Smoking Cessation: When It’s Good to Be a Quitter

Smoking Cessation: When It’s Good to Be a Quitter

Smoking Cessation: When It’s Good to Be a Quitter

Smoking Cessation: When It’s Good to Be a QuitterYou’ve heard it all before: Smoking is an expensive, health-damaging, addictive activity.

A pack of cigarettes ranges from $4.96 a pack in Kentucky to $14.50 a pack in New York. For a pack-a-day smoker, the habit costs $1,810.40 to $5,292.50 annually. Imagine how that money could be used to enhance the quality of life of smokers — not to mention those around them.

I often ask clients, “Would you walk into a convenience store and use your hard-earned money to buy the most potent poison the clerk has?” Naturally, they say, “Of course not.”  I reply, “What do you think you are doing when you buy a pack of cigarettes?”  They often shrug and say, “I know, but it’s too hard to quit.”

Stop Smoking: For the Love of Children and Animals

I ask clients if they smoke around their children. Some don’t, saying they smoke outside or in the car with the windows open. I remind them that even if they are not near their children, the smoke remains on their clothes and hair, and the child breathes it in as the parent hugs their little one. The impact of second hand smoke is well documented.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention spell it out like this:

  • Studies show that older children whose parents smoke get sick more often. Their lungs grow less than children who do not breathe secondhand smoke, and they get more bronchitis and pneumonia.
  • Wheezing and coughing are more common in children who breathe secondhand smoke.
  • Secondhand smoke can trigger an asthma attack in a child. Children with asthma who are around secondhand smoke have more severe and frequent asthma attacks. A severe asthma attack can put a child’s life in danger.
  • Children whose parents smoke around them get more ear infections. They also have fluid in their ears more often and have more operations to put in ear tubes for drainage.

Numerous studies indicate an additional hazard: Children whose parents smoke are more likely to smoke.

Another concern is the impact of smoking on pets. Would anyone deliberately poison children or animals? No, but by smoking in their presence they’re doing just that. In those cases, smoking is an option but breathing isn’t.

What’s Your Poison?

Cigarette smoke contains about 7,000 chemicals. According to, these chemicals enter your lungs rapidly with each inhale, eventually reaching every organ. Cigarette ingredients found on the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services list of known human carcinogens include:

  • Arsenic. Inhaling this chemical, which is used to kill weeds and pests, has been found to increase the risk of lung cancer. Breathing it in can irritate the throat and lungs.
  • Benzene. This chemical is used in the manufacture of plastics and resins, as well as to make certain rubbers, dyes and pesticides. In addition to being found in tobacco smoke, it’s found in vehicle emissions and gasoline fumes. Long-term exposure may increase the risk of developing leukemia, as well as possibly affecting the blood, bone marrow and immune system.
  • Cadmium. This byproduct of zinc refining is used to make batteries, plastics, and alloys. Long-term exposure can damage the lungs, kidneys, and bones.
  • Ethylene oxide. This chemical is used to make antifreeze and as a pesticide. Exposure can cause lung damage.
  • Formaldehyde. Exposure to this chemical used for embalming may increase the risk of developing leukemia and brain cancer.
  • Vinyl chloride. This substance is used to make PVC pipes and packaging materials. Exposure may increase the risk of developing lymphoma and leukemia, as well as liver, brain, and lung cancers.

Other toxins found in cigarettes include:

  • Hydrogen cyanide. This highly toxic chemical used in chemical weapons damages the heart and blood vessels more than any other chemical in cigarette smoke.
  • Carbon monoxide. This gas given off by burning fuel – as well as tobacco products – prevents red blood cells from carrying enough oxygen to cells and tissues. Exposure can cause permanent damage to the heart, brain, and lungs.
  • Tar. This is the collection of solid particles that smokers inhale, which settles to form a residue that can stain teeth and lungs.
  • Toluene. This liquid is used to make gasoline, paint, paint thinner, and fingernail polish. Exposure may lead to headache, dizziness, and kidney damage.

 Smoking Cessation for People in Recovery

The CDC reports, “Cigarette smoking causes about 1 in 5 deaths in the U.S. every year.” But the researchers say the highest death rate from smoking tobacco occurs in patients receiving treatment for substance abuse.

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, “in 2008, 63 percent of people who had a substance use disorder in the past year reported simultaneous tobacco use. This compared to 28 percent of the general population.”

Not surprisingly, smoking is a leading cause of death among people in substance abuse treatment, beyond that which led them to seek treatment initially. Even with all of this evidence to support its importance, most substance abuse treatment programs do not address smoking cessation.

Conventional wisdom is that it is unwise to quit tobacco while relinquishing other drugs. Part of the assumption is that potential clients won’t attend programs in which smoking is not permitted on site.

An article called “Drug Addicts Can Quit Smoking with Additional Therapy” published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry showed evidence that those who engaged in smoking cessation programs produced high smoking quit rates even while being treated for substance abuse. They were able to sustain abstinence from smoking at the 3- and 6-month follow-up mark as well.

Dr. Theresa Winhusen, an author of the study, from the University Of Cincinnati College Of Medicine, reports that these findings, alongside previous studies, “should reassure clinicians that providing smoking cessation treatment in conjunction with treatment for other substance use disorders will be beneficial to their patients.”

With all of this data to support smoking cessation, why would anyone continue to engage in this activity?  As with any addiction, cognitive dissonance plays a powerful role. What can be done to translate this evidence into positive action?

Create a Recovery Toolkit to Stop Smoking

For those willing to enter recovery from smoking addiction, a toolkit similar to that created for abstinence from any substance can be helpful:

  • Do a cost-benefit analysis. Ask yourself about the payoffs to smoking vs. the payouts. Chances are the second list will be longer.
  • Ask yourself what your triggers to desiring a cigarette are. Some have said stress, break time, relaxation, boredom, being around other smokers, it’s something to do with their hands, and just a habit.
  • Create healthier options. Take a walk, meditate, exercise, chew gum, drink water, be with non-smokers, spend time in nature, read, listen to music, dance or volunteer.
  • Remind yourself of the paradox of using smoking to relieve stress because it puts pressure on your body to work harder.
  • Change your routine. If you crave a cigarette first thing in the morning, get up and out into your day instead. Brush your teeth immediately rather than reaching for a smoke. Keep something nearby to do with your hands.
  • Make a list of options that start with this phrase: “Instead of smoking, I could…”
  • Become aware of the benefits of quitting, which include:
  • Twenty minutes after your last cigarette, your blood pressure and pulse normalize.
  • After the first eight hours, your oxygen level in your blood becomes normal.
  • The chance of heart attack decreases after the first 24 hours.
  • From that point, and over time, your health risks plummet to close to those of someone who never smoked.
  • Get involved in a smoking cessation program, such as one at or a local hospital. Some companies have programs for their employees. Join thousands who have quit via The Great American Smokeout, which occurs on the third Thursday in November.

There’s tremendous support available so you can celebrate smoking cessation as part of your recovery — and be all the healthier for it.

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