By Stacie Ball
Many people hope to quit smoking for better health and financial freedom. Nancy Cripe of Tobacco Free Allen County explained, “At an average cost of $5.75 per pack, a Hoosier pack-a-day smoker will burn through $2100 worth of cigarettes per year.” Despite the monetary savings and health benefits like lower blood pressure, clearer sinuses, and reduced risk of cancer; the popular New Year’s resolution to quit smoking has proven to be one of the hardest to conquer.
“The vast majority of people using commercial tobacco products quickly become addicted to them,” Cripe noted, “Nicotine is highly addictive, and commercial tobacco is manipulated to increase its addictiveness in order to maximize sales.” Many people underestimate the power of addiction and feel they should have the willpower to quit smoking quickly on their own. When they relapse, they feel like failures and give up, not realizing this is all part of the process.
Dr. Lauren Warner, acupuncturist, agreed with Cripe. “Not only is nicotine extremely addictive, but the majority of smokers also use cigarettes as a coping mechanism for stress or anxiety,” Warner stated, “To quit smoking, they not only have to break the cycle of addiction from years of their brain chemistry being altered by each puff of a cigarette, they also have to find new outlets and healthier habits for dealing with their stress.” She advised that people try new stress reducers such as exercise, meditation, or even a fidget spinner. “I recommend in the beginning stage they just light a cigarette, take one puff, and put it out,” she continued, “It satisfies that learned habit they’ve been used to for so many years, while still greatly cutting back on the amount of nicotine intake.”
Both experts insist the most effective way to quit is to develop a plan. Cripe had several suggestions for those serious about quitting. First, learn about addiction and the proven, evidence-based methods for quitting at https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/campaign/tips/quit-smoking. Recognize that nicotine is actually a stressor to the body, not a stress reducer. Next, get help and support from knowledgeable sources such as the Indiana Tobacco Quitline (1-800-QUIT-NOW or www.quitnowindiana.com). They offer support materials, coaching, and even 2 weeks of free nicotine replacement therapy. Then, talk to your doctor or pharmacist about cessation medications. They are covered under most insurance plans, and pharmacists can now prescribe them in Indiana! Finally, check out local resources like Freedom from Smoking classes or the ICanQuit app.
Dr. Warner suggested acupuncture as another option. “It can be used as a stand-alone treatment for smoking cessation, or as part of an overall strategy for quitting alongside medication,” she explained, “The acupuncture needles gently tapping in trigger a physiological response from the body that increases circulation and prompts the body to relax with a nice endorphin release. This can reduce cravings, decrease irritability and lower stress levels.”
“Above all else, it is key to know that trying to quit and relapsing is not failure,” Cripe urged, “Just keep at it and keep seeking help and support.”