According to the U.S. Surgeon General, “cigarette smoking remains the chief preventable killer in America, with more than 40 million Americans caught in a web of tobacco dependence.” Each day, more than 3,200 youth (younger than 18 years of age) smoke their first cigarette and another 2,100 youth and young adults who are occasional smokers progress to become daily smokers.
Studies have shown that smokers are more likely than non-smokers to develop heart disease, stroke, and lung cancer. Tobacco use remains the single largest preventable cause of disease and premature death in the United States. Pregnant women and those who have a heart condition are particularly vulnerable and should avoid tobacco products.
This is a call to action. Quitting smoking can be a long and hard process. The American Cancer Society suggests the following to get through the rough times of quitting:
- Take one day at a time.When you wake up each morning, make the promise you won’t smoke a cigarette that day. A day at a time keeps the whole thing more manageable.
- Avoid temptation. Stay away from activities, people, and places you link with smoking.
- Take extra care of yourself. Drink water, eat well, and get enough sleep to have the energy to handle extra stress.
- Cope with your emotions. Know that anger, frustration, anxiety, irritability, and even depression are normal after quitting and will get better as you learn ways to cope that don’t involve tobacco.
- Tell yourself “no.” Say it out loud. Practice doing this a few times, and listen to yourself. Some other things you can say to yourself might be, “I’m too strong to give in to smoking,” “I’m not a smoker now,” or “I will not let my friends and family down.” And most important, “I will not let myself down.”
- Resist Temptation. Never let yourself think that “one cigarette won’t hurt,” because it very likely will.
Get support you can count on. If you’re thinking about reaching for a cigarette, reach for help instead. Ask your friends and family to encourage the new non-smoking you, reach out to a support group, visit Nicotine Anonymous, or call (800) QUIT NOW. You can always call the American Cancer Society at (800) 227-2345.
Each day that you don’t smoke is a small victory. These all add up to a huge victory over time.
Source: Dr. Brenda Boatswain is the Wellness/Wellbeing Coordinator at Montefiore Health System’s Office of Community & Population Health.