The all or nothing QUIT smoking message

Posted by on 24 August, 2010

The sobering facts on smoking are a little depressing. It’s really true; there is no safe level of smoking. A new study (read about it HERE) found that as few as one ciggy a day causes dangerous, possibly cancer causing-changes to the genes in the lung cells and reduced oxygen flow in the lungs.

I report this with some regret because I think it’s going to be the death knell of a number of stop smoking attempts. I’m serious!

The message that we doctors have pedaled in a perfectly scientifically valid way is that our patients should STOP smoking. For some people (for example ones with a new boyfriend who says they stink, or if they’ve just had a heart attack), there are some earnest attempts and many are successful.

For others, the more hard core smokers, the thought of NO CIGARETTES ever again is awful. Whether consciously or not, they find excuses to delay the quitting process. The result is that they continue to smoke heavily at a massive cost to their health and their personal fortunes. I have patients who are such heavy smokers, they can’t afford to eat reasonably or pay doctors' bills.

The forgotten message in the studies like the new one published today is that yes, even smoking a tiny bit is harmful but smoking a lot is much, much worse. The more you smoke, the worse off you are in terms of gazillions of disease including emphysema, lung cancer, lots of other cancers and heart disease etc etc.

Let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water;

If you don’t want to give up smoking altogether, I am putting it out there that you should at least cut down. I’m in no way saying that smoking a bit is OK. But it is way better than smoking a lot.

Start by working out which are your favourite cigs of the day?  Lots of my patients like one with coffee in the afternoon before dinner or maybe with a wine at night. Keep those and enjoy them. But cut out all of the ones you have out of habit even though you don’t really enjoy them. Soon you’ll be down to 10 a day and you’ll be planning a trip to New York with all your spare cash!

Try an antismoking medicine. I’m not allowed to name one brand but there is a tablet you can take for 12 weeks that is not without side effects but it really knocks your cravings for six. In Australia you only get one script a year so make it count and only start if you’re confident you’re ready to try to quit (aka cut down).

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