoking in all public places across the country, particularly in:

  • schools
  • hospitals
  • clinics
  • government offices
  • food preparation areas
  • elevators
  • jeepneys
  • buses
  • seaports
  • airports

It also bans the sale, distribution and purchase of cigarettes to and from minors.

Why is cigarette smoking strongly prohibited?

A report by The Tobacco Atlas created by the American Cancer Society and Vital Strategies states that in 2016 alone, tobacco use caused over 7.1 million deaths worldwide (5.1 million in men, 2.0 million in women).2 Most of these deaths (6.3 million) were attributable to cigarette smoking, followed by secondhand smoke (884,000 deaths). Most of the cases were due to lung cancer.

Lung cancer in the Philippines ranks second as the most prevalent cause of cancer-related death. In 2018, over 17,0004 individuals were recorded to have lung cancer, second only to breast cancer.

This grim picture can be prevented. The first step is to quit smoking. But for many, this is easiersaid than done. Here are some steps you can do to effectively quit smoking and stay that way.

For those who are into smoking, the most crucial question they ask is “how to know if I have lung cancer” already. So to further help you, here are also ways into how you can access early symptoms of lung cancer:

Lung Cancer Symptoms

According to Mayo Clinic, lung cancer typically doesn’t manifest signs and symptoms in its earliest stages. Signs and symptoms of lung cancer typically occur when the disease has advanced.

Signs and symptoms of lung cancer may include:

  • A new cough that doesn’t go away
  • Coughing up blood, even a small amount
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Hoarseness
  • Losing weight without trying
  • Bone pain
  • Headache

Check for these symptoms, but also remember that every medical case is unique and it is important for you to visit your doctor. Visit our previous article also about:  “Why Smokers Should Undergo Cancer Screening- smokers – should-undergo- cancer-screening

10 steps to effectively quit smoking

Mayo Clinic shares some tips on how to effectively quit smoking and help you manage your cravings and withdrawal syndromes.

1. Explore nicotine replacement therapy.

Visit your doctor and discuss nicotine replacement therapy. Your doctor may offer you the following options:

  • Prescription nicotine in a nasal spray or inhaler
  • Over-the-counter nicotine patches, gum, and lozenges
  • Prescription non-nicotine stop-smoking medications

Be honest with your needs when discussing this with your doctor. It will help if you can create a plan that outlines the steps you want to take to wean from smoking.

2. Understand your smoking triggers.

Think back to the times when you were most likely to smoke.

  • Did you smoke when you were stressed at work?
  • Did you smoke when partying with friends or drinking at bars?
  • Did you often smoke while drinking coffee?

Learning your smoking triggers can help you create your action steps in case the same situation comes up. Don’t give in to smoking relapse.

3. Delaying tactics.

Tobacco cravings can be strong, but tell yourself to wait for another 10 minutes.

During this time, keep yourself busy. Go for a jog. Make a sandwich. Call a friend, a relative or your significant other. Keep your mind away from the craving and occupy yourself with productive activities.

4. Eat your way out.

Give your mouth something to chew to fight tobacco craving. You can munch on sugarless gum or hard candy. But there’s a better and healthier alternative – fruit and veggie sticks like apple, cucumber, celery, and carrots. You can also munch on nuts like cashew and sunflower seeds.

5. Don’t give in to the “just one” thinking.

It’s tempting to try “just one” for the sake of the craving. But, don’t lead yourself into believing that the craving can be satisfied with “just one” stick. This leads to another, and then another. Before you know it, all the efforts you have done to quit will go to waste if you try “just one” stick.

6. Be more active.

Engaging in physical activity helps keep your mind and body preoccupied with more important and productive things. If you love the outdoors, you can engage in a new sport, go for a run, join a community program or volunteer for a cause.

If you prefer indoors, there are interesting game boards to play with, or better yet, learn a new hobby. For others, a simple journaling activity is all they need to distract the mind from the cravings.

7. Learn to relax.

Tobacco cravings can be stressful. Others experience excessive sweating and shivering when the craving kicks in. In these cases, experts suggest relaxation techniques like deep breathing exercises, yoga, massage, or listening to calming music. They all ease the agitation brought by the craving.

8. Build an emotional support team.

You don’t have to be alone in your journey to quit smoking. It will not be easy and you will need a strong support team to help you in your efforts. You can connect with fellow individuals who are also trying to live a smoking-free life.

Share your journey, the ups and downs. Cheer up each other and celebrate with everyone’s success, no matter how small it may be. Your family and trusted friends will also be a good source of encouragements. Let them know about your plans and tell them how they can provide support.

9. Search online support.

There are stop-smoking online programs, blog posts, social media groups and forums that support people who might be struggling with tobacco cravings and finding ways to effectively quit smoking.

10. Focus on the benefits.

Remind yourself of the long-term health benefits of quitting smoking. Write them down, post them somewhere visible to you or say them out loud. Your goals might include:

  • Feeling better
  • Getting healthier
  • Eliminating second-hand smoke in the household
  • Saving money

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cigarette smoking harms nearly every organ of the body, causes many diseases, and reduces the health of smokers.

If you had quit smoking a long time ago, have just recently decided to quit, or a current smoker, visit your doctor for early cancer screening. This will give you an accurate diagnosis of your condition and you will be in a better position to take care of your health, improve the quality of your life, and live your full potential.

Take it one step at a time. Doing something, even how small, is better than doing nothing. Every step you take to quit smoking is a step closer to your goal of living a smoking-free life.

References:

1. Official Gazette of the Philippines. Executive Order No. 26: Providing for the Establishments of Smoke-free Environments in Public and Enclosed Areas.

http://www.officialgazette.gov.ph/downloads/2017/05may/20170516-EO-26RRD.pdf Accessed March 28, 2019.

2. “Deaths.” The Tobacco Atlas. tobaccoatlas.org/topic/deaths/

Accessed March 28, 2019.

3. “Quitting Smoking.” Mayo Clinic. www.mayoclinic.org/healthylifestyle/quit-smoking/indepth/nicotine-craving/art-20045454. Accessed March 28, 2019.

4. “Steps to Manage Quit Day.” smokefree.gov. smokefree.gov/quit-smoking/gettingstarted/steps-to-manage-quit-day Accessed March 28, 2019.

5. “Smoking and Tobacco Use.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. www.cdc.gov/tobacco/data_statistics/fact_sheets/fast_facts/index.htm.

Accessed March 28, 2019.

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