Quit smoking as your New Year’s resolution? Make it your priority.

by  James Hubbard, M.D., M.P.H.

Healthy Lung.  Courtesy of American Lung Association

I used to make New Year’s resolutions when I was very, very young.  They were bold and visionary.  I never kept them and forgot what they were by January 2.  Since my late teens, when people would ask me if had made a resolution, I would tell them something like sweat less, age a year or some other nonsense.

Maybe I should compromise and make one good resolution that I try my best to keep.  Something specific and doable.   Any ideas for me? (keep it civil now)  What is your resolution?

If you smoke, may I suggest to stop by the end of 2009?  Many patients I advise to stop smoking give me a frustrated look that implies easier said than done.  I know.  But what if you make it the one thing you resolve to do, your number one priority for 2009?

Here is one incentive.  Dr. Norman Edleman of the American Lung Association says half of smokers die of lung disease.  Have you ever seen anyone with chronic lung disease?  Most of you can imagine cancer, but there are other more long term diseases that slowly destroy your lungs to the point you become constantly short of breath and nothing (including oxygen) relieves you.  Fully half.  I know most of you think you will not be in that half.  Maybe, if you are lucky (sarcasm goes here), you may die of one of the many other associated cancers, or heart disease.

Here are some tips to help you stop.

Some go cold turkey.  My father did.  It could work for you.  Twenty some-odd years ago, I told one of my patients that he “really should stop smoking?”  He looked at me quizzically and said, “Honest?  I have never been told that.  If you really think it is harming me, I will quit.”  He never smoked again and is alive and breathing well.

More the norm is to try an average of 7-10 times before complete success. For many, breaking the nicotene addiction is the easy part.  You, also, have to deal with the habit of picking one up and the comfort of the feel you get while smoking.  What do you do with your fingers?  What do you chew on?  Try gum, or suckers maybe?

One good tip is to pick a quit date.  Plan ahead.  Get your prescription from your doctor or your over-the-counter aids, get rid of all your tobacco temptations, announce it to your loved ones and stick to it.

Here’s what the American Lung Association has to say.

1.      Talk to your doctor or pharmacist about the different over-the-counter and prescription
medications to help you quit smoking.
2.      Look into the different kinds of self-help options available to smokers.  Visit
www.lungusa.org for suggestions.
3.      Take time to plan. Pick your quit date a few weeks ahead of time and mark it on the
calendar. If you can, pick a day when life’s extra stresses are not at their peak, such as
after the holidays. Mark a day on the calendar and stick to it.
4.      Get some exercise every day. Walking is a great way to reduce the stress of quitting
Exercise is proven to not only combat weight gain but also to improve mood and energy
5.      Eat a balanced diet, drink lots of water and get plenty of sleep.
6.      Ask family, friends and co-workers for their help and support. Having someone to take a
walk with or just listen can give a needed boost.
7.      You don’t have to quit alone. Help is available. Consider joining a stop-smoking program
like Freedom From Smoking from the American Lung Association.

Lung with Emphysema.  Courtesy of American Lung Association

You can find a support group near you by clicking on www.lungusa.org.  There is also free American Lung Association online support at Freedom from Smoking Online.

If you don’t smoke, email this post to a friend that does.  It could be lifesaving.

I don’t smoke, never have.   So I need ideas for my resolution.  Please help.   Do you make them for yourself?

Pictured: healthy lung (top), lung with emphysema (bottom); courtesy, American Lung Association.

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11 Responses to “Quit smoking as your New Year’s resolution? Make it your priority.”

  1. Dr. J Says:

    I can’t be more supportive of this excellent advice!!

    Not smoking is the best health gift we can give ourselves!

    Thank you Dr. Hubbard!

    Dr. Js last blog post..Dr. J’s bird brain and brawn awards of 2008

  2. Steve Parker, M.D. Says:

    What Dr. J said.

    Like you, Dr. Hubbard, I made more resolutions when I was younger. Now that I’m perfect, I don’t need them anymore.

    [I'm learning that sarcasm is hard to convey in a blog post, so just to be clear: I'm not really perfect.]

    My one resolution this year is to start reading the Bible again, and regularly.

    I think it helps to make a written, public committment. So there.


    Steve Parker, M.D.s last blog post..Mediterranean Diet & Lifestyle Associated With Reduced Alzheimer Dementia

  3. James Hubbard, M.D., M.P.H. Says:

    Dr J,
    Thanks. It is a great giet to stop for your loved ones also.

  4. James Hubbard, M.D., M.P.H. Says:

    Dr. Parker, Great resolution, and now it is permanent cyberspace.
    No offense, but I really didn’t think you were perfect. Maybe close to it.

  5. Blake Says:

    those pictures of the lungs tell it all. thanks for sharing.

    Blakes last blog post..Dream Big and Work Hard

  6. Sagan Says:

    It’s getting harder and harder to be a smoker what with all the places that its banned, so hopefully that has a big impact on getting people to quit.

    I don’t do resolutions at New Years anymore because I feel as though I’m only making them because we’re supposed to, and then I’m not 100% all for it. So I make my resolutions throughout the year whenever I feel ready instead.

    If you don’t have any bad habits to be rid of, what about having the resolution of acquiring a new skill as the year goes on? Picking up a language or musical instrument or something. Or mountain climbing. Some kind of conversation piece:D

  7. Leigh Ann Says:

    I don’t do resolutions, either. So I’m having trouble thinking of any for you. I happen to know you already eat a healthy, low-salt diet and also get exercise. Maybe don’t fall on the ice any more.

    I like Sagan’s idea of learning a new skill. I’ve always wanted to learn sign language.

    Leigh Ann Hubbard
    Managing Editor
    James Hubbard’s My Family Doctor

  8. Lee Says:

    I am also planning to quit smoking in 09. I smoke out of habit – have for many years and tried to stop in the past but kept going back to it. A buddy of mine told me about thecarrot.com, he was using to track his diet (he has diabetes) and I started using it a few weeks ago to track smoking. Like you said, the coolest thing is that for the first time, I can see why I smoke. For me its mostly when I am trying to avoid doing something I don’t want to do (like if I have a big project at work or need to confront someone about something). Now I can work on re-training myself to do the inevitable (fix things now) and skip the smoking. The support group is a good idea, I am joining one too.

  9. Judy Rodman Says:

    I remember when I used to smoke, and it was in my mind that it was too hard to quit. My mind had lied to me. I just needed to come to the belief that I was not invincible. Getting very sick one time did the trick for me.

    As to New Year resolutions… I make them anew every year. And it helps; for me it has to do with getting my crazy schedule under control. I set a time to be exercising, eating, doing my devotional and getting ready for the day. As the year goes on, things get out of hand again, but at least I know I can get back to basics come Jan 1 again. One of these years it’s going to be permanent!!

    A resolution for you? Take your wife out and enjoy more dates!

    Judy Rodmans last blog post..OK, I’m back! Now, about those resolutions…

  10. James Hubbard, M.D., M.P.H. Says:

    Blake- I first saw those photos in medical school and was amazed.

    Sagan- great ideas. I agree, you can make resolutions all year long. I have been wanting to brush up on my Spanish for a long time. Tried the mountain climbing (actually hiking) and only made it half way up before injury and winter set in.

    Leigh Ann- don’t tell secrets.

    Lee- I am so happy for you. Please don’t give up. You won’t regret it.

    Judy- My wife thanks you for the suggestion.

  11. BCP Veterinary Pharmacy Says:

    Thanks for sharing these tips!

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