New Year’s Eve is around the corner, and quitting smoking tops many people’s resolutions. A recent survey found that an overwhelming majority of smokers and non-smokers alike agree: Quitting smoking is hard! According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 66% of adults in Ohio that smoke tried to quit in 2013. It can take several quit smoking attempts before someone becomes completely smokefree, but it’s important to remember that every smoker can quit.
The American Lung Association says there is a “three-link chain” of physical, social and mental aspects to smoking addiction. Smokers have a better chance of quitting and staying smokefree if they address all three parts of the chain:
1. Physical: When inhaled, nicotine releases dopamine in the brain and makes a smoker feel good. After the dopamine release depletes, the smoker craves another cigarette, and over time builds up a tolerance to nicotine, meaning they have to smoke more to feel the same effect. Talking to a healthcare provider about quit smoking medications can help alleviate this physical addiction.
2. Mental: The act of smoking is often a part of one’s daily routines. Lighting up at specific times of the day-when drinking coffee or driving-or when stressed or tired is common. Proven methods to quit smoking include identifying these triggers, and relearning and adjusting behaviors and routines through a quit plan.
3. Social: Social groups are sometimes formed around smoking-through smoke breaks and habits of a friend group. Turning that concept on its head by relying on social groups that support a quit smoking attempt can be helpful. Encouragement from family and friends, as well as others that are also quitting smoking, can be beneficial to successfully quitting.
“The health benefits of quitting smoking are immediate and substantial,” says Emily Lee, PhD, Senior Director of Programs for the American Lung Association of the Midland States. “Twelve hours after quitting, the carbon monoxide level in your blood drops to normal, and within three months lung function begins to improve, and common symptoms like coughing and shortness of breath decrease.”
Only 4 to 7% of smokers who try to quit cold turkey are successful in remaining smokefree for up to one year. Every smoker can quit and the way to success includes creating a plan that fits the smoker’s quit goals and unique lifestyle. Through the American Lung Association’s Freedom From Smoking® program, participants learn how to set a quit date, address smoking triggers and urges, and stay motivated throughout the duration of a quit attempt.