No Ifs, Ands, or Butts - It's Time To Quit

Wendy Porter-Ouellet By Wendy Porter-Ouellet, 26th May 2013 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Health>General Health>Managing Health Care

Unfortunately for some of us silly people, we started a very bad habit at some point in our lives, smoking cigarettes, and then found out just how difficult it is to quit. I have read in several articles that quitting this nasty habit is as difficult, if not more difficult, than quitting cocaine or heroin. Although I know nothing of the latter, I do know very well how hard it is to quit smoking, having attempted to stop smoking several times before finally succeeding in 2008.

What Have I Done?

Tell me if you think I'm crazy...
Over the course of 30 years I have managed to burn approximately $109,500. Up in smoke. Gone. Poof. Or perhaps I should say, Puff. And as if that wasn't bad enough, much worse in fact, is that I have managed to poison myself on a daily basis, thereby shortening my life by 4,680 days, or 12.82 years. Seems like an endless act of insanity doesn't it? Or at the very least, one of blatant stupidity. How could I have heaped that kind of abuse upon my body, the only one I've got, for such a long time?

What I am referring to of course is the powerful and potentially fatal addiction of cigarette smoking; a filthy, disgusting habit I share with millions of people, men and women alike. According to Stats Canada in 2010, people in the 18 to 24 age group formed the highest proportion of smokers, 28%. Overall, the statistics show that 24.2% of Canadian men and 17.4% of Canadian women were cigarette smokers.

Some History and Information

Early in the 17th century, England's King James the first issued this statement, "Smoking is a custom loathsome to the eye, hateful to the nose, harmful to the brain, dangerous to the lungs, and in the stinking fume thereof, nearest resembles the horrible Stygian smoke of the pit that is bottomless." King James the first was quite possibly the world's first note-worthy anti-smoking spokesman. He was certainly on the right page in regard to the perils of smoking tobacco. And yet here we are, some 400 years later, still puffing our lives away.

Information through education is plentiful, having steadily gained momentum since the 70s, so we cannot claim we simply didn't know all the harmful ramifications of smoking. There is absolutely no valid excuse for any of us to continue smoking, knowing what we now know, other than the irrefutable fact that it is possibly THE most powerful addiction known to man.

Cigarette smoking is the largest preventable cause of death among both men and women, and even though we share many of the same smoking-related health risks as men, such as lung, mouth, larynx, pharynx, esophagus, kidney, pancreas and bladder cancers, there are numerous risks that are uniquely ours.

Women and Smoking

Starting to smoke during our teenage years, many of us never gave a second thought to the repercussions of our actions. We didn't think about things like the effect smoking cigarettes could possibly have on our reproductive systems (or every other system in our body), or the fact that we were picking up a habit every bit as addictive and dangerous as cocaine or heroin. If only we had then we would have learned such life-altering information as, smoking does not mix well with pregnancy, fertility and contraceptives. Let's face it, smoking does not mix well with much of anything.

Smoking during pregnancy is associated with pre-term delivery, placenta previa, low birth-weight, miscarriage and stillbirth. Babies born to mothers who smoked while pregnant come into this world with nicotine in their bloodstreams and then must suffer through the discomfort of withdrawl in their first days of life. What a welcome.

Sadly, for some women, conceiving can be difficult, if not impossible and this can be directly linked to smoking. Evidence shows that women smokers have around 72% of the fertility that non-smokers have. When all other factors are equal, it is 3 to 4 times more likely that smokers will require one or more years to conceive as opposed to non-smokers.

Another area in which female smokers face serious health risks is in the use of oral contraceptives. Blood clots, heart attacks and strokes are a very real and deadly possibility, especially from age 35 on. The message here is implicitly clear, if you are taking the pill for birth control, do not smoke, as the two together can be a lethal combination.

Once the child-bearing years are over, along comes menopause, sometimes arriving one or two years earlier in women who smoke. And with menopause comes the loss of estrogen, which protects womens' hearts and makes it possible for their bones to absorb calcium. Now, enter the significant increase in the risk of bone loss and osteoporosis. Women who smoke one pack of cigarettes per day often experience a loss of bone density equaling five to ten percent more than non-smokers by the time they reach menopause.

Add to this disturbing list of "female-smokers-only" health issues, menstrual difficulties such as abnormal bleeding, amenorrhea (the absence of periods), vaginal discharges and infections. Each of these are common complaints among female smokers. While regular pap tests should be a priority for all women, they are vitally important for women who smoke since studies have shown that smoking may lead to the development of cervical cancer, a deadly disease that often strikes younger women. Another gynaecological cancer that is found to occur 40 percent more often in females who smoke is vulvar cancer.

Cancer is frightening, to say the least, but it isn't the only disease that smokers need to fear. Heart disease is the number one killer of women in both Canada and the U.S, surpassing even breast cancer. Although it can strike at any age, heart disease is of greatest concern for women over age 55.

Sadly, the addictive qualities of nicotine often overpower a smoker's fear of premature death from any one of these horrible diseases, and the reality is, smokers are much more likely to die younger, often in middle-age (40-60).

