By Megan Marples, CNN
Published 11:46 AM EDT, Tue May 31, 2022
Cigarette smoking is very addictive and can have long-term, adverse health effects. But there is hope for those who want to quit thanks to innovative apps, help lines and proven coping strategies.
In 2019, more than 30.8 million Americans smoked, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That was almost 12.5% of Americans 18 and older.
Smoking is also the No. 1 leading cause of preventable death in the United States, accounting for nearly 1 in 5 deaths.
Cigarettes have chemicals that can make this addiction particularly insidious. When they enter the lungs, they can cause harmful effects like bronchitis, said Jonathan Bricker, professor in the public health sciences division at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center at the University of Washington in Seattle.
Over time, smoking can eventually lead to lung cancer, which has less than an 18% survival rate within 5 years of diagnosis.
Fortunately, lung cancer can be prevented if you stop smoking and learn to “stay quit,” said Dr. Panagis Galiatsatos, director of the Tobacco Treatment Clinic at Johns Hopkins Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland.
Here are six actions you can take to help you or a loved one quit smoking and enjoy a healthier life:
- Focus on how to ‘stay quit’
The goal should not be to quit smoking; rather, it should be on how to stay quit. People should break up their larger goal of quitting into smaller goals. Learn your different triggers that could make you want to smoke. That way, you can be mindful and find solutions for those actions.
- Make each time you quit a learning experience
Most people who smoke quit eight to 12 times, because of the addictiveness of cigarettes, before they successfully quit for good. Relapse is common, so it’s to find a lesson they can take from each experience.
People should approach quitting from the viewpoint that the more things they learn from their relapses, the greater their chance is of quitting permanently.
- Use phone lines and apps for support
Support groups for people who want to quit smoking are dwindling, so Bricker recommended calling a quitting helpline to get outside assistance.
The CDC funds a tobacco cessation hotline, 1-800-QUIT-NOW (784-8669), which is free to US residents in all states, plus the District of Columbia, Guam and Puerto Rico. Your call goes automatically to the quit line in your state or territory.
Callers are connected to coaches who help smokers create a plan to quit and give them advice when facing withdrawals and cravings.
- Speak to your medical provider
People who want to quit smoking can talk to their medical provider to come up with a treatment plan filled with multiple strategies.
Doctors can prescribe medication to curb cigarette cravings and make them more manageable, he said. It’s a short-term solution to help train your brain to not crave cigarettes as strongly, Bricker added.
The medications doctors provide will depend on your specific situation. The prescriptions tend to be minimal at first then escalate depending on the severity of the addiction.
- Support people addicted to smoking
If you are really serious about helping your loved one quit, you have to approach it as pro-smoker and anti-smoking. When trying to help someone who smokes, make it clear that you are approaching the situation with no stigma or judgment.
If patients feel judged by their doctors for smoking, they might just lie about it. And that doesn’t help anyone. Even when patients don’t feel motivated to quit smoking that day, it’s important to outline the different treatment options so they have the resources later.
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