You already know that smoking is bad for you, and you may have tried quitting in the past. You also know that a smoking habit is becoming more and more costly.
More than 50 years ago, the Surgeon General reported the health risks associated with cigarette smoke. Since 1964, the number of Americans who smoke has dropped by half, but an estimated 20 million people still lost their lives since then due to health problems from cigarette smoke.
Nearly seven out of every 10 smokers wants to quit, and half of all U.S. smokers tried to quit smoking in the preceding year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
On November 16, the American Cancer Society’s Great American Smokeout kicks off. This annual event encourages smokers to make a plan to quit smoking, but what are the most successful and scientific ways to finally kick that habit? We took a look at the most scientifically successful ways to snuff the butt once and for all.
The American Cancer Society has some dire statistics about smoking, the top being that almost half of all Americans who keep smoking will die because of the habit. Each year, more than 480,000 people in the United States die from illnesses related to tobacco use, and smoking cigarettes kills more Americans than alcohol, car accidents, HIV, guns, and illegal drugs combined.
Smoking doesn’t just cause cancer, it affects organs throughout the body, including the mouth, skin, eyes, reproductive organs, and heart. In addition, smoking leads to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which is a long-term lung disease. It is the third leading cause of death in the U.S. and the risk of COPD grows the longer you smoke.
Emphysema and chronic bronchitis, which are forms of COPD, are also common diseases for smokers. Emphysema cannot be cured or reversed, but it can be treated if the person stops smoking.
Other ways tobacco affects your health include:
- Increased risk of gum disease and tooth loss
- Longer healing time
- Decreased immune system
- Increased risk of type 2 diabetes
- Premature aging of the skin
- Bad breath and stained teeth
- Increased risk for cataracts, macular degeneration, and other eye issues
- Lower bone density that could increase the risk for broken bones
- Higher risk of rheumatoid arthritis
- Increased risk of peptic ulcers
How to quit smoking the scientific way
A successful plan to kick the habit could be a mix of medications and counseling, experts say, but each smoker is different. Some of the most common, successful strategies for quitting include the following.
Nicotine replacement therapy
Dozens of different devices are available to deliver nicotine slowly to reduce the withdrawal symptoms of quitting smoking. Nicotine replacement therapy includes inhalers, nasal sprays, lozenges, gum, and skin patches. Studies have shown that smokers who use them increased their success by 50 to 70 percent.
Several prescription drugs are available to help smokers quit. Varenicline (Chantix) works to disrupt the nicotine receptors in the brain by reducing the pleasure a person gets from smoking and reducing withdrawal symptoms.
Bupropion is marketed under the names of Zyban, Wellbutrin, and Aplenzin and works as an antidepressant. The drug affects the chemicals in the brain that crave nicotine and reduces withdrawal symptoms. This medication is usually prescribed a week or two before a person actually quits.
Other drugs are being studied that show promise, according to the American Cancer Society. A drug called cytisine is being studied in the United States, and a drug called naltrexone, used to combat alcohol and opioid abuse, is also being studied as a way to help people quit.
Anti-smoking vaccines are currently being tested. The vaccine would incorporate a series of shots that would encourage your body to develop antibodies to nicotine, eventually rendering it non-addictive.
A study in the New England Journal of Medicine showed that people who have a financial incentive to quit showed impressive success after at least 12 months. Geared like a challenge, the participants are given a monetary reward, free nicotine replacement therapy, and counseling.
Counseling, acupuncture, hypnosis, and herbal remedies are sometimes used to help people quit smoking. Results vary from person to person.
Many states in the U.S. have free tobacco cessation programs available that provide free nicotine replacement therapy, phone and group counseling, and plans to help smokers quit.
As with all medications, it’s best to talk with your doctor or pharmacist about the best options for you. Combining medications or replacement therapy with counseling could be the best plan to finally snuff out smoking for good. Use your free Community Cares Rx Prescription Discount Card to receive up to 70 percent off generics and 20 percent off brand name medications at your local pharmacy.