It’s Time to Quit Smoking

If you were told that a daily habit put you at two to four times the risk of heart disease and three times the risk of stroke, would you change your ways? Smoking is linked to heart disease and stroke—and numerous cancers including lung, esophageal, oral, pancreatic, kidney, cervical, colon and more.

Matthew H. Gibson, M.D., with Meritus Family Medicine-Williamsport shares that along with life-threatening conditions, smoking also increases the risk of peptic ulcers, bone fractures, cataracts and possibly Alzheimer disease. In addition to physical harm, smoking inspires children to become next-generation smokers, places a strain on the family budget and threatens the health of family members due to second-hand smoke.

Yet given these factors, many people continue to smoke. In fact, a recent Community Health Needs Assessment survey conducted by Healthy Washington County indicates that smoking is a top health concern in our community.

So why can’t people quit smoking? “Nicotine is an addictive substance similar to illegal drugs,” says Dr. Gibson.” “It stimulates the release of dopamine, a chemical produced in the brain which is associated with the feeling of pleasure.”

Commit to quit

Dr. Gibson, like many physicians, encourages his patients to quit smoking and provides them with options including nicotine replacement therapy that comes in the form of gum, patches, sprays, inhalers or lozenges. He also suggests prescription drugs like Chantix and Wellbutrin to help quit tobacco.

Some of Dr. Gibson’s patients quit cold turkey and others slowly cut back their tobacco consumption. “I promote the concept of a ‘quit day’ as a firm commitment to self, family and friends,” says Dr. Gibson.

To increase chances of success, smoking cessation programs help smokers understand and cope with problems they have while trying to quit. Research from the Washington County Health Department indicates that along with nicotine replacement therapy, the more education people have about smoking cessation, the higher the quit rate. To support this, the Washington County Health Department in collaboration with Meritus Health offers Beat the Pack: Tobacco Free for Life, a four-week evidenced-based smoking cessation class.

Watch the triggers

To stay on course with smoking cessation, Dr. Gibson recommends identifying triggers that cause you to smoke and:

  • Keep your hands and mouth busy (squeeze a handball or chew gum)
  • Distance yourself from people who smoke.
  • Cut back on alcohol as it reduces willpower as it is associated with smoking.
  • Watch caffeine consumption as it may cause anxiety and trigger a desire to smoke.
  • Keep moving. Exercise can distract you from smoking.

The pay off

“It often takes several attempts to quit smoking, but persistence will pay off,” says Dr. Gibson. Soon after quitting smoking, food tastes better, the sense of smell returns to normal and blood circulation and lung function improves. One year after quitting, the risk of coronary heart disease is half that of someone who still smokes.

Beyond the health benefits, when you quit smoking, you are no longer under the control of the habit. Gone are the days of sneaking a smoke, shivering outside and lying to your loved ones about a harmful habit.