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Feel Better This Year by Stopping Smoking

West End Healthline

By Kirsten Robinett, DO

Tobacco use is the number one cause of preventable deaths worldwide. Most people know that smoking cigarettes is not good for their health, and the majority of current cigarette smokers have attempted to quit at least once. However, understanding that you should quit smoking does not always result in actually succeeding in stopping smoking. 

Why should I quit?

Smoking cigarettes increases your risk of developing many health conditions including heart disease, lung problems such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and many types of cancer. If you already have chronic lung disease from smoking, quitting will likely improve your breathing. People who smoke are at increased risk of complications from respiratory illnesses such as influenza, RSV, and COVID-19. Second hand smoke is harmful to those around you, particularly children. There are many health reasons to quit smoking, but it is most important to identify what motivates you to quit and stay focused on your goal. 

How do I quit?

There are many options to aid in smoking cessation. Some medications can be helpful in decreasing cravings including varenicline (Chantix) and bupropion (Wellbutrin). These medications are available by prescription and a discussion with your primary care provider to determine if medication is the right for you. Another option is nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) which is available over the counter or by prescription. NRT can be used on its own or in conjunction with medication. Options include nicotine patches which work by supplying nicotine slowly throughout the day as well as faster acting nicotine replacement in the form of gum, lozenges, inhalers or nasal spray. It generally works best to use both a patch and a fast acting form of NRT to satisfy cravings throughout the day. 

I’ve already tried nicotine patches and they didn’t help, now what?

First, it is important to understand that most people make several attempts at quitting before achieving long term success. If you go back to smoking after an attempt at quitting, try not to get discouraged. Your next attempt may be the one that sticks! Second, NRT is often underdosed. If you have had uncontrolled cravings while using nicotine patches, you likely need a higher dose patch and/or to increase the frequency you are using faster acting NRT (gum/lozenge/inhaler). Talk to your primary care doctor to come up with a good strategy for you. 

Should I vape instead?

While vaping nicotine is likely less harmful than smoking cigarettes, it still exposes you to harmful chemicals and we do not have enough data to know the long term health impacts of vaping. There is some evidence that vaping can help some smokers to quit, but given the uncertainty of long term outcomes, vaping is generally not recommended as an initial strategy to quit smoking. If you currently vape, the same strategies discussed above can help you quit vaping. 

Where can I go for support?

You are more likely to successfully quit smoking if you have support from others. If you have a family member or friend who smokes, having them as a quit buddy can be a fantastic motivator. As mentioned above, talking to your primary care provider is always a great place to start when you are considering quitting smoking.

Quit Partner ( or 1-800-QUIT-NOW) is also a fantastic free resource for support on your quitting journey. 

Dr. Robinett is a family physician at Allina Health United Family Physicians, 233 Grand Ave, Saint Paul, MN 55102, phone 651-241-5200

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