By Christie Donnelly
We all know smoking has countless negative effects on our health—from discolored teeth, to heart disease and heart failure, to the development of cancers—but quitting can be extremely difficult. Common misconceptions about quitting smoking, like fear of gaining weight, can make it even tougher.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the smoking rate among Americans is historically low, at only 15.5 percent (2016), down from almost 21 percent in 2005. If you’re part of that 15.5 percent, it’s prime time to kick the habit. Not sure where to begin? Start by forgetting these common myths about smoking cessation.
MYTH: YOU’LL GAIN SIGNIFICANT WEIGHT
About 80 percent of smokers who quit gain some weight, but the benefits of quitting far outweigh packing on a few pounds. In fact, one study by the National Institutes of Health found that former smokers without diabetes halved their risk of developing heart disease, despite gaining a moderate amount of weight. Plus, quitting improves lung and cardiovascular health, so following a regular exercise routine to stave off post-cessation weight gain may feel easier. Most weight gain occurs within three months of quitting, so that is a critical time to watch calories and eat healthy. Quit aids and medication may also help limit weight gain during this time.
MYTH: QUITTING IS EXPENSIVE
This myth is easy to debunk. Smoking cessation treatments, like patches or counseling, may be available at no or minimal cost. However, the average cost of a pack of cigarettes in 2016 in the United States was $6.43. That’s $2,346.95 per year for a pack-a-day smoker. Plus, smoking-related illnesses and loss of productivity chalk up an additional $316 billion in US spending each year. Many insurance companies offer incentives and discounts for smoking cessation, so check with your provider. You can also try using your state or sponsored telephone quitline or online services, dedicated to helping participants quit smoking. Many quit smoking aids are covered by insurance plans.
MYTH: YOU’RE ONLY HARMING YOURSELF
Your smoking habit doesn’t only affect your health; nonsmokers can be exposed to over 7,000 chemicals found in secondhand smoke. In fact, according to the CDC, secondhand smoke causes 41,000 deaths among nonsmoking adults and 400 infant deaths every year in the US; increases the risk of stroke and lung cancer by 20 to 30 percent; and increases the risk of asthma, respiratory and ear infections and even Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) in children.
MYTH: THERE ARE SAFE ALTERNATIVES
If you’ve swapped cigarettes for cigars, snuff or chewing tobacco you’re still exposing yourself—and those around you—to toxic substances. Not only are they highly addictive tobacco products, but they’ve been linked to many cancers. Smokeless tobacco can cause cancers of the mouth, pharynx, larynx, esophagus and pancreas. It can also cause gum disease and tooth decay and can increase the risk of deadly heart attacks and strokes. Cigars can cause damage similar to cigarettes, including COPD. The bottom line? There’s no risk-free level of tobacco use.
MYTH: YOU’LL LOSE YOUR SOCIAL CIRCLE
Smoking is often considered a social activity, but quitting doesn’t mean you’ll lose your friends—especially if you take the time to explain why quitting is so important to you. You will likely find that your friends want to help you succeed. Tell them specifically how they can support you. You may simply ask smoking friends to avoid lighting up in your presence or ask them to join you in nonsmoking activities. You can request that they be available when you are struggling with cravings. Who knows—you may even inspire some fellow smokers to quit themselves.
MYTH: YOU CAN’T DO IT
It’s true that it can take several attempts to quit smoking, but don’t feel discouraged if you have a slip-up. Rather, take the time to assess the situation: What made you crave a cigarette? How can you overcome cravings in the future? Try to take control of those stressful situations, so you can finally kick the habit and addiction.
You can join the 59 percent of adult former smokers who have been able to quit!
Sourcing: National Institutes of Health, American Cancer Society, CDC