Smoking cessation
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Smoking Cessation is the effort taken to keep from smoking tobacco products. Nicotine, a substance found in tobacco, is considered extremely addicting. Nicotine is taken in by the body through inhalation of tobacco smoke where it is rapidly absorbed by the lungs. According to the World Health Organization, the use of tobacco products such as cigarettes is one of the leading causes of death worldwide.


Studies have shown that premature death due to the side effects and complications of tobacco addiction is commonly preventable. Approximately 50% of people who fail to quit smoking typically die of smoking-related illnesses. In fact, smoking and exposure to secondhand tobacco smoke causes nearly 500,000 deaths in the U.S. annually. Forty percent of these deaths are claimed by cancer, 35% stemming from heart disease and stroke, while the remaining 25% are related to lung disease.

Smoking Cessation is not an easy road to take. It is a day-to-day struggle against an addiction, and each day that a person spends without lighting up a cigarette comprises a minor victory that ads up to the final major accomplishment of quitting for good.

A 2006 survey showed that 43 million U.S. adults, about 20% of the population, were smokers. Seventy percent of these smokers expressed a desire to quit the habit, and in the same year almost 19 million of these chain-smoking adults ceased smoking for at least a day.

Research has shown that in 3 to 5% of attempts to quit, smokers have succeeded through the use of willpower. Combined with nicotine replacement therapy, this margin is increased by as much as 10%. Psychotherapy, group therapy, or support from a trained counselor have the same success rate, and the best method has been found to be a combination of appropriate medication and psychological counseling.


One of the symptoms of Smoking Cessation is the craving for tobacco. When a smoker tries to quit, the body starts craving the nicotine it used to get. Smoking triggers such as stress, coffee breaks, a whiff of secondhand smoke or even the sight of other people smoking will cause these cravings to escalate. These cravings are not just psychological but physical as well. The heart rate will shoot up and so will the blood pressure.

Cravings typically begin after the first hour of Smoking Cessation. They tend to increase within the next few days and will normally last for more than a week. These cravings are strongest during the first week and the urge to smoke ebbs and flows. But these last for only a short duration as incidence of cravings get further and further apart.

The symptoms of Smoking Cessation will depend on how addicted the body is to nicotine and how strong the person's willpower is to quit. The quitter will feel frequent sensations of hunger, discomfort and irritation, and the inability to concentrate. Headaches are common and so are persistent coughing, constipation and mouth ulcers. These symptoms are known as nicotine withdrawal symptoms. They will be felt strongly during the first few days following Smoking Cessation but fade away within a couple of weeks.
Smoking cessation
Image: Smoking cessation

There are other short-term effects as well, which include sadness and anxiety, restlessness, and insomnia. Another symptom, depression, is felt particularly strongly in women. Women will find it even more challenging to quit during some phases of their reproductive cycle. Smoking Cessation will also cause an increase in appetite which will bring about some weight gain. This symptom can be remedied by a low-fat diet and regular exercise.

It will usually take several tries before a smoker succeeds in quitting. While some people prefer to quit “cold turkey”, others prefer to take it a step at a time with the help of how-to manuals, medication, nicotine replacement products and counseling. Smoking Cessation is a trial-and-error procedure and it will take quitters some time before finding the right method that works best for them.

There are also other strategies that have been used to urge smokers to stop. Among these are advertising campaigns, tobacco taxes, raising the price of tobacco products, and smoking restriction policies.

Health-wise, quitting a smoking habit will benefit the person. The absence of nicotine will result in an improvement of blood circulation as carbon monoxide levels begin to subside and high blood pressure returns to normal. Any existing breathing problems cease and a person's sense of smell and taste get better. Smoking Cessation will lower the risk for cancer and increase a person's lifespan by up to 10 years if Smoking Cessation is began in early adulthood.

Smokers who quit are also benefited by improved mental health and lesser occurrences of diseases usually associated with old age, such as arthritis and osteoporosis.

When smokers often find it difficult to quit, one of the complications of Smoking Cessation is falling back into the habit after a couple of weeks or months of not smoking. However, persistence is the key, and people who have stayed away from smoking for 3 months or more have a greater success rate of quitting for good. Smokers have a better chance of quitting with adequate mental preparation, support and encouragement from family and friends, coping mechanisms for stress and cravings, the correct medication, preparing themselves for any chances of relapse, and the determination to keep trying until they succeed.


Treatments to aid Smoking Cessation include medications like Buproprion (Zyban), an antidepressant that can reduce cravings and nicotine withdrawal symptoms; Varenicline (Chantix) which block nicotine effects during periods of relapse; nicotine replacement products such as patches, gum, nasal sprays or inhalers, and lozenges. Smokers who combine medications with nicotine replacement products have a higher rate of success compared to smokers who rely on only one type of therapy. Advice or counseling from a medical professional can also aid the smoker in quitting. Other alternative therapies include hypnosis, acupressure, laser therapy, and acupuncture which other people claim to be effective in easing nicotine withdrawal symptoms.


Being aware of trigger factors that can cause a smoker to relapse is one of the ways of preventing a return to smoking. There are some preventive measures to take when cravings hit which include relaxation methods like deep breathing, hot baths, or taking long walks. Incorporating new habits and staying away from tempting situations also help, as well as chewing sugarless gum, celery, cinnamon sticks, or even just holding a toothpick in one’s mouth.

Doctors recommend positive thinking, brushing one’s teeth, exercising, eating several small meals a day, and rewarding oneself for each day’s small victory. The American Cancer Society also has a hotline at 1-800-ACS-2345 that people can call for support.

Nicotine replacement therapy combined with medication, counseling, motivation and support have proven to be effective in helping with Smoking Cessation on a long-term basis. Abstaining from smoking can be maintained with greater success if the quitter is able to refrain from relapsing after three years.

A study published in Health Day has found that smokers who have a higher educational attainment are more likely to cease smoking after being exposed to ads promoting Smoking Cessation. It was found that 65% of smokers who hold college degrees were able to make attempts at Smoking Cessation after having seen the ads. The rate was higher for smokers with a more elevated economic status.
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