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Is This the Year You’ll Quit Tobacco?

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 practical help.

 

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?

 

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 dependency.

 

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 try.

 

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.

 

Kathy 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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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