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Quit smoking with ADC, Great American Smokeout

high angle view of ashtray with cigarette butts

The 35th Annual Great American Smokeout takes place November 12, 2010.

ADC and The Great American Smokeout helps people become “former smokers.”

START- 5 Important Steps to Help You Quit Now

S= Set a quit date
T= Tell your family and friends you are quitting
A= Anticipate and plan for the challenges you’ll face
R= Remove cigarettes and other tobacco products from your home, car and work
T= Talk to your doctor about getting help

GET READY TO QUIT SMOKING!

Little-known reasons to quit

Most of us have heard news stories about the risks of smoking and seen anti-smoking ads and warnings everywhere.

“We know that smoking is bad for us, but there are many effects of smoking that people don’t know about,” explains Everett Heinze, M.D., a neurologist with The Austin Diagnostic Clinic (ADC) who uses acupuncture to help people stop smoking.

According to the American Cancer Society and the American Heart Association, among smoking’s lesser-known effects are:

  1. Accelerated mental decline as we age.
  2. Increased risk of developing lupus, or autoimmune disease.
  3. Increased risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) in babies of mothers who smoke.
  4. A greater chance of erectile dysfunction in men who smoke.
  5. Four times greater likelihood of blindness from age-related macular degeneration.

Before you quit

Smokers often say quitting is one of the hardest things they have ever done. Why is quitting so hard?

“There are two parts to cigarette smoking,” explains Dr. Heinze.  “The first part is a true addiction, just like being hooked on alcohol or narcotics.  Trying to quit leads to withdrawal symptoms, such as irritability, anxiety, depression, and cravings.  These are powerful forces tempting people to start smoking again.”

“The second part of smoking is habit smoking, like lighting up with a cup of coffee, or when talking on the phone,” continues Dr. Heinze.  Holding a cigarette in your hand or puffing on it becomes natural, and reinforces continued smoking.

“People also need to be aware of triggers that can make smokers want a cigarette, like stress, anger, or boredom,” says Dr. Heinze. “Triggers are important to know before you quit. Knowing your triggers can help you stay away from the things that make you want to smoke.”

How do you begin?

“Quitting smoking is tough, but there are a lot of resources available for people who want to stop for good,” says Dr. Heinze.

There are programs and support groups to help you quit, hotlines to call for help, and lots of information on the internet. There are also medicines to help decrease withdrawal.

“Most people slip up within the first week of quitting,” Dr. Heinze continues. “This is when withdrawal and habit symptoms are the strongest. There are products like chewing gum, inhalers, lozenges, nasal sprays, and patches that can help you with those symptoms. They can double your chances of quitting for good.”

These medications are not for everyone, so be sure to talk with your doctor first. For some people, alternative methods like hypnosis and acupuncture seem to be the best choice.

“Even smokers who have tried the traditional methods in the past and failed often find success with these alternative methods,” says Dr. Heinze. Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese medical practice that uses needles placed at specific spots in the skin to treat pain or disease. Dr. Heinze has been treating patients through an acupuncture smoking cessation program for over 30 years. Acupuncture may stimulate the nicotine pathways in the body and decrease cravings, as well as easing withdrawal symptoms.

Long-term benefits

Quitting for good can lower your risk of heart disease, stroke, chronic bronchitis, emphysema, and at least 13 kinds of cancer. You will cut the amount of secondhand smoke your friends and loved ones are exposed to.  According to the U.S. Surgeon General, non-smokers also live longer.

Lung cancer continues to be the biggest cancer killer of both men and women in the United States, with over 90 percent of cases attributed to cigarette smoking, according to The American Cancer Society. Tobacco use causes nearly 450,000 deaths annually in the U.S., so by quitting you can also keep from becoming part of this staggering statistic.

“With every smoke-free day, you’re helping your body recover and halt further damage,” says Dr. Heinze. “For many people, each smoke-free day translates into more robust health and improved longevity.”

Legislation that helps

“About half of the country is now protected by smoke-free laws,” reports Dr. Heinze. “We’re making progress in the fight against cancer caused by tobacco smoke and helping people to quit smoking while reducing the risks of secondhand smoke.”

A proposed Texas-wide smoking ban was unsuccessful in 2007, but many Texas cities have passed no-smoking laws. Austin passed a comprehensive anti-smoking law that banned smoking in bars in 2005, and Dallas will consider a similar law this fall.

The combination of smoke-free public places and support for smokers is important in helping smokers quit and stay tobacco-free. If you quit, you will be healthier, those around you will be healthier, and you can feel proud of yourself for setting a goal and accomplishing it.

* Mnemonic by the National Cancer Institute (NCI)