It’s never too late to kick a bad habit, and smoking is no exception. Cigarette smoke contains toxic and cancer-causing chemicals that can lead to many serious diseases and conditions, such as cancer, stroke, high blood pressure and infertility.
UF smoking cessation specialist Gillian Eagle, R.N., C.D.E., said quitting enhances people’s quality of life at any age — or even any stage of sickness — by improving their health and helping them feel better.
After just a couple days without cigarettes, former smokers report that they breathe easier, Eagle says. Within a week, they notice that they have more energy and cough less. And within two to 12 weeks, circulation improves and walking becomes easier, she said. That’s because once they quit, the levels of oxygen and carbon monoxide in their blood return to the levels of a nonsmoker, she said.
For those who are already diagnosed with cancer, quitting may prolong their life by reducing their risk of developing a second tumor or having a recurrence, Eagle said. Research shows that continuing smoking with lung cancer can affect the behavior of the existing lung tumor.
The most effective approach to quitting is medication combined with counseling, researchers say. Eagle uses this method in the Quit Smoking Now program offered through the UF College of Medicine and UF Area Health Education Centers.
TIPS FOR QUITTING SMOKING
Here are some ways to help you quit, from smoking cessation specialist Gillian Eagle:
1. Educate yourself about the effects of smoking.
2. Seek supporters.
3. Get counseling and nicotine therapy.
4. Throw away your cigarettes.
5. Remove ashtrays from sight.
6. Pick a quit day.
7. Engage in healthy hobbies and stay busy.
8. Drink water.
9. Take deep breaths.
10. Exercise to relieve stress and feel-good.
11. Post a no-smoking sign to remind yourself and others that you are quitting.
The six-week program is free and open to the public. Participants attend group or individual meetings each week and receive free nicotine replacement therapy, including nicotine packets, gum and lozenges. “We laugh and have fun,” Eagle said.
The program moves through six steps to becoming smoke-free: education, preparation, quit day, motivation, adjustment and celebration.
To sign up, call Gillian Eagle at 352-392-4541, ext. 239 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
— By Kathryn Stolarz