“Giving up smoking is the easiest thing in the world. I know because I’ve done it thousands of times.” (Mark Twain)
If you have started reading this article for yourself with the goal of doing something about your smoking habit, you have already made a good decision towards that change.
Tobacco kills more people than any other drug and it is the most addictive of all drugs. It is a major contributing factor in 4 of the 5 leading causes of disease, disability, and death in the United States, and it would be much the same in Australia.
- One out of 10 smokers will be disabled.
- Five out of 10 smokers die of smoking-related disease (50%).
- Tobacco is responsible for 30% of all cancer deaths in the United States.
- Tobacco smoking is one of the largest preventable causes of death and disease in Australia.
- Smoking is estimated to kill almost 19,000 Australians every year.
- A smoker’s chance of surviving the use of tobacco is very low. On average, smokers die 10 years earlier than non-smokers.
A Closer Look into Why People Smoke
In my work as a clinical counsellor, people often ask me about how to quit their addictions, especially smoking tobacco. I find it interesting that so many smokers still believe it is difficult to quit, as it never becomes easier to stop smoking than today!
There so many ways that you can quit, some of which will follow. You pay to smoke – it pays to quit!
Let’s take a closer look into why people smoke.
It is surely not because it is a clean, beautiful habit, and you enjoy coughing and spitting.
It is not because it makes your breath nice; in fact kissing you it looks like licking an ashtray.
It is not because you want to make yourself a role model for your children to follow.
It is not because it makes your teeth and your fingers beautifully yellow.
It is not because it makes your dress, your clothes, your car, or your apartment/house fresh and attractive.
It is not because you want to check out how much poison your body can endure before you finally die.
It is not because you like to abuse your body.
It is not because you want to advertise to everyone how insecure and nervous you are.
Then, why do you smoke? Or why should you quit even if you are enjoying it?
You have to find that answer for yourself. Motivation to change someone’s behaviour comes from within over a number of stages.
Sometimes it can be a single but powerful event such as the death of someone very close to us, who died of lung cancer as a result of smoking.
Sometimes it can be even more personal, like an asthma attack, that can trigger of our desire to make an immediate change.
I do not have any doubt that smokers enjoy their smoking because there is a number of psychological effects smoking cigarettes can give them, despite that they already know of negative physical effects.
At the beginning of the 20th century tobacco cigarettes began to be manufactured and spread across the globe, making millions of people into nicotine addicts. After more than a century, there are still people who believe nicotine or tobacco smoking is not addictive, especially amongst young persons. The initiation into smoking is a social phenomenon, and it is linked to a peer-group pressure (especially among young people), social norms and accessibility.
Once they are on the dependency treadmill however, it becomes a different story and difficult to get off.
What is an Addiction?
The World Health Organisation (WHO) defines an addiction/dependency using the following three criteria:
- A substance is used on a regular basis to maintain a blood level, to which a tolerance develops.
- The substance is used to prevent withdrawals and causes relapse.
- The substance is used in the face of known physical and social detriment.
This applies to smoking cigarettes too. There are about 4000 different chemicals in a cigarette, but it is the nicotine that ‘makes’ people smoke.
Nicotine comes from the tobacco plant. It is an odourless, colourless alkaloid and is best absorbed in an alkaline environment, so smokers often prefer to smoke with an alkaline such as a coffee or alcohol, and do not enjoy it with, for example, a citrus fruit juice as it is acidic and makes the absorption of nicotine too slow.
Nicotine is not stored in the body, it lasts for up to 12 hours, and that’s the reason why addicted smokers need to smoke immediately after waking up in the morning. We can talk a lot about what nicotine does, but it is more important to learn about how to quit and about nicotine withdrawal syndrome, as it will help with any relapses.
Nicotine and alcohol inter-react powerfully in the brain. Most illicit drug users smoke. Marijuana has often been smoked along with tobacco and it seems to have an influence on the people’s need to smoke cigarettes. Many cigarette smokers smoke marijuana too. I have met very few smokers of marijuana that do not smoke cigarettes.
Those who try to stop smoking experience withdrawal affects with anxiety, irritability and even aggression, making it more difficult to quit.
