/ by Audrey Darville, PhD, APRN, CTTS, FAANP
Written by Audrey Darville, an associate professor in the UK College of Nursing and a certified tobacco treatment specialist.
Quitting tobacco is the single best thing a person can do for their health and well-being. The Great American Smokeout on Thursday, Nov. 15, is the perfect opportunity to talk about what is available to help Kentuckians quit and to stay quit. It is also a good day to give quitting a try.
Tobacco use is a chronic addiction to nicotine that causes severe health conditions, such as heart attacks, stroke and cancer. The good news is that when you are off tobacco products, these bad effects will be greatly reduced or even reversed. Within days to weeks of quitting, heart and lung function improves, and most people begin to notice a positive effect on their well-being.
How to quit and stay quit
On any given day, about half of tobacco users think about quitting using willpower alone. In fact, trying to quit “cold turkey” has a poor success rate: Only five out of 100 people are successful in quitting when only relying on willpower.
Medications, such as nicotine replacement, treat nicotine withdrawal symptoms and help tobacco users stay quit. Nicotine withdrawal commonly causes feelings of nervousness, irritability and the inability to think clearly and leads to strong urges to use tobacco. Without medication, experiencing these symptoms will usually lead to a quick return to using tobacco products.
Currently most Kentucky insurers, including Medicaid, cover all proven smoking cessation treatments without copays. Therefore, quitting saves you money, and getting help is free. Most plans cover:
- All seven medications: nicotine patch, gum, lozenge, inhaler and nasal spray; bupropion (Zyban®); varenicline (Chantix®).
- Individual cessation counseling.
Coverage in most cases is available for at least two quit attempts per year.
Group and telephone counseling through Quit Now Kentucky (1-800-QUITNOW) are also available for free and may also provide free nicotine replacement. Online support is also free at smokefree.gov and cancer.org/smokeout.
Don't replace cigarettes with e-cigarettes
There is a common misconception that electronic cigarettes are a safe alternative to tobacco cigarettes. Recent studies have shown that the "vapor" from e-cigarettes is actually a toxic aerosol of fine particles that inflame the airways and can have other potentially harmful effects on your body. E-cigarettes are not an FDA-approved smoking cessation method, and smokers who use e-cigarettes often delay quitting and are less likely to stay quit than smokers who use proven cessation treatments.
If you use tobacco, think about quitting for the Great American Smokeout, and know that you do not have to do it alone. The single best thing any tobacco user can do for their health is to quit, so get help and free yourself from tobacco.
For more information, contact BREATHE, an initiative from the UK College of Nursing.