Quit smoking one week at a time

Even though millions of smokers will resolve to 'butt out' on January 1st, experts say many will be still be smoking on Valentine's Day. They have some tips to help quitters retain their resolve and strengthen their commitment to quitting which apply even to the likes of President-elect Barack Obama.

With 'The Stay Quit Monday' idea, smokers can increase their chances of making this attempt the one which works and for someone like Obama who wants to quit but is very busy, with a stressful job, that extra motivational push each week to stay on track might be needed.

Frances Stillman, who co-directs the Institute for Global Tobacco Control at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health says there is a known high relapse rate for first-time quitters and it takes a number of attempts for most people to stop smoking altogether.

Stillman suggests using each Monday to reaffirm their goal of quitting is a sensible way to stay on track - she says for most people it takes from 7 to 10 tries to quit.

Smokers are urged to use the start of each week to recommit to breaking their addiction as just trying once a year on a birthday or New Year's, can add up to a decade of 'tries' before success is achieved.

Experts say quitting smoking is 'a marathon, not a 100-yard dash' and while it helps to set a specific quit date that is just a beginning and realistic expectations are needed.

They say focusing on a single day to quit can be self-defeating, because it promotes all-or-nothing thinking and preparing for the long haul rather than the short trip is called for.

Potential quitters are warned to expect an occasional slip but to simply re-set their resolve each week as a slip need not be a complete fall.

According to a report last year from the Institute of Medicine, "motivating more quit attempts among people who now make none and more frequent quit attempts among those who now try to quit", is one of five requirements for achieving higher cessation rates.

Smoking is globally the number one cause of preventable death and has been labelled a big part of a chronic disease pandemic - experts believe a significant reduction in tobacco use, will have a tremendous impact on cancer, heart disease, respiratory diseases and other tobacco-related diseases.

For President-elect it will be a tough ride as The White House has a no smoking policy - he too has apparently made several attempts to quit.

Smoking is harmful to the health of the smoker and those around them - it is linked to at least 10 different cancers - lung, bladder, esophageal, laryngeal, oral and throat cancers, acute myeloid leukemia, cervical, kidney, pancreatic, and stomach - to chronic lung diseases such as emphysema and asthma, to coronary heart and cardiovascular diseases, to reproductive effects and sudden infant death syndrome, to periodontitis, to osteoporosis, to poor wound healing, impotence, Alzheimer's, Lupus, and it ages the skin. It is also an expensive habit especially when considered on an annual basis.

Potential quitters are advised to set a date to quit, change their environment by removing all cigarettes and ashtrays from their home, car and work place, to try not to cheat and to seek support and encouragement, even if by phone.

Doctors can provide information about nicotine gum and or patches and with nicotine replacements and counselling, quit rates are nearly twice as high compared with those who try without help.

Relapses are to be expected and three months, six months and a year are major milestones - most people who can quit for a year will be able to quit smoking permanently.

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