Making the Commitment to Quit Smoking
If you’ve been toying with the idea of quitting smoking and need a little extra motivation, put a big red circle around the month of November. Every year, the third Thursday of November is the annual Great American Smokeout, a day when smokers across the nation make the commitment to never smoke again. The campaign is organized by the American Cancer Society to help smokers recognize the need to quit and the resources available to help.
Yes, it’s difficult. And the thought of never smoking again can be scary whether you’ve smoked for a year or a lifetime. For many smokers, quitting can feel like losing a friend and involves a period of grieving. However, the point of the Great American Smokeout is that you won’t be doing it alone, and there are resources available to help you make a change.
“We are very pro-smoker,” says Teresa E. Giamboy, doctor of nursing practice and lung cancer screening program coordinator at Jefferson Health. “That doesn’t mean that we’re pro-smoking, but we recognize that smoking is an addiction and smokers deserve the support they need to quit if they want to. We deliver that care with kindness and compassion.”
What to Expect When You Quit
The positive effects of quitting will start on the first day. In the early stages, your heart rate and blood pressure will return to normal as the nicotine—a vasoconstrictor that tightens blood vessels—leaves the body. Your sense of taste and smell will also start to return to normal.
“In the first few months after quitting, you’ll start to reduce your risks for cardiovascular problems associated with smoking,” says Dr. Giamboy. “Your lung function will improve, and your chances of having a heart attack or stroke will decrease.”
In fact, after a year of not smoking, your risk for coronary heart disease is about half that of a current smoker. In the decade after your last cigarette, your risk for lung cancer and cancers of the mouth, throat, esophagus, bladder, cervix, and pancreas also decreases.
Having a Quit Plan is Important
Having a quit plan, which are the steps you’ll take to stop smoking, is important. One of the most important parts of that plan is your quit date, which is the last day you’ll smoke.
“It’s easy to procrastinate when you’re trying to quit smoking,” says Dr. Giamboy. “You may set a day in your mind but then have a stressful day at work or encounter another smoking trigger, which pushes that day farther into the future.”
The struggle with procrastination is what makes the Great American Smokeout so important—and effective. The camaraderie of quitting on the same day with other smokers can be motivating and give you the push to get started.
“Your quit plan should be customized for you to help you overcome the things in your life that trigger your smoking,” says Dr. Giamboy. “Some people try to go ‘cold turkey,’ while others find it helpful to have the support of a smoking cessation program.”