1. Lifestyle Issues

Tobacco Use

"When I was a student at the University of Michigan, I was a 2 pack a day Marlboro smoker. Luckily, my psychology professor suggested I design a stop smoking program to help me fulfill a class assignment as well as to help me become smoke-free. Not only did I successfully quit, but it launched me into a career in health promotion. It was the best thing I have ever done."

– Don R. Powell, Ph.D., Founder and President of the American Institute for Preventive Medicine and author of this online guide.

Benefits of Quitting

Smoking is our nation's #1 preventable cause of illness and premature death. Over 400,000 people in the U.S. die each year from the effects of smoking.

You may not worry about getting lung cancer, emphysema, and/or heart disease, because if one or more of these occur, it will be 30 to 40 years down the road. These illnesses may not motivate you to quit, but they should! Smoking is one of the worst things you can do for your health! If health benefits don't make you want to quit smoking, focus on the immediate benefits of quitting. These include:

  1. Fresher breath. Each year, smoking a pack-a-day puts 1 cup of tar into your lungs. The tobacco tar causes bad breath.

  2. Cleaner smelling hair and clothes.

  3. Saving money. (See "The Cost of $moking" below.)

  4. Fresher looking skin. Nicotine narrows blood vessels which decreases blood flow. In the face, the result is premature wrinkling. After as little as 5 years of smoking, your face could show these wrinkles, known as "smoker's face."

  5. Improved stamina. After smoking a few packs of cigarettes or several cigars, your blood can contain up to 15 times more carbon monoxide (the same poisonous gas in car exhaust) than a nonsmoker's blood. Carbon monoxide robs the body of oxygen causing a slower reaction time and impaired energy, strength, and coordination.

  6. Improved sexual performance. Males who smoke have a more difficult time maintaining erections and have a lower sperm count. Female smokers have a higher rate of infertility.

Smokers' Excuses

Below are 6 common reasons smokers use to explain why they smoke and why their reasons are incorrect.

  1. I'll gain weight if I quit. People don't gain weight because they quit smoking; they gain weight because they eat more. Ex-smokers gain an average of 5 to 10 pounds. But you can lose weight, or keep from gaining it, if you get more exercise, stay away from fatty foods, and avoid nervous snacking.

  2. I need cigarettes to relax. Nicotine is actually a stimulant; it prompts the nervous system and the adrenal glands to trigger the release of adrenaline, the "fight or flight" hormone. Adrenaline leaves you feeling wired, not relaxed.

  3. I know lots of people who smoke. They're still healthy. We all know people like this, but they're the exception rather than the rule. The odds are stacked against you.

  4. Cigarettes won't hurt me. I'm in good shape. Don't bet on it. Even if you don't die from smoking, you'll almost certainly have health problems, such as trouble breathing, a hacking cough, high blood pressure, or heart disease. Quit now, before the damage is done!

  5. I've tried to quit dozens of times. It's no use. If you've tried to quit smoking 8 times, and failed 8 times, each try increases the chance that you'll succeed. Most ex-smokers tried many times before they quit for good.

  6. I can't imagine life without cigarettes. You weren't born smoking; you picked up the habit. You lived before you smoked. You'll live after you quit. And you'll probably live longer!

Bidis – Not a Safe Alternative

Bidis are small brown flavored cigarettes made in India. They are cheaper and easier to buy than regular cigarettes. They are also dangerous.

One bidi produces more than 3 times the carbon monoxide and nicotine than one cigarette and more than 5 times the amount of tar than one cigarette.

In India, bidi-making employs about 5 million women and an estimated 325,000 children a year, at wages as low as $.80 per day. Many rollers suffer from lung disease from inhaling the tobacco dust.

The High Cost of Cigarettes

The boxes below show the minimum amount you can save if you quit smoking now. The figures are based on an average cost of $4.75 per pack. The totals don't include the interest you would earn if you put this money in the bank.

Snuff Out Smokeless Tobacco

Regardless of whether you smoke it, chew it, or just place it between your cheek and gums, all forms of tobacco are hazardous to your health. "Snuff" and chewing tobacco were once considered safe alternatives to cigarettes. They're not. If you use smokeless tobacco, you absorb nicotine through the mucous membrane of your mouth. Nicotine absorbed in this way is no less addictive than nicotine inhaled from cigarettes or cigars. If you use smokeless tobacco, you run a high risk of: Cancers of the mouth, esophagus, larynx, and stomach; a precancerous condition called leukoplakia (a whitish, wrinkling of the mouth lining); heart disease; gum disease; and tooth decay.

The best way to avoid these risks, of course, is to never use smokeless tobacco. But if you already use it, here are some suggestions to help you stop:

  1. Ignore the appeals of sports figures who promote smokeless tobacco in advertisements.

  2. Use substitutes, such as gum, mints, or toothpicks, etc.

  3. Distract yourself with other activities.

  4. Reward yourself each day you don't chew tobacco.

Medications That Can Help

Some tobacco users who are addicted to nicotine find it easier to quit smoking using nicotine reduction therapy. This includes using a nicotine patch (e.g., Nicoderm, Nicotrol), a nicotine gum (e.g., Nicorette), or nicotine lozenges (e.g., Commit). These little doses of nicotine let them reduce their nicotine cravings and wean themselves from tobacco with less anxiety and irritability. The patch, gum, and lozenges are available over-the-counter. A nicotine nasal spray (e.g., Nicotrol NS) and a nicotine inhaler (e.g., Nicotrol) are available by prescription.

Another prescribed medication (Zyban) does not contain nicotine, but alters brain chemistry to help reduce tobacco cravings.

Also, studies have shown that combining a stop smoking medication with behavior modification greatly increases your chances for success. Get help and step-by-step guides to quit from the Web site listed below.