How to Quit Smoking This No Smoking Day (March 9th)

In the mood for some good news? In the US, smoking rates are down. According to data from the CDC, just 14% of US adults aged 18 or older smoke cigarettes. That’s a big step down from the year 2000, when 23% of US adults were smokers.

Sadly, smoking is still the leading cause of preventable death, and more than 16 million Americans live with smoking-related diseases. That’s why events like No Smoking Day are still needed to help those that want to quit smoking.

No Smoking Day started on Ash Wednesday in 1984 in the Republic of Ireland. The local clergy suggested that smokers in their communities should stop smoking for Lent. Nowadays, on the second Wednesday of March, people across the world recognize No Smoking Day and many smokers still take up the challenge.

Going “Cold Turkey”  

The most obvious way to stop smoking is to go cold turkey. Going cold turkey means cutting out cigarettes abruptly and completely, without any kind of gradual reduction of cigarette use over time. If you’ve ever thrown out your cigarette packets and decided to smoke no more, then you’ll be familiar with this method of quitting. 

But as most smokers know, going cold turkey is much tougher than it sounds! Smokers who quit will experience nicotine withdrawal which has some nasty effects, including increased appetite, nicotine cravings, coughing, headaches and dizziness, fatigue, and constipation. After the physical effects come some notable mental, emotional and behavioral issues, including anxiety, depression, irritability, and mental fog. Nicotine withdrawal can last for days or even weeks. 

It’s no wonder that going cold turkey isn’t a particularly effective way to stop smoking, and studies suggest that only one in twenty smokers succeed in quitting using this method. If you’ve tried going cold turkey and found the experience unpleasant, you may need to try something else.

What about Nicotine Replacement Therapy?

Nicotine gums and patches are one way to lessen the severity of nicotine withdrawal symptoms. Take the nicotine patch, for example. First approved by the FDA in 1991, a nicotine patch works by releasing a small amount of nicotine into the bloodstream. The strength of a nicotine patch can be reduced over time until it is no longer needed. Doctors call this approach NRT, or nicotine replacement therapy, and studies suggest it’s a more effective way to stop smoking than going cold turkey. 

Nicotine patches and gums are not without side effects. Vomiting, upset stomach, diarrhea, dizziness, and headaches can occur using them, with more serious issues including abnormal heartbeat, difficulty breathing, and seizures less common. If you experience any side effects from NRT, you should consult a doctor. If you continue smoking while using a nicotine patch, you risk overdosing on nicotine, which can be dangerous.

The research varies quite a bit, but studies usually put the success rate of quitting with nicotine patches somewhere between 6% and 17%. Quite a bit better than cold turkey, but still not particularly effective for most people. 

Are There Any Other Ways to Stop Smoking?

These days, many healthcare providers recognize that there’s a big mental component to successfully quitting cigarettes. Simple exercises, such as making a list of reasons to quit, staying positive, writing down a plan, talking to other people and asking them to hold you accountable are all small but helpful steps you can take.

The NHS, England’s National Health Services, recommends e-cigarettes in their list of 10 self-help tips. They say that keeping your hands and mouth busy can be helpful, especially if you’re used to holding a cigarette in your hands. E-cigarette brands like Voopoo make high-quality devices, like the Drag S/X, Doric 20, and Vinci Q that are easy to use — perfect for beginners and experienced vapers alike 

E-cigarettes are much more popular now than they used to be, but research shows that a third of smokers have still never tried an e-cigarette. This is despite evidence from a high-standard Cochrane review that e-cigarettes are 70% more effective as a stop-smoking tool than traditional NRT.

If you’re a smoker and want to quit, stick No Smoking Day in your calendar. Whatever method you use to give up smoking, it can be reassuring to know that other people are facing the same challenge at the same time.   

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