Although smoking is proven to cause health problems, quitting isn't easy. When you've made the decision to quit, your Co-op pharmacist can help you along the way.
We talked to Angela Will, Pharmacy Manager at Beeland Co-op in Tisdale, Sask., about the dangers of tobacco and strategies to kick it to the curb.
Why should I quit?
Smoking can cause increased risk of cardiovascular disease, pulmonary disease, type 2 diabetes and cancer, among many other health conditions like gum disease, inflammation and cataracts.
"It is the leading cause of preventable death," said Will.
In addition to affecting the smoker, second-hand smoke increases the risk of health problems for adults, children, infants and even pets around the smoker. It can cause ear infections, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, lung cancer and coronary artery disease.
Nicotine, a chemical in tobacco products, slows reaction time, reduces attention, and causes wheezing, shortness of breath, muscle weakness and loss of taste and smell. It's highly addictive, and it's what makes quitting so difficult.
"Three days of regular nicotine use is all it takes to become dependent," explained Will.
What can I expect after I stop smoking?
"The first 72 hours are the hardest!" said Will, adding that positive changes, like lowered heart rate and blood pressure, start to occur even in the first 24 hours.
Within 48 hours, your sense of taste and smell will start to return and your risk of heart attack lowers. Breathing becomes easier within 72 hours as lung capacity increases and bronchial tubes start to relax.
Because nicotine is a stimulant, you may feel tired or find it hard to concentrate for the first few days after quitting. Cut back on caffeine and alcohol to help reduce headaches and irritability.
Will suggests using the four Ds to cope with cravings:
Delay by distracting yourself—try a book or video game.
Drink lots of water to flush the nicotine out of your body.
Deep breathing will promote calm.
Do something different: go for a walk, visit a friend, chew gum, eat carrot sticks or go to the gym.
It often takes multiple attempts to quit smoking long term, but each attempt can be used to help by showing you what worked and what didn’t.
What medications are available?
If you need extra help, your physician or pharmacist can recommend medications to help with cravings and withdrawal so you can concentrate on changing your smoking behaviours. Medications include nicotine replacement therapy (NRT), bupropion (Zyban®), and varenicline (Champix®).
NRT, available as gum, lozenges, patches, inhalers or sprays, is most commonly used. It works by controlling the amount of nicotine released to slowly decrease the body's dependence.
"NRT contains only nicotine and none of the carbon monoxide or other toxic chemicals in cigarettes and smokeless tobacco," Will explained.
How can my pharmacist help?
"Having a plan in place beforehand will arm you with the tools you need to succeed," said Will. That's where your pharmacist comes in.
They can provide resources and tips to help you quit. Some pharmacists have additional training with the Partnership to Assist with Cessation of Tobacco (PACT).
"Even a quick three-minute discussion with your pharmacist can increase your success rate by 30 per cent versus no discussion at all!" said Will.
When you're ready to call it quits, your Co-op pharmacist can help you get started.