(dailyRx News) November 19 marks the Great American Smokeout, the American Cancer Society's annual event to encourage smokers to kick the habit.
The majority of smokers and nonsmokers alike know that quitting a smoking habit is tough. In fact, that's one reason some nonsmokers give for not starting in the first place. Many would-be nonsmokers have tried to end their addiction but haven't been as successfully as they would like to be.
Smoking cessation isn't just about saving money or ending constant harassment about the stench of cigarette smoke that clings to practically everything it encounters and the hard-to-remove stains of nicotine on teeth and fingernails. Quitting smoking is one of the most important things a person can do to improve his or her health. Kicking the habit can significantly reduce a person's risks for cancer and other diseases, such as heart and lung disease.
"Quitting smoking is a wonderful thing to do for yourself and your loved ones, but it can be really hard without help," says Jennifer Irvin Vidrine, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Health Disparities Research at The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center. "A great way to reduce withdrawal symptoms while you are trying to quit is to use some sort of nicotine replacement therapy."
Fortunately, a variety of these therapy products, also called smoking cessation products, are on the market, and many are sold over the counter at pharmacies and mass merchandise retailers. But knowing which one is appropriate can be difficult. To that end, the M. D. Anderson Cancer Center has some advice.
Patches. The patch delivers a steady stream of nicotine that helps reduce the highs and lows of nicotine withdrawal. The products are not without side effects, though. People with sensitive skin may develop a rash when using this product. Placing the patch on a different area of the body every day can help reduce the likelihood of this side effect.
Gum. Since smoking is an oral activity, swapping cigarettes or chewing tobacco for chewing gum seems like a no-brainer. It's a great way to keep a mouth busy without a cigarette, and the product delivers small doses of nicotine. Gum and their follow-on product, lozenges, can be ideal for people who are habitual about when they smoke.
Unfortunately, the most common problem with nicotine gum is that people often misuse it. It's not like regular chewing gum: Instead, a person must chew the gum, tuck it between the cheek and gum and let it sit for a while to allow the nicotine to enter the bloodstream. If not chewed as directed, the user won't get the full dose of nicotine.
Lozenges. Lozenges came onto the market as a response to the difficulty some people had using nicotine gum correctly. These products can be a good choice for habitual smokers who are accustomed to having a cigarette with that midmorning cup of coffee or who turn to tobacco products to soothe themselves when stressed. Lozenges are also appropriate for people trying to kick their habit who don't want to deal with the unsightly bulge caused by having a wad of nicotine gum tucked between their gum and cheek,
Although they're easier to use than the gum, lozenges can leave a film in the mouth. It also can leave users with stale breath.
Nasal spray. The nasal spray, available by prescription, is like many sprays on the market for runny noses and allergies. Because the nasal spray is a single shot of nicotine, it works faster than nicotine gum and lozenges, plus the amount of nicotine delivered isn't impacted by what the user eats or drinks. And unlike the patch, nicotine nasal sprays can be used exactly when a craving hits.
Like all the other smoking cessation products discussed so far, the nasal spray is not without side effects. It can sting the inside of the nose. It also is just one shot, so if a person smokes because she or he likes the habit, this product isn't appropriate.
Inhalers. Inhalers aren't just for asthma sufferers. Inhalers, available only by prescription, work fast like nicotine nasal sprays, and they're certainly faster than nicotine gum and lozenges. Additionally, nicotine inhalers are much like nasal spray products in that they deliver a measured amount of nicotine the instant it's needed, but the nicotine blast isn't quite as harsh as the nasal spray.
The biggest problem some people encounter with nicotine inhalers is that they can be impractical or awkward to use. Some people find using the inhaler in social situations awkward--if not alarming--for the people around them. Furthermore, an inhaler takes up more space in a pocket or purse than a pack of gum or blister of lozenges.
Because smoking cessation is a struggle, pharmaceutical makers have developed nearly a nicotine replacement product for every personality. Says Damon J. Vidrine, Dr.P.H., assistant professor in the Department of Behavioral Science at M. D. Anderson , "You really can't go wrong with any nicotine replacement therapy, I recommend, however, trying the patch first. The patch delivers a steady, low-dose stream of nicotine to your system that reduces cravings."
Adds Jennifer Vidrine, "To help yourself quit, I strongly recommend a nicotine replacement product in combination with counseling."
"Your goal should be complete cessation," urges Damon Vidrine. "It shouldn’t be just to cut back. This can be difficult, but nicotine replacement products, non-nicotine medications and counseling really do help people who want to quit."
Although private smoking cessation counseling can be difficult to obtain due to time or money constraints, several free smoking cessation hotlines are available:
- American Cancer Society -- 1-800-QUIT NOW
- National Cancer Institute -- 1-877-44U-QUIT
Breaking a tobacco habit is one of the most popular New Year's resolutions, but why wait until January 1? The Great American Smokeout on November 19 is just as good a day as any to start kicking butts.