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Breaking the smoking habit is hard, but it can lower risks of cancer, heart disease and lung problems. (Photo by iStock)

Ring in the new year by saying goodbye to smoking

MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Smoking can be a hard habit to kick, but it can be done with the right amount of determination.

Quitting smoking is at the top of many smokers’ New Year’s resolutions list. Smoking is a dangerous health risk, and quitting would contribute to a healthier lifestyle.

David Buys, health specialist with the Mississippi State University Extension Service, said two main factors trigger smoking.

“Peer pressure and stress are the two main factors for why an individual begins smoking in the first place,” he said. “Many people begin smoking at a young age; nearly 90 percent of smokers began smoking by the age of 18.”

Buys said that if cigarette cravings become a problem after quitting, there are measures to take to ensure they are handled correctly.

“Nicotine replacements are one of the ways to curb cigarette cravings,” he said. “Avoid the things you know cause you to want to smoke. Work breaks are when many people spend their time smoking, so switch up who you take breaks with. You cannot just take smoking out of your routine. You must replace it with something. Keeping a piece of candy or gum in your mouth may also help.”

Many will relapse after quitting smoking for the first time. Buys said there are ways to handle a relapse to prevent it from happening again.

“Go back to what worked the first time. Identifying the trigger that caused this relapse and cutting it out is the key.”

Buys also suggested asking friends and family members who have quit smoking for tips and tricks.

“Physical activity, deep breathing exercises, online support communities, accountability from family and friends and writing down small achievements throughout the day can boost your confidence,” he said.

Quitting smoking benefits friends and family, in addition to the smoker. Scientists have recently discovered even residual toxins are harmful, not just the smoke itself.

JuLeigh Baker, health and wellness educator for the MSU Health Education and Wellness Department, said recent research findings indicate that third-hand smoke can harm those around a smoker.

“Third-hand smoke is the toxins from the cigarettes that are left on a person’s clothing, hair, chairs or in the car. They are not visible to the naked eye, but get stirred up as a person moves around,” she said. “These can then be inhaled by others. So a parent who says ‘I am not hurting my kids since I do not smoke around them,’ is actually doing a lot of harm to those they love.”

Baker said there are major differences between the health of a non-smoker and the health of a smoker.

“Non-smokers have a much lower risk of cancer, heart disease and lung problems,” she said. “They heal faster when they are sick or have surgery. They have a lower risk of Type 2 diabetes and a lower cost of insurance and health care. Non-smokers do not have to go outside in the cold or rain to satisfy a craving, and in general, they live longer, healthier lives.”

Released: December 18, 2014
Contacts: Dr. David Buys
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