Ask the Pharmacist

By Dominic Kelly, B.Sc.Pharm

Pharmacy Manager, Pharmasave

If you smoke, stopping smoking may be difficult, but it can be done, and there are many ways to make quitting easier.

A person who has tried to quit several times is more likely to successfully stop smoking for the long term than someone who has only tried once to quit. The more times you try, the more likely you are to eventually succeed.

Benefits of quitting:

Your body starts repairing itself as soon as your last cigarette is stubbed out. Within just 20 minutes, your blood pressure and heart rate decrease. Within a few hours, your risk of having a stroke drops significantly by about 40%. Within eight hours, the levels of carbon monoxide in your blood decreases while levels of oxygen increase.

After one day, your risk of a heart attack decreases.

Within a few weeks, your smoker’s cough (that isn’t due to chronic lung damage) should improve.

You will feel less tired and experience less shortness of breath while exercising.

After one year, you are half as likely to develop heart disease as a smoker is. You will notice that your overall energy levels increase – you feel better!

After 10 years, your risk of developing lung cancer decreases by almost half.

Smokers who have illnesses and who quit smoking recover better and live longer than those who don’t quit.

Other benefits of quitting smoking include being able to taste and smell food better, having better smelling breath, having younger-looking skin, and not smelling smoke on your clothes and in your home.

Strategies for quitting:

There are many ways to quit smoking, from the “cold turkey” method to a system whereby you gradually taper off smoking. Each person is unique, and different strategies work for different people. However, researchers know that the most effective quitting strategies are ones that address both the physical and psychological aspects of nicotine dependence. Therefore, using strategies to help with the physical dependence (e.g. smoking cessation medications) as well as the psychological dependence (e.g. support groups or counselling) will improve your chances of quitting for good.

Smoking cessation medications:

In Canada, three types of medications are widely available and proven to help you stop smoking. These include nicotine replacement available at the pharmacy without a prescription for most people (patch, gum, inhaler, or lozenge), bupropion (Zyban and genetics – prescription), and varenicline (Champix – prescription). Research shows that, when used as directed and combined with either support groups or counselling, these medications can increase your chance of success.

The BC “Stop Smoking” program provides each year of a wide selection of nicotine replacement products for smoking cessation, all free of charge to Medical Service Plan holders. Ask your Pharmacist!

Here are some tips that will help make quitting easier:

List the situations (when are where) in which you smoke and the reasons why you smoke – this will help you identify what “triggers” you to light up.

List fun and healthy activities to replace smoking, and be ready to do these when you feel the urge to smoke.

Avoid smoking triggers. Starting on the day you quit, try to remove or avoid your smoking triggers. For example, if you associate coffee with smoking, try drinking tea or water instead. If you usually smoke at parties, find other ways to socialize with friends until you feel comfortable and confident about facing these situations.

Don’t carry matches, a lighter, or cigarettes.

Each day, delay lighting your first cigarette by one hour. After the first cigarette, when you have your next craving to smoke, delay for another 15 or 30 minutes. By delaying each cigarette, you take control.

You don’t have to wait for New Years to resolve to quit smoking. Do it now for your health.