Quitting smoking

People have been getting the message that tobacco is the leading cause of preventable deaths and disease in the United States. Overall use has been declining, but cigarettes have become more addictive than ever, making it a challenge for smokers and smokeless tobacco users to quit.

First, the facts:

  • Cigarettes kill more than 480,000 Americans a year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That includes more than 41,000 deaths from secondhand smoke.
  • Smoking-related illnesses cost more than $300 billion a year.
  • Tobacco firms have added chemicals and changed tobacco mixes and filters to accelerate the passage of cancer-causing ingredients and nicotine inside the body.

It’s not easy to quit using an addictive substance like nicotine. Meera Jain, M.D., of Providence Health & Services says an addiction to nicotine produces cravings that are both psychological and physical. An addicted person who’s withdrawing from nicotine may experience dizziness, anxiety, depression, fatigue, headaches, trouble sleeping and irritability. Those symptoms make it hard to quit.

Worse, there are few shortcuts to quitting. Many half-steps aren’t healthy steps.

Makers of e-cigarettes claim they are safe and help you quit smoking, but it’s unclear whether this is true. E-cigarettes are not regulated by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) but there are FDA approved medications to quit smoking such as nicotine replacement therapy (patches, lozenges, etc.), bupropion (or Zyban), and varenecline (or Chantix). These medications are proven to double your chance of quitting.

Most herbal cigarettes, such as clove cigarettes, mix tobacco with herbs, oils and flavorings, but still deliver cancer-causing ingredients and tar to the body. Even tobacco-free herbal cigarettes produce tar.

Hookahs, which pass smoke through water before delivering it via a tube, are actually more dangerous than traditional cigarettes. The World Health Organization reports that the average one-hour hookah session exposes you to as much smoke as a cigarette smoker would inhale from 100 cigarettes.

So how can you quit?

As a Providence Health Plan member, you have access to tobacco-cessation resources at no cost. To start:

  • Call 866-QUIT-4LIFE (866-784-8454).
  • Call your primary care provider
  • Call ProvRN, available 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 800-700-0481 TTY: 711
  • Call a care nurse at 800-662-1121 or email caremanagement@providence.org
  • Sign up for a class or call the Providence Resource Line at 503-574-6595