A recent survey found an overwhelming majority of smokers and non-smokers alike agree; quitting smoking is hard. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 67 percent of adults in Tennessee who smoke tried to quit in 2013. It can take several quit-smoking attempts before someone becomes completely smoke-free, but it’s important to remember that every smoker can quit.
The American Lung Association says there is a “three-link chain” of physical, social and mental aspects to smoking addiction. Smokers have a better chance of quitting and staying smoke-free if they address all three parts of the chain:
• Physical: When inhaled, nicotine releases dopamine in the brain and makes a smoker feel good. After the dopamine release depletes, the smoker craves another cigarette, and over time builds up a tolerance to nicotine, meaning they have to smoke more to feel the same effect. Talking to a health care provider about quit smoking medications can help alleviate this physical addiction.
• Mental: The act of smoking is often a part of one’s daily routines. Lighting up at specific times of the day – when drinking coffee or driving or when stressed or tired – is common. Proven methods to quit smoking include identifying these triggers, and relearning and adjusting behaviors and routines through a quit plan.
• Social: Social groups are sometimes formed around smoking-through smoke breaks and habits of a friend group. Turning that concept on its head by relying on social groups that support a quit smoking attempt can be helpful. Encouragement from family and friends, as well as others that are also quitting smoking, can be beneficial to successfully quitting.
“The health benefits of quitting smoking are immediate and substantial,” said Danielle Brown, program manager at the American Lung Association in Tennessee. “Twelve hours after quitting, the carbon monoxide level in your blood drops to normal, and within three months lung function begins to improve, and common symptoms like coughing and shortness of breath decrease.”
Only 4 percent to 7 percent of smokers who try to quit cold turkey are successful in remaining smoke-free for up to one year. Every smoker can quit and the way to success includes creating a plan that fits the smoker’s quit goals and unique lifestyle. Through the American Lung Association’s Freedom From Smoking program, participants learn how to set a quit date, address smoking triggers and urges and stay motivated throughout the duration of a quit attempt.