Quitting smoking is not easy, but you can do it. To have the best chance of quitting and staying quit, you need to know what you’re up against, what your options are, and where to go for help.
Why is it so hard to quit smoking?
To paraphrase Mark Twain, “Quitting smoking is easy. I’ve done it a thousand times.” Maybe you’ve tried to quit, too. Why is quitting and staying quit hard for so many people? The answer is mainly nicotine.
Nicotine is a drug found naturally in tobacco, which is as addictive as heroin or cocaine. Over time, a person becomes physically dependent on and emotionally addicted to nicotine. This physical dependence causes unpleasant withdrawal symptoms when you try to quit. The emotional and mental dependence (addiction) make it hard to stay away from nicotine after you quit.
How nicotine gets in, where it goes and how long it stays
When you inhale smoke, nicotine is carried deep into your lungs. There it’s quickly absorbed into the bloodstream and carried, along with the carbon monoxide and other toxins, to every part of your body. In fact, nicotine inhaled in cigarette smoke reaches the brain faster than drugs that enter the body through a vein (intravenously or IV).
Nicotine affects many parts of your body, including your heart and blood vessels, your hormones, the way your body uses food (your metabolism), and your brain. Nicotine can be found in breast milk and even in the cervical mucus of female smokers. During pregnancy, nicotine crosses the placenta and has been found in amniotic fluid and the umbilical cord blood of newborn infants.
Different factors affect how long it takes the body to remove nicotine and its byproducts. In most cases, regular smokers will still have nicotine and/or its byproducts, such as cotinine, in their bodies for about 3 to 4 days after stopping.
How nicotine hooks smokers
Nicotine causes pleasant feelings and distracts the smoker from unpleasant feelings. This makes the smoker want to smoke again. Nicotine also acts as a kind of depressant by interfering with the flow of information between nerve cells. Smokers tend to smoke more cigarettes as the nervous system adapts to nicotine. This, in turn, increases the amount of nicotine in the smoker’s blood.
Over time, the smoker develops a tolerance to nicotine. Tolerance means that it takes more nicotine to get the same effect that the smoker used to get from smaller amounts. This leads to an increase in smoking. At some point, the smoker reaches a certain nicotine level and then keeps smoking to keep the level of nicotine within a comfortable range.
When a person finishes a cigarette, the nicotine level in the body starts to drop, going lower and lower. The pleasant feelings wear off, and the smoker notices wanting a smoke. If smoking is postponed, the smoker may start to feel irritated and edgy. Usually it doesn’t reach the point of serious withdrawal symptoms, but the smoker gets more uncomfortable over time. When the person smokes a cigarette, the unpleasant feelings fade, and the cycle continues.
Source: American Cancer Society
How can Better Me help you quit?
Each of our health fitness specialists (HFS) are a Fresh Start Smoking Cessation Facilitator. Your HFS can meet one-on-one with you and help you develop a plan to quit smoking. Your quit plan will include:
- Picking your quit date
- Deciding what quitting method you would like to use
- Considering whether you will use nicotine replacement therapy or prescription medication or quit cold turkey
- Identifying friends and family who can support you
- Preparing for your quit day
Your HFS will guide you through this process as well as help you stay smoke free. Stress management techniques will be introduced and the HFS will help you improve other aspects of your health such as healthy eating habits and exercise. Your HFS will share on-campus and community resources to help support you in leading a healthy lifestyle.
In addition to the support you receive from your HFS, your RIT benefits package offers additional resources. Every employee who has the Excellus Medical Plan has access to the Quit for Life Program. This FREE program includes:
- One-on-one counseling with a professional Quit Coach over the telephone
- Medication recommendations, if appropriate
- Free nicotine replacement products (patch, lozenge, gum) delivered to your home, if recommended
- Quit guides for support between sessions
- 24/7 online interactive discussion forums
All smoking cessation medications, including over-the-counter nicotine replacement products (e.g., nicotine patch, gum, lozenges), for those over the age of 18 will be covered in full for a quantity duration limit of 180 day supply within a 365 day period, provided there is a written prescription from a physician.
For more information you can contact Better Me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 585-475-2067.