Getting the facts on tobacco and quitting

CigaretteEach type of tobacco product carries risks

Are some tobacco products less harmful than others? No, I don’t believe so. Each tobacco product carries its own health risks:

Smoking causes chronic bronchitis, emphysema/COPD and lung cancer. Snuffs, dips, chews and plugs cause head and neck cancers. Vaping causes life-threatening pneumonitis, an inflammation of the lung. All products with nicotine, including gums and patches, may lead to hypertension, heart attacks, strokes and peripheral arterial disease, including erectile dysfunction.

I also want to highlight that all smokers and vape users do poorly if they get COVID-19. They are much more likely to suffer serious complications or death than healthy, non-tobacco users.

The sooner a person quits tobacco use, the sooner they start moving to better health. Evidence suggests that once a person has stopped using tobacco products for 20 years, their risk of heart attack, stroke or cancer becomes equal to the risks of non-smokers.

Take a deep breath and see a new future.

Quitting smoking is very hard, and not restarting is even harder. The physical symptoms of withdrawal—like irritability, shortness of breath, headaches, anxiousness and fatigue—last only three to five days.

Most people can get through the withdrawal symptoms, but later start using tobacco again. So getting tobacco free can take several tries.

If someone is not even contemplating the idea of quitting tobacco products, obviously they won’t quit.

No one is going to wake up tomorrow and forget they dipped or smoked. So contemplating an attempt to quit is definitely the first step.

Make a plan to quit tobacco.

Set a quit date and prepare. Pick a date 7-10 days into the future. Get some sugar-free gum or hard candy as a replacement, to give your mouth something to do. Plan what you’ll do with the free time you have, now that you won’t be taking tobacco breaks. This is important! A smoke break is dedicated “me” time, and your brain will miss that break if you don’t fill it with a satisfying replacement activity.

See your primary care doctor for help. Your doctor can talk with you about various tools and resources. Pharmaceutical products designed to help people quit tobacco use may not work for everyone, but they do help many people.

Enroll in a tobacco-cessation program. Studies on two medications—Chantix (varenicline) and Zyban (bupropion)—show that people are much more likely to succeed if the medications are used in conjunction with an education program. The classes provide important information, and a treatment plan can be customized to you. They also serve as reinforcement. Making time to participate in a class and joining a group requires commitment. This helps you stay committed to your tobacco-cessation efforts.

If you are contemplating a tobacco-free phase of your life, make an appointment to see your doctor. At PacMed, we offer virtual and in-person appointments.