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I have been smoking ever since college, which I know is dumb, but I just haven't been able to cut the habit. I started smoking only at parties, but now I'm at about a half pack a day for the last few years. I'm totally healthy otherwise. I go to the gym three or four times a week and try to eat healthy. What do you recommend for quitting cigarettes?
— Getting Off the Butts
To see what the doctor has to say about ditching this unhealthy habit,
Firstly, I applaud your desire to quit and wish you luck in your journey. There is good news and bad news when it comes to quitting cigarettes. The good news is that there is an abundance of resources, websites, help lines, medications, and doctors who are there to help you quit if you need it. The bad news is that quitting cigarettes is very hard and often takes multiple attempts because relapse is common. If you succeed in quitting, you will be greatly improving the future of your health. Smoking accounts for almost 90 percent of lung cancer deaths. It can also lead to heart disease, lung disease, and vascular disease or blockage of blood vessels.
Some people are able to stop smoking "cold turkey" without the use of any aids, but this is a tough task and often results in failure. I think that online resources, such as QuitNet, can be especially helpful in terms of getting more information and hearing about other people’s experiences.
Many people successfully quit with the help of nicotine replacement therapy to curb the initial cravings. Nicotine gum is available over the counter, while nicotine patches require a prescription. Though I recommend trying nonprescription methods first, there are also two prescription medications that have helped thousands of people quit: Zyban and Chantix. Zyban (Wellbutrin) is a type of antidepressant that cuts the craving for nicotine during the quitting process, while the newer Chantix is a nicotine-receptor activator that essentially tricks the brain into thinking there is nicotine in the system.
I suggest setting a quit date, formulating a plan for how to cope with the cravings (gum, medication, exercise, etc.), and trying to keep your mind on other things. Come up with a new routine at times when you used to light up. You should also check out these seven tips for quitting smoking, which offer great practical tips. Also remember that doctors love to hear that their patients are trying to quit and are always there to help. Good luck!
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