Betsy Wadland: You know you should quit smoking, now's the time to do it
If there was one thing you could do to help prevent cancer, heart disease and stroke, would you do it? And what if this thing would save you almost $2,000 a year? Sounds like a great deal, sign me up!
If you are one of the more than 40 million adults in the United States who smoke, you know what this one thing is ... to quit smoking. You know that smoking is the No. 1 cause of preventable death in the U.S., accounting for 1 in 5 death each year. You know that you will be able to enjoy your food more, climb a flight of stairs without losing your breath and be able to spend more time with friends and family because you won't have to take cigarette breaks all the time.
We all know the dangers of smoking and the benefits of not smoking, no one better than smokers. Most say they know why they should quit, they just haven't figured out how to quit.
Nov. 19 is the Great American Smoke Out, and there really is no better time to try. You've got two weeks to prepare and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control offers some great tips on getting ready to quit:
Get ready: Set a quit date, clear your environment of everything smoking-related (cigarettes, ashtrays, lighters, etc.) and don't let people smoke in your home. Think about your past attempt to quit and figure out what worked and what didn't. Once you quit, don't smoke - not even a puff!
Get support and encouragement: Studies have shown that you have a better chance of success if you have help, so tell friends, family and co-workers that you are going to quit and need their help. Talk to a professional like your doctor or a counselor.
Learn new skills and behaviors: Change your routine and keep busy. Go for a walk when you used to smoke. Drink tea instead of coffee or eat breakfast in a different place. Hang out with non-smokers.
Get medication and use it correctly: People who use medication to help them quit are twice as likely to succeed. There are over-the-counter and prescription drugs available. Talk to your doctor about your best options.
Be prepared: Don't be discouraged if you "fall off the wagon." Most people try several times before they quit for good. Try to avoid smoking triggers like drinking alcohol and being around other smokers. Don't let weight gain distract you from your main goal. Most people gain less than 10 pounds when they quit and you can take that off later.
If someone you know is trying to quit, there is a lot you can do to help. Encourage their determination to quit, and ask them what you can do to help. Quitting is different for every smoker, so what might be helpful for your Aunt Rose might not be helpful for Bill who sits next to you at work.
Be sure to ask how they are feeling and give lots of praise. Quitting takes a lot of courage and determination. Instead of scolding, nagging or preaching, offer rewards, like treating them to lunch or a movie, for making it through a day, a month or a year without smoking. Your help can make a difference.
If you want to quit smoking or know someone who does, Nov. 19 is as good a day as any to start a new, tobacco-free, life. For more information, contact the American Cancer Society, American Lung Association or your health care provider.
Betsy Wadland is Director of Development for the Natick, Mass., VNA, a nonprofit health care organization providing home care to thousands of people each year. For more information, call the VNA at 508-653-3081.