Is This the Year You’ll Quit
By Kathy Eliason, MS, RN
Many of us look at the New Year as
a good time to make positive changes in our lives. If you are considering
quitting tobacco, think about joining a tobacco cessation program to help you
along your journey.
One of the most important things to
understand about the decision to quit tobacco is that quitting is a process. People
have to explore their own reasons for quitting. Are you considering quitting
for health reasons? Are you worried about lung disease, stroke, or heart
attack? Is smoking causing impotence because it restricts your blood flow? Can
you no longer afford to pay $10 for a pack of cigarettes? This honest self-assessment
is the first, most important part of quitting tobacco.
Why is quitting tobacco so hard?
Quitting tobacco is hard for three
reasons: you must overcome a chemical addiction, break a long-term habit, and
conquer psychological dependency. Most tobacco users have a longstanding love-hate
relationship with tobacco: it’s a best friend and we depend on it, but at the
same time it’s expensive and is very bad for our health. Most people who use
tobacco started in their teens. Thus, after years of tobacco use, we habitually
reach for tobacco whenever we’re stressed, angry, excited, or celebrating. We’ve
become psychologically dependent to the point of believing we simply cannot do
certain things without a cigarette, such as drive to work, write a report, or
enjoy a glass of wine with friends. A significant part of quitting is figuring
out just how we will function without tobacco, and this is hard work.
How can a tobacco cessation class
help me quit?
Quitting tobacco with a group of
people who share your goal has many advantages over going it alone. In the
Tobacco Cessation Program at the Cayuga Center for Healthy Living (CCHL), we
find that working in a group is helpful because people share their own
experiences, offer each other important support, and keep each other honest. It’s
a safe place where no one judges you. There is no preaching, there is just
How does the class work?
With the help of an experienced tobacco
cessation counselor, you examine your daily routine to determine when and why you
smoke. Once you have identified your individual triggers for smoking or chewing
tobacco, you can figure out how to make changes. With the help of the group,
you strategize about substituting behavior. By making small changes in
behavior, you begin to break the habit.
What about the aspect of nicotine
Addiction is difficult; nicotine is
more addictive than heroin or cocaine. Fortunately, there are prescription and
over-the-counter medications available to help ease withdrawal from nicotine.
For most people, this is the key to quitting. The medications make withdrawal
more comfortable so you can break your habit and address your psychological
How will this experience differ
from the dozen other attempts I’ve made to quit?
Honestly, there is no magic bullet and
no guarantee of success. However, there is effective medication, practical
help, and the support of like-minded people who have decided to try to make an
important change in their lives. Some people find it necessary to take the
class more than once, and that’s totally okay. The only true failure is to not even
If you use tobacco, you put a lot
of money, time, and energy into buying tobacco and going to a place where you
can smoke or chew. Try putting this energy into making a change. For more
information on the Tobacco Cessation Program, call the Center for Healthy
Living at (607) 252-3590 or visit www.cayugamed.org
and click on Clinical Services/Cayuga Center for Healthy Living. We want to
help you make 2012 your year to quit.
Eliason is a registered nurse and leads tobacco cessation groups at CCHL. As a
former tobacco user, she understands the challenges involved in making
significant lifestyle changes.