The Good News

Even amidst all the devastatingly bad news there is good news, and that is that it is never too late to quit smoking. Mark Twain once said "Quitting smoking is easy, I've done it a thousand times." While I didn't try to quit a thousand times, I did make several attempts before I finally succeeded. And easy is not a word I would use to describe what it's like to quit smoking. Research shows that for some of us, it may take numerous attempts before we can finally kick this deadly habit for good.

One thing is for certain, there is no magic formula when it comes to quitting the nasty habit of smoking. What works for some will not necessarily work for others but there are a number of options available to help a smoker succeed in their quest to quit.

First and foremost you have to want to quit. It simply does not work if your primary reason for quitting is to please someone else. As much as our friends and loved ones may want us to stop smoking, it must be embedded in your mind, in your heart and in your very soul, that you have had enough, it is time to throw away the cigarettes. You have to quit for YOU. Determination and will-power are definitely two very useful and necessary weapons to have in your arsenal, and for some smokers, that is all they need. Cold turkey, however, isn't for everyone, me included. For those of us who require heavier artillery, there are a handful of medications which your doctor can prescribe, including Zyban (Wellbutrin) which comes in pill form, nicotine nasal spray and inhalers. There is also nicotine gum, nicotine patches and nicotine lozenges, all of which you can purchase over-the-counter at any pharmacy. Using any one of these proven cessation treatments alone or with individual, group or phone counselling, can double your chances for success.

Once you have made the commitment to quit smoking there are certain steps you need to take which will help to ensure your success. Various studies have shown that choosing a specific date for quitting is extremely helpful. In the days or weeks before you quit it can be helpful to get rid of anything related to smoking, like ashtrays, lighters and matches, which you may have in your home, car or workplace. You don't want or need any reminders to haunt you. Also, try to stay away from people who smoke as the smell can be a definite trigger and you don't want to be breathing in the second-hand smoke either.

Developing a plan of attack for the times when a craving hits is essential. Smokers tend to associate specific activities, occasions and places with having a cigarette so it's extremely beneficial to be prepared for this and to know ahead of time what you're going to do to replace lighting up a cigarette. Some smokers use food or chew gum, although if you are substituting with these you'll need to be careful that you don't go overboard and start packing on the pounds which is so easy to do. Perhaps you decide to go for a walk, soak in the tub, learn how to knit or crochet or some other crafty pasttime, anything (within reason) is better than lighting up that cigarette. Most cravings only last three to five minutes, a good time to distract yourself by talking to someone or busying yourself with a task or activity like those I listed above.

Changing routines may be necessary for a while as well. If you are a coffee drinker, switch to tea, eat your meals in a different location, drive another route to work, anything to change it up. To ease the stress you are bound to encounter, go for a pedicure, read a favourite magazine or maybe treat yourself to a massage once a week. Even though it might not be at the top of your list, exercise is a proven stress-buster and a mere five or ten minutes per day is worthwhile. Not only will exercise aid in the relief of stress, but you will be laying the groundwork for a whole new lifestyle, a healthier, smoke-free existence, a new and improved woman (or man) of the 21st century.

At the age of 48 I was a woman who had been chained to cigarettes for more than half her life. I was tired of smelling like an ashtray, always trying to hide my yellowed fingers, embarrassed by nicotine-stained teeth (gross, as my kids said), and seeing evidence of my skin ageing prematurely. Lastly, I did not want to be a social pariah.

I chose my quit date, I bought lots of gum and candy, threw away the ashtrays and lighter, did my homework by reading all I could about how to quit and I did stop smoking...for a brief period of time. Unfortunately, that attempt did not stick, and I was right back at it, smoking even heavier than before, and I hated myself. With a husband who was a smoker I just could not get away from it, or at least that's the excuse I used at the time although in my heart I knew this was only a small portion of what drew me back into that nasty habit. I continued to smoke, and to beat myself up on a regular basis for almost two more years. My children were constantly nagging me to quit again which I found to be annoying at the time, but thank God they did because that was ultimately what it took to get me to quit . And I did this time, for good. These days, I chew a lot of gum but I no longer smoke, and I can honestly say that even though there are occasional moments when I feel a slight craving, I really don't miss smoking. Now, if I could just get my husband to quit...maybe some day.


Smoking, Smoking Cessation, Smoking Habit, Smoking Information, Smoking Risks, Women And Smoking

Meet the author

author avatar Wendy Porter-Ouellet
Introducing, Wendy Ouellet, a young-at-heart woman who is a wife, a mother of four incredible kids, a former education assistant and now a stay-at-home writer. Many interests, skills and expertise.

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author avatar Mark Gordon Brown
27th May 2013 (#)

I quit smoking a few years ago, it was a very hard thing to do but I am a million times over happy that I did it.

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author avatar Wendy Porter-Ouellet
27th May 2013 (#)

Good for you Mark, congratulations! It is one of the hardest things I've ever done but like you, so happy I did it!

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