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Butt Out Now: How to Stop Smoking and Stay Cigarette-Free
Have you ever thought about what makes cigarettes so appealing? Perhaps you're feeling pressure from friends to smoke, or maybe you're just curious about what it's like to inhale. Maybe you think smoking will make people like you more or help guard against weight gain. Whether you want to kick the habit or you're worried about a roommate or friend who smokes, read on.
Using tobacco can spell big trouble for your health. Did you know that nearly one in every five deaths is due to smoking? Nonetheless, according to The American Lung Association, an estimated 19 percent of college students smoke. Beyond threatening your health, smoking in college has been linked to other problems, including poor academic performance. And a study done at the University of Wisconsin showed that 90 percent of regular college smokers and 50 percent of occasional college smokers were still smoking for at least four years after college—a great reason to never start.
Know What You're Inhaling
Cigarettes contain over 4000 chemicals, more than 60 of which are known to cause cancer in humans. Examples include tar, carbon monoxide, ammonia, butane (found in lighter fluid), arsenic and formaldehyde. Most people wouldn't willingly put these toxins in their body. But that's what you do every time you light up. Even if you don't smoke, you're still exposed to dangerous chemicals.
The Nicotine Addiction
So why are cigarettes addictive? The drug nicotine. Your brain comes to crave nicotine to the point that you need it just to feel good. The younger you are when you start smoking, the more likely you will become strongly addicted. And the longer you smoke, the more damage will be done to your body.
Put Your Pack Down
More than giving you yellow teeth, bad breath, frequent respiratory infections and weakening bones, smoking can kill. Smoking is a leading cause of death from cancer, and it causes nearly 90 percent of lung cancer deaths. In addition to lung cancer, smoking causes cancers of the esophagus, larynx, mouth, throat, kidney, bladder, pancreas, stomach and cervix. It also contributes to heart disease, emphysema and other health problems later in life.
Lung cancer is now the leading cause of cancer death in women and men. Smoking causes about 90 percent of lung cancer deaths in men, and nearly 80 percent of lung cancer deaths in women.
So to sum it up, smoking leads to:
- bad breath
- yellow teeth and cavities
- smelly clothes
- increases in the number and severity of respiratory illnesses, such as asthma and bronchitis
- reduced physical fitness, making it more difficult to play sports and exercise
- weakened bones (osteoporosis)
- damage to your lungs and heart, robbing years of life
Think about quitting today. You only have one pair of lungs, and the sooner you can quit smoking, the better. Need another reason? Think of the money you'll save.
How to Quit
To successfully quit, you need to be willing to break habits associated with smoking. Follow these tips:
- Choose a "Quit Day" within the next two weeks.
- Use the Internet to take advantage of online smoking cessation programs like www.smokefree.gov. These tools can help you track your success.
- Avoid places where you would normally light up.
- Stay away from alcohol, which can reduce your willpower.
- Exercise and drink plenty of water.
- Plan activities to keep your mind off smoking.
- Tell friends and family members to be supportive.
- Ask about smoke-free dorms.
- Ask your health care provider about over-the-counter nicotine replacement products (gum and patches).
Be prepared to deal with the symptoms of withdrawal, which include cravings and irritability. Knowing what to expect will better prepare you for being able to quit. Repeatedly tell yourself, "I can quit smoking." Once you do, you'll look, smell and feel a lot better.
Questions to Ask Your Health Care Professional
Talk to your health care professional and find out what resources your campus health service offers students who want to quit smoking. You may want to ask:
- What smoking cessation programs are available?
- Which nicotine replacement products would you recommend?
- How will my body react to quitting smoking?
- What can I do to counteract my cravings?
- How can I boost my willpower in social settings?
American Lung Association
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
© 2012. National Women's Health Resource Center, Inc. All rights reserved. All content provided in this guide is for information purposes only. Any information herein relating to specific medical conditions, preventive care and/or healthy lifestyles does not suggest individual diagnosis or treatment and is not a substitute for medical attention.