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Amy Copeland, Ph.D.

Do You Want to Quit Smoking in the New Year?

Here are some steps to get you ready to quit for good.

Source: Pixabay

With the start of a new year, many people are in the mindset to change, especially in ways that will improve their health. Quitting smoking is the best thing you can do to improve your health, and there are many effective options available that can help someone stop smoking. Most often a combination of behavior therapy and pharmacological intervention, such as Varenicline or Bupropion, or nicotine replacement is used. Common forms of nicotine replacement include nicotine patches, gum, and lozenges.

Why is quitting important?

Smoking remains a leading cause of preventable illness. It causes more than 480,000 deaths per year in the United States—41,000 of which are caused by exposure to secondhand smoke.

Carbon Monoxide (CO) is one of the more dangerous substances in cigarette smoke. CO has a higher rate of attraction to hemoglobin (blood) than oxygen. When you smoke, CO prevents important organs like the heart and brain from receiving all of the oxygen that they need.

In addition to CO, cigarettes also contain a number of other dangerous substances such as nicotine, tars, arsenic, and carcinogens. Nicotine is the drug that makes cigarettes addictive and results in a number of negative effects in your body. For example, cigarette smoking raises your heart rate and blood pressure causing your heart to work harder and need more oxygen. However, due to the effect of CO, you are sending more CO rather than oxygen to your heart which can lead to heart disease. Tars increase your risk for breathing problems, lung disease, and cancer. Arsenic is a type of poison and the carcinogens found in cigarettes have been shown to cause cancer.

The number of negative health effects related to cigarette smoking and exposure to secondhand smoke provide a myriad of reasons to quit smoking. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2018), nearly 68 percent of adult cigarette smokers want to quit smoking, but they often don’t feel confident in their ability to do so, especially if they have made previous attempts to quit. However, most people who are successful in quitting smoking, have tried multiple times before quitting for good.

What happens to my body when I quit?

Great news: When you quit smoking your body is able to heal itself. Within a few minutes your heart rate and blood pressure return to normal. After three days your sense of smell and taste improve. Within 10-15 years, your risk of heart disease, lung cancer, and other smoking-related illnesses return to a nonsmoking level—if you quit smoking before these diseases develop.

How do I start?

  1. Contact your state-specific Quit Now Helpline for resources and support and try setting a Quit Date.
  2. Make quitting your number one priority.
  3. Throw out all cigarettes and related paraphernalia.
  4. Avoid being around other smokers.
  5. Change your routine to minimize associations with cigarettes and plan substitute activities. For example, drink juice or tea in the morning instead of coffee.
  6. Remind yourself of all the reasons you are quitting smoking.
  7. Reward yourself for remaining abstinent. Think of exciting ways to spend the money you are saving from not buying cigarettes!

About the Author

Amy Copeland, Ph.D., is a licensed clinical and medical psychologist. She is a professor of psychology at Louisiana State University where she directs the Smoking and Substance Use Clinical Research Laboratory.


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