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Quitting smoking

For women and health professionals

The problem

Cigarette smoking is still the most important avoidable cause of death in disability in developed countries like Australia with 1 in 5 deaths attributable to tobacco use1

Currently, about 1.3 billion smokers live in the world; most (84 per cent) live in developing countries2. With the present smoking trends, tobacco will kill 10 million people each year by 20203.

Smoking begins as a voluntary habit but soon becomes an addition because of nicotine. Nicotine meets the criteria of a highly addictive drug. Nicotine is a potent psychoactive drug that induces euphoria, and leads to nicotine withdrawal syndrome when it is absent.

What are the benefits of quitting?

Quitting will improve our health, no matter how old you are4 and no matter how long or many cigarettes you have smoked. Quitting reduces your chance of dying of heart5 & lung disease6 or cancer. It also reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes7 and osteoporosis8.

Why is quitting so hard?

Nicotine is an addictive drug. When smokers quit they have withdrawal symptoms including anxiety, depression, anger, irritability. These symptoms peak in the first 3 days and then gradually reduce over the next 3-4 weeks

What should I do if I want to quit?

Successful quitting depends on three very important elements: social support, pharmacological therapy and counseling9.

  • Social support: Tell your family & friends you are quitting. Remove cigarettes from your home car & work. Try to avoid smokers and places you associate with smoking. Start exercising or find a healthier social group activity.
  • Pharmacological therapy: nicotine patches help reduce the body’s craving for nicotine. It is available as gum, lozenge, inhalers and a nasal spray10 Bupropion also called Zyban or Wellbutrin is a prescription medicine that reduces your desire to smoke11. Varenicline also called Chantix reduces the withdrawal symptoms.
  • Counseling: Both individual and group psychotherapy are effective in achieving smoking cessation12. People who are motivated enough to attend a counselor will quit in 1 out of 13 cases13.

Resources

You may need several attempts at stopping. It has been shown that success is more likely with the support of agencies such as those listed below.

References

1. Smoking-attributable mortality, years of potential life lost, and productivity losses--United States, 2000-2004. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2008;57(45):1226
2. Esson L, Leeder SR. The millennium development goals and tobacco control: an opportunity for global partnership. Geneva: World Health Organization (WHO); 2004
3. World Health Organization. Why is tobacco a public health priority? A Tobacco Free Initiative; 2005
4. Mortality risk reduction associated with smoking cessation in patients with coronary heart disease: a systematic review. Critchley JA, Capewell S. JAMA. 2003;290(1):86
5. Smoking status and risk for recurrent coronary events after myocardial infarction.Rea TD, Heckbert SR, Kaplan RC, Smith NL, Lemaitre RN, Psaty BM. Ann Intern Med. 2002;137(6):494
6. Tobacco and cancer: recent epidemiological evidence. Vineis P, Alavanja M, Buffler P, Fontham E, Franceschi S, Gao YT, Gupta PC, Hackshaw A, Matos E, Samet J, Sitas F, Smith J, Stayner L, Straif K, Thun MJ, Wichmann HE, Wu AH, Zaridze D, Peto R, Doll R. J Natl Cancer Inst. 2004;96(2):99
7. Active smoking and the risk of type 2 diabetes: a systematic review and meta-analysis.Willi C, Bodenmann P, Ghali WA, Faris PD, Cornuz J. JAMA. 2007;298(22):2654
8. Smoking, smoking cessation, and risk of hip fracture in women. Cornuz J, Feskanich D, Willett WC, Colditz GA. Am J Med. 1999;106(3):31
9. The Tobacco Use and Dependence Clinical Practice Guideline Panel, Staff, and Consortium Representatives. Treating tobacco use and dependence: A U.S. Public Health Service report. JAMA 2000; 283:3244.
10. Etter JF, Huguelet P, Perneger TV. Nicotine gum treatment before smoking cessation: a randomized trial. Arch Intern Med. Jun 8 2009; 169(11):1038-34
11. Fiore MC. Treating tobacco use and dependence: an introduction to the public Health Service Clinical Practice Guidelines. Respir Care. Oct 2000; 45(10): 1196-9
12. Individual behavioural counselling for smoking cessation. Lancaster T, Stead LF. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2002
13. Coleman T. Use of simple advice and behavioural support. British Medical Journal 328: 397-399, 2004

Content updated 13 April 2012

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