Alverine Mack, certified tobacco treatment specialist at Optima Health, talks about the risks associated with smoking, as well as some healthful tips on how to quit smoking.

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Alverine Mack, certified tobacco treatment specialist at Optima Health, talks about the risks associated with smoking, as well as some healthful tips on how to quit smoking.

What are some of the major health risks of smoking?

Smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in the USA. Major risks of smoking include heart and blood vessel damage from the nicotine, which can contribute to stroke, heart attack and kidney failure (American Heart Association, (AHA) 2010). Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is one of the major outcomes from exposure to secondhand smoke, which contains harmful chemicals (American Lung Association, (ALA) 2009). Cancer causing chemicals increase the risk of cancer throughout the body, especially lung, pancreatic, bladder, and prostate cancer (American Cancer Society, 2009).

Does smokeless tobacco smoking have health risks?

Smokeless tobacco contains several chemicals found in cigarettes. The potential harm is somewhat reduced due to the absence of smoke; however, diseases of tissues in the mouth, throat and gums are common. This includes cancer (Center for Diseases Control (CDC) 2010).

How harmful is second-hand smoke?

Research shows that medications such as nicotine replacement therapy assist with tobacco cessation by reducing withdrawal symptoms. A combination of tobacco cessation counseling and medications produce the best results. Nicotine replacement (NRT) therapy, such as patches and gum, is available over the counter, however if you plan to use any cessation medication, talk to your doctor to discuss the plan first. (Fiore et al, 2008).

What are some tips to quit smoking?

  • Make the decision and commitment to stop -whether you want to do so or not.
  • Use available resources to learn about the dangers of smoking to you and those around you; 1-800-QUIT NOW, BecomeanEx.org.
  • Make a plan – start with reducing the amount of cigarettes that you smoke
  • Think about why you smoke and when you smoke.
  • Use the Five D’s (USPHS, 2008)
    • Delay lighting one
    • Do something else to distract yourself
    • Drink water to help reduce nicotine levels in your body.
    • Deep breathing will reduce anxiety.
    • Discuss your feelings with a friend or family member

Are smoking prevention tools such as the gum or the patch effective?

Research shows that medications such as nicotine replacement therapy assist with tobacco cessation by reducing withdrawal symptoms. A combination of tobacco cessation counseling and medications produce the best results. Nicotine replacement (NRT) therapy such as patches and gum are available over the counter, however if you plan to use any cessation medication, talk to your  doctor to discuss the plan first. (Fiore et al, 2008).

What is your best advice to someone trying to quit smoking?

Decide that you deserve to be healthy. Learn about the harmful effects of tobacco and secondhand smoke. Remember this is a lifelong threat. Understand how you and your family are affected. Make a plan to stop. Reward your progress using healthy actions. Consider how much money you will save and plan something special. Avoid being around smokers and secondhand smoke, even after you quit. Relapse is NOT Failure.

What is the Optima Health smoking cessation program?

“Get Off Your Butt: Stay Smokeless For Life” is a free program designed for first-time quitters or those who have attempted to quit using tobacco products. Optima Health provides a CD and workbook for individuals wanting a self-paced program in the comfort of their home. A community tobacco cessation group program is available for the Southside, Peninsula, and Williamsburg areas. Call 1-800 SENTARA (1-800-736-8272) for registration information.

  • Download the Smoking Cessation Resource Guide