Nov. 16 is The Great American Smokeout

By Natalie Dorsey, PA-C

Thinking of quitting smoking and don’t know how? Have you tried to quit smoking, but started back? You are not alone. Tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of mortality. On the third Thursday of November of each year since 1977, the American Cancer Society has sponsored the “The Great American Smokeout” to help encourage people put down their cigarettes.

There are multiple ways to quit smoking that can be tailored to your needs.  They all start with picking a “quit date.” Research shows that it is best if the quit date is 2-4 weeks from the time you make the decision to quit. Here are some tried and true methods for kicking the habit:

1. Cold Turkey: This method can be done a few different ways. You can go from smoking 1 pack a day to not smoking at all. Or you can pick a date and cut back the number of cigarettes you are smoking each day until the date you stop. Others have found books such as Allen Carr’s “Easy Way to Stop Smoking” helpful.

2. Nicotine Replacement Therapy: This consists of patches (long-acting nicotine replacement) and short-acting nicotine replacement (lozenges, gum, oral inhalers, and nasal sprays). These are dosed based on how many cigarettes per day one is smoking. Research shows that a combination of the patch, with a short-term replacement hourly while awake and then as needed for cravings is the most effective use of nicotine replacement. Most of these products are available over the counter, but the oral inhalers and nasal sprays are only available through a prescription. A long-term replacement (patch) is tapered over 8-10 weeks and the short-term replacement is used regularly the first 6 weeks and tapered the next 6 weeks.

3. Medications: Chantix (varenicline) and Zyban (bupropion) are two oral medications used to help people stop smoking, When Chantix is started, a quit date is chosen 7-35 days after the medication is started. Then the medication is continued for 12 weeks after you have stopped smoking. For Zyban, a quit date is set 7-14 days after initiation. It is then continued for an extended time (sometimes up to 6 months) to help curb cravings.

4. Behavioral therapy: This can come in a range of programs, but is recommended for anyone who is wanting to quit smoking in conjunction with above methods. Programs can be web-based, via phone calls, or in person. Success rates for cessation of smoking improve dramatically with the addition of behavioral therapy. Mission Health has a Nicotine Dependence Outpatient Clinic and 1-800-QUIT-NOW is a free telephone program. Also, many employers and health insurance companies provide behavioral support with quitting smoking.

No matter which method you chose, The Family Health Centers is here to support you through the process. Don’t be discouraged if you stop and then start back. Most people will make multiple attempts to quit smoking before it “sticks.” Each time you attempt to quit is a time you learn more about what works and what doesn’t work for you. Each time you try to stop, you will be one step closer to quitting for good.