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Dr Duncan

Going to war against smoking

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In my callow youth, I was quite dogmatic about people who smoked: if they wanted to quit, it was no big deal, they should just quit! At that time I was just a little ignorant of the facts on nicotine addiction and how hard it can be for many people to actually stop smoking.

Unless you have been in an induced coma, or have just arrived from the planet Gonzo in a distant galaxy, you will be aware of the public health information that tells us that smoking causes cancer, smoking causes heart disease, smoking ruins your lungs and so on, yet sadly, people still smoke and more smokers seem to be appearing in films and in TV programs. The good news is that here in Australia the percentage of people who smoke is dramatically lower than it was 25 years ago, but there are still a stubborn number of people who continue to smoke and young people continue to take up the smoking habit despite all the health warnings.

There is no doubt that if a mad scientist were to develop the ideal method of getting people hooked on nicotine, then the perfect weapon of mass destruction would be the cigarette. Within 12 to 20 seconds of inhaling the tobacco fumes, nicotine is bathing the brain: a fiendishly fast and effective way of feeding an addiction. Breaking the habit and ending the addiction starts with a decision, but requires a plan just like all good and effective strategies do. Just making a decision by yourself has about a 5% success rate, but if you take a ‘team approach’ then that success rate will rise to over 30%. And if you don’t succeed the first time, you try, try and try again and you will succeed in the end!

This is War!

Once you have made a decision, you then need to move onto a ‘war footing’ as your enemy is subtle and will try to catch you unaware. You need to know that your enemy will not give in easily and you may want to use some ‘chemical weapons’ to weaken his grip in the first few weeks. These are based on substances that contain controlled amounts of nicotine such as patches, gums, tablets, lozenges, and sprays. As with all medications, you do need to know how they work and if they are suitable for you. They can have side effects and they can interact with other medications, but for the vast majority of people they are safe and effective: if in any doubt, always discuss with your family doctor.

Zyban, is a different type of medication that works on the brain to reduce addiction. It needs to be taken under medical supervision and as part of a quit program and is very effective. It too can have side effects and you need to be able to understand and recognize these.

Now you have some weapons of your own, you need to surround yourself with a good, supportive team who will be there for you if things get sticky. One of the insights about quitting is that it involves not only changes of habit, but changes of routine and environment too. If you mix with other smokers, or your partner at home smokes then the chances of success recede dramatically. Part of your ‘military strategy’ is to realize that you will be more vulnerable in certain situations and to prepare thoroughly when entering those ‘high risk zones’. Involve your partner with the Quit challenge and plan to work/relax with people who tend to be non-smokers or who are sensitive to your decision to quit.

And even once you have the weapons, and you’ve got your partner on side at home, and you’ve identified those at-risk moments where you might weaken and have a puff, there will also be those moments that you didn’t expect when you have a crazy desire to have “just one” cigarette. That’s why things such as the Quit line, quitnow.gov.au, Phone Apps and other online Blogs come in very handy as they make you realize that you’re not alone and there are literally thousands of people out there who want you to succeed and who are there to support you through these challenging moments.

We know that quitting is good for your long term health, but working on your current health by being physically active will also help you quit smoking too! If you get an “urge” then going for a walk, jog or just running on the spot in the office will help delay your decision to smoke and reduce the chances of you actually doing so. This is a classic win-win situation as you’re getting fit and stopping smoking at the same time: winners are grinners!

There is no one-size-fits-all quit regime that works for everyone and it’s good advice to talk with someone with experience of the various quit programs before you try to stop by yourself, and your family GP is a good starting point for that.  Once you have the information, the tools to complete the job and a whole team working with you I have no doubt that you will succeed. And the next best thing after quitting yourself is helping someone else stop smoking too.
 

Article written by Dr. Duncan Jefferson. For more articles by Dr. Duncan, click here. For more information on healthcare and private health cover, visit HBF Insurance at hbf.com.au.

The content of these articles is not tailored for any particular individual's circumstances. The author does not take into account your physical condition, medical history or any medication you may be taking. Any advice or information provided by the author cannot replace the advice of your health care professional. The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not represent those of HBF unless clearly indicated.

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