LiveSmart: New Year’s Resolution – Kicking the Smoking Habit

(This piece was written by Erin Sinisgalli, director of St. Mary’s Center for Health Programs and Promotions.)

Looking to “kick the habit” in 2016? A new year often brings new resolutions for smokers looking to put the butts out.

There are countless reasons to quit for the new year. The American Cancer Society estimates 42 million Americans still smoke cigarettes, accounting for more than 480,000 deaths yearly, including 41,000 resulting from exposure to secondhand smoke. Moreover, 17 million Americans suffer from a serious smoking-related disease, including cancer, heart disease, stroke, lung disease, and diabetes.

Nearly every 20 minutes, someone in our state will die from a smoking-related illness, but consider the immediate and long-term health benefits after quitting:

  • 20 minutes after quitting: your heart rate and blood pressure drop
  • 12 hours after: the carbon monoxide level in your blood drops to normal
  • Two weeks – three months: circulation improves, lung function increases
  • Within one to nine months: coughing and shortness of breath decrease, lungs start to regain normal function
  • A year after quitting: your excess risk of coronary heart disease is half of a continuing smoker’s
  • Two to five years: risk of stroke can fall to a non-smoker’s
  • Five years after quitting: risk of mouth, throat, esophagus, and bladder cancers are halved, and cervical cancer risk falls to that of a non-smoker.

So where do you start?

Get counseling. You don’t have to do it by yourself. Support is available, including the NYS Smokers’ Quitline, and programs like The Butt Stops Here.

Cessation medication can help. Talk to your health provider about what’s right for you.

Strengthen your resolve. Reflect on all your reasons for quitting – your health, family, kids, finances, etc.

Change up your routine. Wait to have your first cigarette each day. Keep cigarettes in inconvenient, hard-to-reach places. Instead of smoking, drink water, chew nicotine gum, or suck on hard candy.

Seek support from friends. Reach out to three people and ask them to support you, if needed.

Focus on positives. Acknowledge all the positive things happening when you don’t smoke – you breathe better, taste food more, and have more money for other things.

St. Mary’s Center for Health Programs and Promotions is partially funded by grants from the NYS Department of Health’s Bureau of Tobacco Control. For more information or help quitting, please call (518) 459-2550; or the NYS Smokers’ Quitline, 1-866-NY-QUITS.

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