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The Great American Smokeout: Quitters Always Win

Monday, November 15, 2021

We’ve all heard the saying, “Winners never quit, and quitters never win.” But, when it comes to quitting smoking, this saying could not be further from the truth.

If you are a tobacco-user wanting to quit, let’s try a new saying — quitters always win. You might ask, what is a quitter’s winning prize? A healthier, longer life.

November 18 is the American Cancer Society’s Great American Smokeout, a day used to encourage tobacco-users to make a plan and quit. Join Iredell Health System, along with thousands of tobacco-users across the country, in the challenge to be tobacco-free for 24 hours.

You do not have to quit smoking in one day. Start with day one. Let November 18 be your day one.

“Not only does quitting help you live a longer, healthier life, but it helps protect the health of your family and friends,” said Angela Little, a respiratory therapist with cardiopulmonary rehabilitation at Iredell Health System.

Smoking Harms
Most of us know smoking harms, but did you know it negatively affects almost every part of our bodies?

According to Little, smoking can internally damage your entire cardiovascular system, raise your cholesterol and blood pressure, weaken your immune system, cause infertility and erectile dysfunction, damage your lungs and cause COPD, and puts you at high risk for several types of cancer.

Smoking can also affect your outward appearance causing aging and wrinkles, dry skin and psoriasis, unhealthy teeth and mouth sores, yellow fingers, and poor vision and cataracts.

Additionally, smoking can harm you mentally and emotionally by creating anxiety, irritability, and mood changes.

Luckily, all of these harms from smoking, and more, are preventable.

Quitting Smoking
Quitting smoking can reduce your risk for several of the harms mentioned above. But quitting is no easy feat.

Nearly 70% of current adult smokers across the county said they want to quit, according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

The FDA states that nicotine, the highly addictive drug in tobacco products, is the main reason people continue to use tobacco, even when they want to quit.

Whether you’re having a stressful day and craving tobacco or have a slip, quitting is difficult, and there will most definitely be bumps in the road. But, do not let these bumps discourage you. Quitting smoking takes time, and even small successes are wins.

According to Little, the first step in successfully quitting is to make a plan. Set a quit date, build social support, learn how to deal with smoking urges, and use tobacco cessation medications to help relieve physical symptoms.

“To get started in your journey to quit smoking, focus on your motivators, learn from past experiences, and manage your stress. Remember, it’s never too late to quit, and you do not have to quit alone,” she said.

“The first 7-10 days after quitting are the toughest, and you may need the most help during those early days,” she added.

There are many ways to get help with quitting, according to Little. These include:

  • Smoking medications
  • Patches
  • Nasal sprays
  • Inhalers
  • Lozenges
  • Non-nicotine medications
  • Support groups - in person, online, or through a mobile app
  • Self-help workbooks
  • Smoking cessation classes

“If you are trying to quit, do not switch to e-cigarettes. Substituting one addiction for another is not quitting,” said Little.

How to Help a Friend
When a friend or a loved one decides to quit using tobacco, make sure to give them the help they need. Be supportive and encouraging without policing them.

Try to ignore mood swings from your friend, and offer distractions to tobacco triggers. You can also help them by exercising together. Exercising relieves stress and cravings and keeps the hands and mind busy.

If your friend has a slip, acknowledge how tough quitting is, and offer non-judgmental encouragement. Celebrate them for making the attempt to quit.

“A slip does not mean you are a tobacco-user again as long as you keep trying. Don’t give up; you will be able to quit for good,” said Little.

Mark Your Calendar
As the Great American Smokeout approaches, start on your quit plan. Mark your calendar for November 18 as your quit day.

If you need additional support, set up an appointment with your primary care provider to discuss tobacco cessation methods and medications.

For free quit support, call 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669).