Even the thought of giving up smoking is a first success. The compulsion to always have a supply of cigarettes can become annoying.
The knowledge that one’s health is being seriously damaged or the thought that one is wasting a lot of money – smoking a pack of cigarettes a day can cost the equivalent of a vacation trip in a year – are also arguments against smoking. However, smoking is not only an addiction to nicotine, but is also associated with other quite positive habits and feelings – and this complicated mixture makes quitting so difficult!
What to do?
It is helpful to draw up a list of arguments for and against smoking. Then you have to consider if you want to quit at all. Those who have not yet made up their minds should start by thinking about why they smoke each cigarette as they light it and carefully consider the arguments:
1. Smoking from nicotine addiction
The addictive, immediately noticeable effect of smoking is mainly due to nicotine and begins with the first puff on the cigarette. After about 20 minutes, it has largely subsided again. Heavy smokers have after this
Time already craving the next cigarette again. Other, and worse, health effects are not caused by nicotine, but by some of the more than 4,000 chemical substances in tobacco smoke. It is a carcinogenic mixture of harmful substances that is dangerous to health and can attack the entire organism. Most commonly damages respiratory tract (chronic bronchitis, lung cancer) and blood vessels (heart attack, stroke, "smoker’s leg").
The physical dependence exists, but is not very strong – no smoker wakes up at night with the need to smoke urgently.
The psychological dependence is more pronounced: those who want to do without cigarettes during the day experience unpleasant withdrawal symptoms after only a short time. Thoughts revolve around smoking only.
Nicotine replacement products can help. However, because nicotine replacement products only curb part of the addiction, namely the purely physical one, these products alone cannot make a smoker a non-smoker. However, along with other smoking cessation strategies, they are a very helpful part of therapy.
Nicotine replacement products
They all contain nicotine, a substance that, among other things, has a vasoconstrictor effect and is therefore harmful to health. Nicotine alone, however, is nowhere near as dangerous as many of the chemicals in tobacco smoke that enter the body in addition to nicotine when smoked. Before use, the general practitioner should be consulted as to whether there are any health concerns about its use. The instructions on the package insert should be followed exactly.
Nicotine replacement products come in different strengths as patches, gum or nasal spray.
Some are available over-the-counter in pharmacies, others require a prescription. Nicotine replacement products work somewhat differently. Every smoker should try out which dosage form is best for him in which situation: Nasal spray works fastest and is most similar to smoking in its effect, chewing gum must be chewed slowly, because only the part of the nicotine can develop its effect that is absorbed through the oral mucosa.
If too much nicotine gets into the stomach, it can cause stomach problems.
Nicotine patches are best for long-term use. Rule of thumb on dosage level: it is too high if dizziness, diarrhea, palpitations or similar symptoms occur, too low if there is still an almost constant craving for a cigarette.
Smoking during stress
Nicotine can have a relaxing effect, but this effect can also be achieved in other ways. You should plan how you will relieve tension in typical stressful situations in the future (z.B. in the morning rush hour or during arguments). There are a large number of relaxation techniques (autogenic training, yoga) that you can learn on your own at home or in courses.
Smoking in a cozy atmosphere, for stimulation
If you smoke in a relaxed atmosphere, you will certainly not manage to stay smoke-free, at least not for a while. Therefore, one should avoid "smoking rounds" or ask good friends not to smoke when one is present. All situations in which
You should either avoid or change, as much as possible, the situations you used to smoke regularly, so that they no longer seem familiar and do not trigger the feeling of needing to smoke.
smoking to maintain body weight, to be attractive
Smoking suppresses the feeling of hunger. In addition, the sense of smell and taste are disturbed. As a result, one eats less than a non-smoker. However, one constantly smells of tobacco (even if one no longer notices it oneself), fingers and teeth are yellowish, skin looks gray and wrinkled. Consciously eating foods rich in vitamins and fiber and drinking plenty of fluids (preferably mineral water) helps to maintain weight or keep it from rising much. It can also prevent constipation. The skin regains better blood circulation and looks healthier. Visits to the sauna reinforce the positive body sensation that is re-established. You no longer smell like cold smoke, you can breathe freely again and you take z.B. perceive the scent of flowers again much more intensively. As physical fitness increases again, it is also easier to maintain a slim line through exercise.
How to quit?
The most successful: the dot-finish method. Choose a day (New Year’s Eve, beginning of a vacation) from which you do not want to smoke anymore. To keep the good resolution as much as possible, the following preparations help:
- Remove all smoking utensils from the home
- Get nicotine substitute
- make a daily schedule for the whole week, which leaves little time for sitting around.
- Determining what to do in typical "smoking situations" in order not to smoke (z.B. Getting up immediately after a meal, putting chewing gum in the car for the morning traffic jam, putting a pen and note next to the phone instead of an ashtray, "Thank you, I don’t smoke at the moment" when a cigarette is offered,…)
- Thinking about how to reward yourself for not smoking for a day, a week, a month, half a year…
Reduce slowly Method of slowly reducing the number of cigarettes smoked per day. The problem is that the remaining cigarettes are inhaled more intensively, because the body is used to a certain amount of nicotine per day. This increases the intake of harmful substances, which are particularly high in the last part of the cigarette. If the number of cigarettes is too low to cover the nicotine requirement, a critical point is reached at which smoking cessation can fail.
Smoking light cigarettes As with reducing the amount of cigarettes, it is difficult for those affected to reach their usual nicotine level. The amount of harmful substances remains almost unchanged.
Smoking cigars, cigarillos or pipe These tobacco products are not a useful alternative, because they are also harmful to health.
Helpful: smoking cessation courses At regular meetings, those affected are instructed to "unlearn" the learned habit of smoking in various life situations by means of targeted behavioral therapy strategies and thus to break through the psychological dependence on smoking.
Acupuncture/hypnosis Often there is a good short-term effectiveness. A long-term effect, on the other hand, is usually absent. Especially in the field of hypnosis beware of dubious providers.
What happens when you quit?
After just a few weeks, blood circulation and lung function improve, coughing decreases, and shortness of breath diminishes. The number of respiratory infections is also decreasing. Depending on how intensively you smoke, the risk of cancer decreases over the years. After 10 to 15 years it approaches the risk of a non-smoker.
An ex-smoker can quickly become a smoker again
As with any addiction, you have to expect not only at the beginning, but even years later, z.B. Getting cravings for a cigarette again after all, in stressful situations or in humid company. Here you should think in advance how to prevent to start smoking again in such a situation. It is helpful to play through in your mind again and again what you would do if you did this and to have a response ready that is always the same, such as "no thanks, I don’t smoke anymore".
A single cigarette can undo all efforts – it is not worth it.