Quitting smoking is ‘the number one best decision an individual could ever make in their life’

Now that the holidays are over, many people will start the New Year looking to make a change.

quit-smokingFor some, that change might be to eat healthier or exercise more. Others will look to be less stressed or to spend more time with family. But the new year can also be a time to make one of the most important decisions in some people’s lives: to quit smoking.

“The new year is a perfect time to think about quitting,” said Cathy Wyatt, Assistant Director of Disease Prevention Programs at Indiana University’s Health Center. “Even if you start out reducing your smoking, now is a great time to take a first step.”

Cigarette smoking is the leading cause of preventable disease and death in the United States, accounting for one in every five deaths each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Smoking doesn’t just affect the person inhaling the cigarette. Of the 480,000 Americans who die from smoking-related diseases each year, 41,000 of those deaths are from exposure to secondhand smoke, according to the CDC.

When approaching quitting, Wyatt encourages smokers to be strategic about their plan, find one that fits their needs and lifestyle, and prepare themselves for potential ups and downs. Most people who attempt to quit smoking require multiple attempts.

“It doesn’t have to be all or nothing right off the bat,” Wyatt said. “A person who has smoked for years is going to have a completely different set of barriers than a person that has only been smoking two or three years. It’s about finding what works for you.”

IU offers support, counseling and free nicotine replacement therapy for full-time IU employees and spouses enrolled in an IU-sponsored medical plan. The IU Bloomington campus also offers a free, weekly tobacco cessation clinic for students, their spouses and dependents 12 and older.

Cathy Wyatt

Cathy Wyatt, Assistant Director of Disease Prevention Programs at the IU Health Center.

There are also a number of resources through the state and organizations such as the American Cancer Society that offer support and services for people interested in quitting.

Smokers can have many concerns about quitting, Wyatt said, including the fear of gaining weight, becoming moody or irritable and losing the social aspect of smoking. Cigarette smoking is both physically and emotionally addictive, Wyatt said, so it is important to address both aspects when deciding to quit.

Some smokers also have the misconception that electronic cigarettes — battery-operated devices that deliver nicotine and other chemicals in vapor instead of smoke — are safer and will help people quit smoking, Wyatt said. However, the health effects of e-cigarettes, which are unregulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, are still largely unknown.

“Don’t count on e-cigarettes as an alternative,” Wyatt said. “Breaking the behavior — hand to mouth and the inhale — is key. We are not helping ourselves by substituting the same action with what we perceive to be a safer product. Plus, it hasn’t been proven to be safer, so you are still taking a chance.”

Whether it’s tapering off slowly, quitting cold turkey or simply gathering information on ways to quit smoking, Wyatt said the most important thing is taking a first step. Whichever path you chose, making the decision to quit is one you will not regret, she said.

“Quitting smoking is the number one best decision an individual could ever make in their life for their health and the future of their own environment,” Wyatt said. “It is absolutely doable and although challenging, it is the most empowering choice they will ever make.”

Tags: , , ,