Tomorrow, May 31, is World No Tobacco Day – a day devoted to raising awareness of the risks associated with smoking and advocating for governments around the world to initiate policy designed to reduce the consumption of tobacco. Since 1998, the World Health Organization (WHO) has encouraged people to avoid tobacco products for 24 hours and consider the risks associated with smoking.
This year, the WHO has chosen a theme of “tobacco and heart disease” to raise awareness of the connection between tobacco and heart disease.
It is widely known that smoking increases the risk of lung disease, but many may not realize its association with heart disease. In fact, the WHO states that tobacco leads to two million cardiovascular-related deaths per year.
Overall, smoking and tobacco use is estimated to kill about seven million people per year. But it’s not just smokers and tobacco users who are affected; individuals exposed to second-hand smoke are also at risk, so quitting can help improve more than your own health.
What happens when you quit? Quitting can cause withdrawal symptoms, like headaches, anxiousness, trouble sleeping, irritability, and even weight gain. Symptoms generally subside after a few weeks as your body adjusts to not having nicotine, but cravings may last longer.
If you’ve been a longtime smoker, quitting may not be a straightforward process; you may have to make several attempts before you’re able to quit successfully. Although some people have success with the “cold turkey” method, quitting can require a good deal of mindfulness and effort. It can be frustrating, but be forgiving of yourself and focus on why you want to quit.
Activities like yoga, running, spending time with friends and family, and avoiding triggers can help reduce some of the preoccupation you may feel toward tobacco.
The good news is that when you quit, the benefits are well worth it! These benefits include:
Reduced risk of stroke, heart disease, and cancer
Reduced belly fat
Increased lung capacity
Where can you get support for quitting? There are many resources available online, including the American Lung Association’s Freedom From Smoking program and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Smokefree text initiative, which allows you to pick your quit date and then supports you (via text messages) if you feel a craving coming on or are having a rough day and might be triggered. There are also a multitude of apps and in-person support groups that offer free help to quit smoking.
Health Coaches can also help individuals as they quit by offering support, holding them accountable, helping them tap into their motivations for quitting, and honoring their bio-individual journey toward changing their habits.
Coaches can also help clients manage their stress levels, identify and handle triggers that may increase the drive to smoke, address the effects of quitting, and celebrate milestones.
Have you quit smoking? What helped? Share your tips!