Why You Must Stop Smoking

I’ve worked with many people over the years to help them with challenges related to mental illness and addiction to drugs and alcohol. Unfortunately, a large percentage of these folks have also struggled with another tough addiction: nicotine from tobacco products. I’m always careful to ask if someone smokes or uses other forms of tobacco, and to encourage them to quit. Here are several good reasons to quit and some points to consider to help you stop smoking.

1) Smoking can kill you

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), tobacco is “the only legal drug that kills many of its users when used exactly as intended by manufacturers.” WHO estimates that tobacco use is responsible for “the death of about six million people across the world each year with many of these deaths occurring prematurely.” The leading causes of death from smoking are cancer and other lung and heart diseases.

2) You will live longer

On average, smokers live about 10 years less than nonsmokers. An interesting study in the British Medical Journal calculated that each cigarette you smoke shortens your life by about 11 minutes. Using this estimate, smoking one pack of 20 cigarettes takes 3 hours and 40 minutes off your life, and a carton (20 packs) reduces your life by 1.5 days. The very good news is that if you quit smoking before the age of 40, you can reduce your risk of dying from smoking-related disease by about 90%.

3) You will feel much better

In addition to living longer, there are numerous other health benefits from quitting smoking, some starting as soon as 20 minutes after you stop. These are well documented, and include improved breathing, lower blood pressure, improved sense of smell and taste, and reduced risk for heart disease and many other health problems.

4) You can also save the lives of others

The WHO estimates that 600,000 people die each year from second-hand smoke. Second-hand smoke is also harmful to your household pets. When you stop smoking, you reduce the risk of smoking-related health problems for your friends, family, pets and others around you. So not only are you improving your own health, you’re making things better for others you care about and the environment. Win-win.

5) You will save a lot of money

Take the price of one pack of cigarettes and multiply it by the number of packs you smoke in a week. Multiply that number times 52 to get a good estimate of the amount you spend on cigarettes in one year. For example, if you smoke one pack per day and a pack costs $7 (this is about the average in the US), you will spend about $2555 per year. Over 20 years, this adds up to $51,100! Now think about what else you could do with this money. Get a membership to a gym, take a fun vacation, pay off some bills or start a college fund for your kids.

6) Smoking and other addictions

The vast majority of people in recovery from alcohol and other drug addictions smoke. When I have assisted such people, they are often reluctant to stop smoking while trying to remain clean and sober. It’s very surprising to learn that smoking kills more people each year than alcohol, illegal drug use, homicide, suicide, car accidents, and AIDS combined.

7) Quitting while in substance abuse recovery

There’s a widespread belief that you shouldn’t try to stop smoking while in the early stages of substance abuse recovery, as it will threaten your sobriety. This isn’t true, and in fact, smoking can lead to a stronger craving for alcohol since smoking and drinking often go together. So quitting smoking during or soon after treatment for other addictions may actually increase your chances of staying sober.

8) Ways to quit

Many smokers try to quit “cold turkey” without any other support, but this is effective only 4 to 7 percent of the time. Evidence is much stronger for the effectiveness of nicotine replacement therapy (NRT), which comes in many forms including patches, gum, lozenges nasal spray and inhalers. NRT appears to be even more effective in combination with other supports such as counseling and/or prescription medications.

9) Yes, you can quit

Often the greatest barrier to stop smoking is finding the motivation to even try to quit. Remember there will never be a perfect time to try to quit (you don’t have to wait until New Year’s). Also, it’s typical to have to try a few times before succeeding. But each time you try, you increase your odds of success if you learn from your setbacks and adjust your plan accordingly. It’s also important to focus on the benefits of quitting and to try to reduce or remove the barriers that are getting in your way.

10) Where to go for help

Regardless of the methods you try, it’s important to have a plan. There are lots of great resources online to get you started in developing a plan to quit smoking. Also look for smoking cessation support groups in your area and talk with your health care provider about medication and counseling options. Don’t wait; take action now and you can be on your way to a smoke-free life.

Here’s a question: What’s keeping you from stopping smoking and how can you begin to remove these obstacles? Please leave a comment. Also, please subscribe to my blog and feel free to follow me on Twitter, “like” my Facebook page, or connect on LinkedIn. Thanks!

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