The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued a report stating that smoking cigarettes causes harm to most organs in the body. It also causes several diseases and decreases the health of users overall. Quitting tobacco use helps to reduce your risk of developing and tobacco-related illnesses and could extend your lifespan. Certainly, anyone who smokes cigarettes or uses smokeless tobacco products can benefit from quitting.
Tobacco-use screenings can help identify people at particular risk of developing serious or chronic health problems due to their lack of autonomy over their tobacco use. One of the best preventive health care measures is to cease engaging in unhealthy habits.
Effectively quitting smoking can involve a combination of tools and techniques including setting a quitting date, finding ways to combat nicotine cravings and eliminating smoking reminders. It is also helpful to identify your reasons for stopping smoking and your own emotional, habitual and social triggers for smoking. Beyond these methods, there are also an array of smoking- and tobacco-use cessation programs you can take advantage of for additional help in your efforts. Some of the most popular and effective of these are described in greater detail below.
Tobacco Use Screenings
There are several tobacco-use screening methods, including three recommended by the American Psychiatric Nurses Association (APNA). Two of these tests are related, the Fagerstrom Test for Nicotine Dependence (FTND) and the regular version and smokeless tobacco version. The third is called the Hooked on Nicotine Checklist (HONC).
The FTND asks six questions of an individual in order to assess the amount of tobacco the individual consumes, the individual’s compulsion to use and his or her dependence on nicotine. Those six questions are:
- How shortly after waking do you smoke your first cigarette or place your first dip?
- Do you find it hard to keep from smoking in locations where it is prohibited?
- Would you rather give up the first cigarette of the morning or any other of the day or night?
- How many packs of cigarettes do you smoke per day?
- Do you find yourself smoking more in the morning than at any other time?
- Do you smoke even while sick in bed for the greater part of the day?
The smokeless tobacco version of this screening replaces the word “cigarettes” with “dip,” “tobacco juice” and “chew,” and replaces “packs” with “cans” or “pouches.” Otherwise, the questions are virtually the same. The scoring for the FTND grades yes or no questions as zero or one and multiple-choice questions between zero and three, yielding a sum total score of between zero and 10. The higher a person’s score on the FTND, the greater the person’s physical nicotine dependence.
The Hooked on Nicotine Checklist is a screening tool based on 10 items used to assess your lack of control over personal tobacco use. It is particularly used with adolescent smokers. Each item is a statement about tobacco use to which you would answer in the affirmative or negative, depending on how accurately the statement fits your experience. Every affirmative response to a statement means you have less control over your tobacco use, while every negative statement means you have more control over your tobacco use. Those 10 statements are as follows:
- I have tried to quit but was unable to do so.
- I smoke now because it is too difficult to quit.
- I have felt like I was addicted to tobacco.
- I have powerful cravings to consume tobacco.
- I have felt an overpowering need for a cigarette.
- It is difficult not to smoke in locations where it is forbidden, like school, work or church.
The remaining statements apply specifically to times when you tried to quit smoking or have not smoked cigarettes for a while.
- I found it difficult to concentrate because I could not smoke.
- I felt more irritable because I could not smoke.
- I felt a powerful urge or need to smoke.
- I felt anxious, restless or nervous because I could not smoke.
It is important to note that smokers often have more expensive health care and insurance coverage costs for their habit. This is due to the health risks associated with ingesting tobacco. Benefits of preventive care like quitting smoking include a longer life and better quality of living.
Tobacco Use Cessation Programs
Numerous programs exist to help you stop using tobacco, including a bevy offered by the National Cancer Institute in partnership with other U.S. government agencies. Among them are smoke-free texting programs, nicotine replacement therapy and smoke-free social apps and social media. Smoke-free text messaging programs offer tips, advice and encouragement around the clock. Over a six- to eight-week program, participants receive three to five messages each day.
Medications are often used to help people trying to quit smoking avoid tobacco cravings and feelings of withdrawal. Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) is the most widely used of those smoking cessation medications. In NRT, you are given increasingly small, controlled doses of nicotine, easing your body off of its addiction until the physical craving for nicotine is gone. Then, you have only the psychological compulsion to the act of smoking to cease, but it is undoubtedly much easier without the physical nicotine craving. NRT is widely doctor-recommended and research-proven to be safe and effective. You can use NRT in concert with other smoking cessation methods for potentially improved and accelerated results. There are many different forms of NRT used in a variety of ways. The following are the different types of NRT and how to obtain and utilize them.
- Nasal spray – Obtained by prescription, it comes in a pump bottle you directly into your nasal cavity and spray its nicotine contents.
- Inhaler – Obtained by prescription, it comes in a cartridge connected to a mouthpiece through which you inhale a predetermined dose of nicotine.
- Lozenge – Obtained over-the-counter, you place it in the mouth like hard candy and it slowly releases nicotine as it dissolves in your mouth.
- Gum – Obtained over-the-counter, you chew it to release the nicotine it contains until you get a tingly feeling at which point you place it between your gums and cheek like chew.
- Patch – Obtained over-the-counter, you place it on your skin and it delivers a light, steady, time-released dose of nicotine.
Note: There are prescription-saving apps that you can utilize to help you cut costs on smoking cessation medication.
Another helpful smoking cessation tool is the opportunity through quitlines to discuss your situation and feelings with a judgment-free smoking cessation expert. Quitlines exist over the telephone and by internet chat. Every state in the U.S. has quitlines. There is also a quitline run by the National Cancer Institute.