On this World No Tobacco Day, we encourage anyone who is a current smoker to call the Tennessee Tobacco QuitLine at 1-800-QUIT-NOW!
I grew up in a smoking household. Both my parents (both of whom died before 70 of smoking-related illnesses) were life-long smokers. I started smoking as a 19 year old junior in college: it was a cool and grown-up thing to do. By the time I finally successfully quit smoking—after 2 or 3 unsuccessful efforts I was smoking about a pack a day. This was in the 1970’s when it was a very different smoking-tolerant time and environment. Cigarettes were relatively inexpensive, and you could smoke everywhere—even in the workplace.
At some point in my early 20’s I decided to try to quit smoking—to save some money, to smell better—just to clean up my act and be healthier. I gradually cut back on the number of cigarettes I smoked each day and eventually stopped—for probably 6 months or so. Then came some young adult “crisis” or another that created stress in my life which became a reason to go back to my KOOL’s, and one or two cigarettes a day soon became a pack a day again.
My ultimately successful quit attempt came a couple of years later when I was in Public Health School and at the urging and with the support of my husband. We had been a couple for quite a while, and he was consistently clear in his aversion to cigarettes and cigarette smoke. I tried not to smoke around him. I’d chew plenty of gum and roll down my car windows to air out my hair and clothes, all in an effort to support the myth that I had quit (almost) smoking. Then one day it dawned on me. I probably wasn’t fooling him. I was unnecessarily stressing myself. I was still spending money on cigarettes, and I certainly wasn’t exhibiting the healthy behavior I was learning about and planning to teach to others. I already wasn’t smoking at home so I cut out smoking in the car. The next challenges were not smoking at work or at school (yes, there are folks in public health who don’t always practice what they know and preach!). As I recall, my final method of quitting was somewhere between cold turkey and gradual tapering off. I did not have the assistance of a quit line or a nicotine replacement, but I did not just come to a screeching halt. I tapered off over the course of several months as I came to a point of true commitment to living a healthier and longer life by being a non-smoker. It certainly did help to have a significant person in my corner supporting me in my quit efforts as well as increasingly being immersed in an environment and engaged in work where smoking was frowned upon reinforced my decision to quit.
To be honest and in full disclosure, I would have to acknowledge I missed smoking for a long time. Certain events and places and associates would trigger the craving to light up and inhale deeply. I was addicted to the nicotine. I know the pleasures and pull of smoking and how very hard it can be and long it can take to quit. I also know how it feels to be smoke free, to have hair and clothing that’s not full of stale tobacco smells and to have re-awakened taste-buds.
For those thinking of quitting,
- Find a partner or support person who will be in your corner;
- Try a nicotine patch and the quit line for transitional support;
- Know up front it won’t be easy but it can be done;
- Find a reason to quit that works for you;
- And finally…..don’t beat up on yourself if you fall off the wagon. Just get back on and celebrate that you are on the road to living healthier.