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By Sophia Haloulos
For more than 40 years, the American Cancer Society has hosted The Great American Smokeout® — a day that encourages smokers to take the first steps toward quitting. This year’s event is November 17.
JoAnn Eriksson, APN-CNS, a NorthShore Kellogg Cancer Center Advanced Practice Provider, shares some valuable smoking cessation advice. She said, “When tobacco is burned, 7,000 chemicals are released into the smoke which people inhale when smoking.” Some of these chemicals are lead, arsenic and cyanide, which are known poisons. People would never knowingly ingest these chemicals, but they are inhaling the poisons without knowing it.
Smokers who begin in their teens and early twenties develop more nicotine receptors in their brain. This, along with behavior patterns developed over the years when smoking, makes tobacco cessation difficult. It takes smokers an average of four to five attempts to quit for good, but success is more likely when working with a trained smoking cessation counselor.
Nicotine gum and lozenges are helpful when used with nicotine patches. If used correctly, they can assist with long-term smoking cessation. However, it’s best to work with a counselor about the most effective way to dose and use them. Other medications are also available to assist with nicotine addiction if approved by a medical professional.
Smoking cessation treatment can be hugely beneficial to cancer patients. It can help patients decrease the side effects and improve their response to different types of cancer treatments. Eriksson reports that one patient who stopped smoking said, “I feel so good now, I will never return to smoking.” She didn’t realize until after she went trick or treating with her grandson that she didn’t need to stop frequently to catch her breath. Her breathing improved so much that she was able to cut down on her breathing medications and stop using oxygen. NorthShore has six trained counselors for individuals with a recent cancer diagnosis.
In addition to first and second-hand smoke, third-hand smoke also poses dangers. Cigarettes leave residue on clothes, furniture and walls, exposing people to third-hand smoke and toxic chemicals.
Smoking is more than just a bad habit, it’s an addiction. Behaviors developed over the decades make quitting more challenging. While medications can help to manage the physical symptoms of nicotine withdrawal, the behaviors associated with the addiction take time to change and overcome.
If you’re looking to quit smoking and need assistance, check out the following valuable resources: