In every issue of WebMD the Magazine, we ask our experts to answer readers' questions about a wide range of topics. In our November-December 2011 issue, we asked James Beckerman, MD, WebMD's heart health expert, for tips on quitting smoking.
Q: I'm finally ready to quit smoking. Do you have any tips for making it easier?
Smoking in America is down -- but not out. Today, 20% of U.S. adults are smokers, compared to 45% in 1965, when smoking was at its peak. But even at the current level of tobacco use, an estimated 440,000 Americans per year lose their lives to lung cancer, heart disease, emphysema, or other smoking-related illnesses. On average, smokers die 14 years before nonsmokers, and half of all smokers who don't quit are killed by their habit.
People start smoking for many reasons. Many continue to puff...
A: We all know that being tobacco-free is essential to a healthy life. In fact, the most recent report from the Surgeon General details how any exposure to tobacco smoke is harmful. Here are some pointers for quitting:
Make it your idea. I talk about smoking cessation every day. But I can tell which way things are going to go pretty quickly by asking just one simple question: "Do you want to quit?" People who truly want to quit are generally successful. Those who don't find it more challenging.
Make it convenient. Ashtrays, matches, or lighters can all trigger your desire to smoke. When you plan your quit date, make sure that these reminders are out of the way, too.
Don't avoid medication. Understandably, many people seek a natural approach to lifestyle changes. But research data confirms: It's very hard to quit on your own. Nicotine addiction is an acquired medical condition. Talk to your doctor about smoking cessation aids. They can double your chances of quitting successfully.
Quitting isn't easy -- that's why so many people try it several times before succeeding. But with a goal in mind, smoking accessories out of sight, and the help of some medications, you can finally kick the habit.