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Extinguish that smoking habit

Dr. Drew Werner
newsroom@vaildaily.com
Vail CO, Colorado

VAIL, Colorado ” Happy New Year! Each year around this time I often write a “quit smoking” or other New Year’s resolution article. A commitment for a new start fits the season. Not surprisingly, it is also the peak time of year for nicotine, Chantix and Zyban sales, all of which are smoking cessation medications. Before we start, though, I would like to ask you to think back 359 days ago to your 2008 New Year’s resolution. Did you successfully follow through? Was quitting smoking on your list of things to do?

While we can achieve great things, we rarely, if ever, exceed our personal goals. Mount Everest cannot be climbed if you never step foot from base camp. I encourage you to set your goals and write them down. I will ask next year how you did.

Dear Doc,



I’m finally ready. I know I need to do it. What can you do to help me quit smoking?

“Sick of Being Sick in Eagle



Dear Sick of Being Sick,

Congratulations! Best wishes! You’ve made an incredibly important decision. It is one which will change your life more than I hope you’ll ever know. In order to give you the help you deserve, I’m actually going to devote this topic to two weeks. Today I’d like to talk about quitting smoking. My smoking spiel as it may be. Next week we’ll look at medications and other commitments.

Perhaps most importantly, you’ve made the biggest step ” commitment! All the ideas, suggestions, help and encouragement won’t help a bit if you’re not ready and committed. There is no magic bullet, pill or patch that will quit for you. If you’re not quite ready, think about this: It is a rare person that doesn’t quit smoking. It sounds simple, but it is very true. The only people that don’t quit are those that die of some tragedy, usually prematurely. A terrible car accident, sudden massive heart attack, or other life-ending event takes the smoker before his or her time. For many it is the impending tragedy that signals the motivation to quit. Your doctor is usually the bringer of the bad news:



“I’m very sorry, but that spot on your lungs is cancer and we’ll need to start chemo …”

“You are ready to get discharged from the hospital. I’ll arrange for the oxygen to be delivered to your house because you won’t be able to breathe without it. Make sure you don’t smoke or you could blow up!”

“Yes, you had a small heart attack. I’m so glad you are recovering. It is very important to quit smoking so you don’t have another one.”

That news can be motivating indeed. My message is: If you know you are going to quit sooner or later, why wait?!

Now that you’ve decided to quit, we need to think about the four reasons why you smoke. In no particular order, they include nicotine addiction, habit, stress and social reasons. Working on each reason is the key to success. With respect to the addiction, medications are often very helpful. Stay tuned next week. For the rest, remember it will be like you’re giving up your best (but evil!) friend.

First things first! When to start? Two months away is too far. It is too easy to talk yourself out of it or to keep pushing it off. Tomorrow is too soon ” you need to prepare! No time is perfect. Our lives are too busy to wait until it is just right. When you are ready, write down your commitment. Put it on your refrigerator. Share it with all your friends. Ask those who can support you to help and equally importantly, ask your smoking friends to refrain from tempting you to have just one. Finally, in those last few days as a smoker, stop emptying the ashtrays and throwing out the cigarette butts just to remind yourself what you are putting in your body. The last day or two, change brands. It will help avoid the great smoke out (just had to finish the last pack). If you smoke lights, switch to a stronger brand. If regular smokes are your thing, change to menthol. Those last cigarettes won’t taste as good and the memories of the last few won’t be so strong.

Next, change your routine. When do you smoke? Look at your habits and change them. Here are some ideas for what to do.

The routine: Smoking first thing in the morning.

How to change it: Get in the shower or go to a different room.

The routine: Smoking after meals.

How to change it: Get up and brush your teeth or go for a walk. If you’re eating out, sit in the non-smoking section.

The routine: Smoking in the car or truck.

How to change it: Take out the ashtray, remember not to pollute (don’t throw butts out the window). Keep Tic Tacs, gum or toothpicks handy.

The routine: Smoking while on the phone.

How to change it: Tic Tacs, mints or gum for that oral fixation. Keep a rubber ball or something else handy to fidget with. Busy hands don’t smoke!

The routine: Sitting in a favorite chair.

How to change it: Rearrange the furniture. Sit somewhere else.

The key is not just giving up the cigarettes, but making other life changes too. It involves a paradigm shift. Start living as a non-smoker rather than as a smoker. Next time I will share more information on the benefits of quitting and various medications that help.

If you have a New Year’s resolution you would like to share (let me know if you want to include your name) e-mail me at cschnell@vaildaily.com.

Remember your health is your responsibility. Health is our greatest asset and it doesn’t happen by accident. If something doesn’t seem right, or questions are left unanswered, don’t wait, call your doctor.


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