NP Claudia Mariano talks about help for Quitting Smoking
Question: “I want to quit smoking but I’m afraid I won’t be successful. What are my options?”
Quitting smoking is hard, but there are options to help you become a non-smoker. If you have tried to quit in the past, or have never made a quit attempt because you were worried you wouldn’t be successful, there are many options available which can increase your chances of being successful.
Nicotine is an addictive stimulant, similar to caffeine. Nicotine replacement, such as the patch, gum, lozenge, inhaler, and spray, helps manage the highly addictive nature of nicotine, without the thousands of chemicals which you inhale in the cigarette smoke. Nicotine has not been shown to cause cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or vascular disease. It is the delivery system – the cigarette and the smoke which is inhaled, not nicotine – that is responsible for the vast majority of tobacco-related diseases, such as heart disease, stroke, breathing problems, and cancer.
Prescription medications such as Zyban and Champix act in your brain to mimic the chemical changes which occur with smoking, without the harmful toxins found in cigarettes and cigarette smoke. When nicotine from the cigarette is inhaled, it attaches to nicotine receptors in your brain, releasing chemicals such as dopamine, which cause the pleasurable feeling associated with smoking (and relief of the craving for nicotine caused by its strong addictive nature). Using any of these methods can help you gradually decrease your dependence on cigarettes, helping you learn how not to smoke in all the situations which might normally trigger you to crave a cigarette.
Electronic cigarettes, also known as e-cigarettes, are currently legal in Canada only if they do not contain nicotine; however, nicotine containing e-cigarettes are widely available in vape shops and online. While the nature of e-cigarettes continues to evolve, there is a large amount of scientific evidence that they are substantially less dangerous than traditional cigarettes, and can be used by those who wish to quit smoking but have not had success with other methods. E-cigarettes are not risk free, as they do contain fine particles which are inhaled in the vapour, but they can be an alternative for those wishing to quit or cut down their tobacco use.
Finally, formal support such as through a support group or telephone quit line like the Smokers’ Helpline, can also increase your chances of quitting.
See your Nurse Practitioner or Doctor to find out how you can quit!
Some Helpful Free Resources:
http://www.smokershelpline.ca/ (Great resource for smokers thinking of stopping and during a stop attempt)
http://www.leavethepackbehind.org/ (Free nicotine replacement and resources for students of many universities and colleges throughout Ontario)
https://www.cancercare.on.ca/pcs/prevention/tobacco/ (Facts about tobacco, Smoke-Free Ontario strategy and links to other resources).
Your local Health Department may also participate in “STOP on the Road”, a program funded by the Ontario Ministry of Health, to provide five weeks of free nicotine replacement.
Claudia Mariano NP-PHC, MSc, CDE
Claudia is a previous NPAO Board member and Past President. She currently works at the West Durham Family Health Team in Pickering.