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The beginning of a new year is a time when many smokers make a resolution to stop smoking. Although adult smoking rates are at an all-time low, cigarette smoking is still the leading cause of preventable death in the U.S. with 480,000 people dying per year. According to “Smoking Cessation: A Report of the Surgeon General,” which was released in January 2020, quitting smoking can add as much as a decade to an individual’s life expectancy.

“No one claims that quitting is easy,” said Rhonda Sheridan, RRT, CTTS, coordinator of pulmonary rehabilitation at St. Mary’s. “It’s a big step. A commitment that is only possible if you have decided to put your health fi rst. According to the CDC, just over 34 million people currently smoke cigarettes. That’s unacceptable.”

Once you’ve made the decision to stop smoking, there are some key steps to doing it successfully. The first is to pick a Quit Day. You should pick a day within the next month as picking a date too far away can allow you time to rationalize and change your mind. Whatever date you choose, circle it on your calendar and make a strong, personal commitment to quit on that day.

There’s no one right way to quit. Most smokers prefer to quit cold turkey, smoking until their Quit Day and then quitting. Others cut down on the number of cigarettes they smoke a little bit each day. Smokers may wish there was a magic pill or something that would make quitting painless and easy, but there is no such thing. Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT) can help reduce withdrawal symptoms, but it works best when used as part of a stop-smoking plan that addresses both the physical and psychological components of quitting smoking.

E-cigarettes, or vaping, are sometimes marketed as a way to quit smoking, but there is not enough conclusive scientific evidence that they work.

“E-cigarettes do have fewer toxic substances than cigarette smoke, but users are still exposed to nicotine, toxins, and other ingredients that should not be inhaled into the body,” Sheridan said. “We recommend more proven ways to quit smoking. A combination of counseling and nicotine replacement therapy can double your chances of quitting.”

St. Mary’s Pulmonary Rehabilitation offers one-on-one counseling by phone to help smokers break the habit. The counseling sessions are with Sheridan, a certified tobacco treatment specialist trained through the Mayo Clinic.

“One-on-one sessions are important because everyone is different, so everyone doesn’t quit the same way,” Sheridan said. “This is an individualized program that focuses on individual motives for quitting and an individualized treatment plan.”

Sheridan said counseling, when combined with nicotine replacement therapy, can double a person’s chances of quitting. Smokers should always check with their doctors before beginning any prescription drugs to help them quit.

For more information, or to register for St. Mary’s smoking cessation program, please call St. Mary’s Pulmonary Rehabilitation at 304.399.7402.

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