Benefits of Quitting
Most (if not all) former smokers agree that a whole new life is waiting for you once you give up smoking. The benefits of quitting can be seen as:
- Short-term benefits. Within a week, sense of taste and smell significantly improves. Within four weeks, blood circulation improves and heart rate slows down, and blood pressure also decreases.
- Long-term benefits. The risk of getting lung cancer decreases by up to 50% within 10 years of quitting. Also, the risk of coronary heart disease will drop 50% within a year after quitting.
- Other benefits. Cigarettes are very expensive. Smokers also spend more money on insurance, especially life insurance.
Today it is easier to stop smoking than any time before!
Preparing to Quit Smoking
Even though nicotine is very addictive, thousands, even millions of smokers have become tobacco-free, and you can too, by taking a few simple steps:
- Get yourself ready. Plan ahead, at least a week or two. You probably procrastinated too many times already so make the decision and take action.
- Prepare yourself physically. Sleep enough each night, preferably 8 hours. Drink 6-8 glasses of water every day. Eat a healthy breakfast every morning. Take a walk every day. See your dentist to check/clean your teeth. Ask your doctor for clearance to start exercising.
- Prepare yourself mentally. Believe in yourself. Believe you are becoming free of nicotine addiction. Occupy your hands. Imitate non-smokers, especially how they handle stress.
- Prepare yourself socially. Think about the situations where you may be around your friends who are smokers. Make plans on how to politely avoid smoking and drinking friends, even smoking family members, co-workers, etc. where you can be pressured to smoke.
- Prepare yourself spiritually. Not all people go to church, mosque or temple, but everyone is a spiritual being. We all believe about the universe. We all have moral values. Consider calling on a higher power for help. Pray or ask others to pray for you. Meditate.
- Keep a record. Especially during the first 2 days, keep a record of every cigarette you smoke or every time you have the urge to smoke.
- Set the break-free date. You are now ready to quit. Try smoking less of each cigarette you smoke. Refuse to smoke when you have a weaker urge. On the break-free date, throw away all cigarettes, cigarette butts, ashtrays, lighters, and anything else that may remind you of smoking.
- Prepare yourself for a relapse. On average, people try 7 times to quit before they finally succeed. If you found yourself smoking a cigarette before you even realise you are a non-smoker, don’t give up. Just stop. And try again. Choose again to be smoke-free. Be ready to resist your urge to smoke.
- Plan your big victory. The big victory celebration should come one year after you stooped smoking. Calculate the money you have saved, and spend it on something really meaningful to you.
- Plan your long term success. Now you become an expert on how to quit smoking! Help someone else quit smoking by using your own experiences. Support those who still struggle with nicotine addiction and encourage others, especially youngsters, never to start.
In conclusion, when times are tough, hang in there. Be alive and live your magnificence and help other people live their magnificence. If you find it difficult, ask for help. Difficult does not mean impossible. As a quit smoking coach, rehabilitation counsellor, clinical social worker and psychotherapist, I have helped numerous individuals to successfully deal with their addictions and I am ready to help you too.
Author: Nenad Bakaj, MHumServ (RehabCouns), BSocWk, DipAppSci (Comm&HumServ), AMHSW, MAAC, MAASW, JP (Qld)
Nenad Bakaj is a Brisbane based Clinical Counsellor, Accredited Mental Health Social Worker, Life Coach and Bigger Bite Out Of Life Trainer with a keen interest in positive psychology, mental health and wellbeing, and is continually developing his professional skills and knowledge. Nenad enjoys working with adolescents and young adults, as well as older clients, and feels it is a privilege to be able to support them. In the counselling room, Nenad aims to build rapport with his clients to assist them to reach their health, relationship, personal and life goals, and a happy and fruitful life.
To make an appointment with Brisbane Multilingual Counsellor, Accredited Mental Health Social Worker and Life Coach, Nenad Bakaj, try Online Booking. Alternatively, you can call Vision Psychology Brisbane on (07) 3088 5422 or M1 Psychology Loganholme on (07) 3067 9129.
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