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Kicking the habit — How to quit smoking

Kicking the habit — How to quit smoking

The New Year is the perfect time to cut vices, so why not make 2012 the year that you quit smoking?

You know the statistics— smoking is responsible for nearly one in five deaths in the U.S.— and it’s never too late to cut the habit and start lowering your risk of developing diseases associated with smoking. No matter how old you are or how long you’ve been smoking, you’ll be on your way to living a longer and healthier life the minute you quit.

There are two components of a cigarette addiction— mental and physical. To quit for good, you’ll need to conquer both.

For the mental part of the addiction, there are a number of counseling services, self-help materials and medicines available to aid you. As of 2009, every state was required to implement a free telephone service that links smokers with trained counselors that offer useful advice to smokers who’d like to quit. For more information, or to find a counselor program in your area, you can call the American Cancer Society at 1-800-227-2345. Counselors may suggest methods such as medicines, classes and gaining the support of family and friends.

Some experts also suggest joining a quit-smoking program or support group. Check with your employer, health insurance company or local hospital to find support groups in your area. Depending on where you live, you may also be able to join a Nicotine Anonymous group, which applies the 12-step program of alcoholics anonymous to the addiction of smoking. Find a meeting in your area at nictotine-anonymous.org.

In order to get over the physical aspect of smoking addiction, you’ll need to break your body’s physical dependence on nicotine. Nicotine replacement therapy (including gums, patches, sprays or inhalers) will give you the nicotine your body is craving, minus the harmful effects of tobacco. This method is effective because it allows you to focus on the mental aspects of quitting, while avoiding some of the physical withdrawal symptoms.

Many smokers can quit without nicotine replacement therapy (NRT), but most of those who do so do not succeed on their first try. Pairing with a program that helps to change your mental dependency doubles your success. The best time to start it is right when you quit— you’ll need a different amount depending on how heavy a smoker you are. Consult your doctor to find the type and the amount of treatment that best suits you.

Studies have proven that the health benefits of quitting smoking are almost immediate. According to the U.S. Surgeon’s General Report, 20 minutes after quitting, your heart rate and blood pressure drop to normal. 12 hours after, the carbon monoxide in your blood drops to normal. After two to three weeks, your circulation improves and your lung function increases. And within a year of quitting, the excess risk of coronary heart disease is half that of a continuing smokers.

So what are you waiting for?

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