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Powerful Choices Podcast: Quit Smoking Now

January 2010

Colleen: Hello and welcome to the American Cancer Society’s Powerful Choices Podcast series, where you'll get the information you need to make everyday choices that can help you be healthy and stay well. I’m Colleen Doyle, the American Cancer Society’s director of nutrition and physical activity. Thanks so much for joining us.

We all know that smoking is bad for us, but if you or someone you love has ever tried to quit smoking, you know just how hard it can be. Dr. Len Lichtenfeld is with me today to talk about ways to quit and the benefits of living smoke-free.

Len: Thanks, Colleen.

Quitting smoking is hard because nicotine, which is found naturally in tobacco, is highly addictive -- as addictive as heroine or cocaine, in fact. Your body craves it when you stop smoking, and that craving is tough to resist.

But remember that the payoff is worth it. Quitting lowers your risk of lung cancer and other cancers, as well as heart attacks, stroke, and chronic lung diseases. It also improves the health of everyone around you. Many people don't realize that thousands of non-smokers die every year from cancer and heart disease caused by secondhand smoke.

If you plan ahead and take advantage of the tools available to help you quit, you'll have a better chance of succeeding.

Colleen: Just what are some of these tools?

Len: There are lots of them, Colleen. For example, telephone counseling has been proven to double a smoker's chances of quitting successfully. Free services are available in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The American Cancer Society's Quit For Life Program, operated by Free and Clear, is one of them.

Other types of support groups and self-help programs can also be useful.

Medications are another option. Over-the-counter nicotine replacement therapies can help fight cravings, and there are prescription medicines, as well.

Slide: Tools to Help You Quit

  • Telephone counseling services like the American Cancer Society Quit For Life Program, operated by Free and Clear: 1-800-227-2345
  • Support groups or self-help programs
  • Medication, both prescription and over-the counter

Colleen: So if somebody wants to quit smoking, where do you suggest they start?

Len: First, you need to decide on a quit day and mark it on your calendar. Leave enough time to prepare, but don't make it so far in advance that you are tempted to change your mind.

Then make the necessary preparations. Sign up for that support group or telephone counseling line ahead of time. If you want to use medications, talk to your doctor well in advance about which ones are right for you. Some of these medicines have to be started several days before your quit day.

It's also a good idea to let your friends and family know your plan so they can support your effort.

On your quit day and after, avoid situations where you might be tempted to smoke, and try to shake up the routines you associate with smoking.

Slide: Tips for Quitting Smoking

  • Pick a quit day
  • Make preparations like joining support groups or getting medications in advance
  • Get support from family and friends
  • Avoid tempting situations and change routines you associate with smoking

Colleen: Those are all excellent suggestions, Len.

Another trick is to have a substitute handy to put in your mouth instead of a cigarette. It can be a carrot stick or sugarless gum, or even a straw.

We also know that keeping active is a good strategy for people who are trying to quit smoking. Some studies show that taking a brisk walk, or doing another form of exercise, can help you overcome a cigarette craving. And of course, exercising can help you avoid weight gain, which is often a concern for people who quit smoking.

Slide: More Quitting Tips:

  • Keep substitutes like gum, straws, or carrot sticks handy
  • Keep active to help overcome cravings and avoid weight gain

Colleen: To learn more about quitting smoking and other ways to reduce your cancer risk, go to cancer.org or call us any time at 1-800-227-2345. From all of us here at the American Cancer Society, thanks for watching.