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Not smoking is one of the simplest ways to prevent cancer.
However, quitting is tough for most smokers. Cigarettes contain nicotine, a powerfully addictive drug. Smoking can become a daily habit that’s hard to break. Many people use smoking to manage stress or improve mood. For some, it’s a social activity. Others fear they will gain weight if they quit.
The good news is there are many tools available to help smokers stop.
While percentages are dropping, a significant portion of childhood cancer survivors smoke cigarettes. About 19% of childhood cancer survivors who took part in the Childhood Cancer Survivor Study reported smoking. That percentage dropped to 14% in follow-up questionnaires. If 14% of the current number of childhood cancer survivors – estimated at about 419,000 – are smokers, that number calculates to more than 58,000.
Childhood cancer survivors have elevated risks for a wide range of long-term health problems. Those risks increase with age. By age 50, more than half of childhood cancer survivors have experienced a serious health problem. The problems include new cancers as well as diseases of the heart, lungs, liver, kidneys, and hormones.
Cigarette smoking can only add to health risks. It is the most preventable cause of illness, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Smoking causes cancer, heart disease, stroke, lung diseases, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
If you have already started smoking, you can quit. It may not be easy. You may have to stop several times before stopping for good. But you can do it.
Quitting smoking starts with a plan. It gives you ways to stay focused and motivated. The National Cancer Institute’s smokefree.gov provides free, evidence-based information and professional assistance to help support the needs of people trying to quit smoking.
It provides 7 steps for building a plan:
When setting a date to end smoking, give yourself a couple of weeks to prepare. Make a list of ways to stay busy and distracted from cravings. Smokefree.gov has these ideas:
Make a list of your smoking triggers. These are the people, places, and situations that set off your urge to smoke. They can be:
Avoid triggers as much as possible. Develop strategies for dealing with them if they occur.
Cravings typically last 5-10 minutes. They can be intense, so make a plan for ways to get through them.
Do not use food to help you fight cravings. It can lead to overeating and weight gain.
Reminders can be smells, so wash your clothes and clean your car to get rid of cigarette odors.
Do away with any objects related to cigarettes. These include matches, lighters, ashtrays, and cigarette butts. Put another item, such as nicotine gum, in their place to help you fight cravings.
Along with smokefree.gov, many organizations have free resources to help smokers quit.
The Centers for Disease Control’s Tips From Former Smokers® features stories and videos from former smokers. They are targeted to specific groups such as adults with disabilities, LGBT groups, military service people, people with mental health conditions, and pregnant women.
The American Lung Association has Freedom From Smoking®. It allows participants to create a personalized plan, build strategies, share experiences, get live support, and learn about medications to help.
The American Society of Clinical Oncology has a free online booklet called Stopping Tobacco Use after a Cancer Diagnosis.
The Food and Drug Administration has approved 7 medications for nicotine addiction. Survivors should consult with a primary health care provider before using one.
They include 5 forms of nicotine replacement therapy (NRT):
The remaining 2 are non-NRT medications:
The patch, gum, and the lozenge are available over-the-counter. The inhaler, nasal spray, patch, and the non-NRT medications are available by prescription.
Finally, tell your family and friends about your plan to stop smoking. Suggest ways they can help. Your family and friends can provide a circle of support to help you on your journey.
Stopping smoking is a challenge, but it is one you can master.
Together does not endorse any branded product mentioned in this article.
Reviewed: June 2018