The New Year brings with it a universal mindset that it’s a fresh start. With the exception of losing weight (what woman doesn’t want to do that?!), quitting smoking is a top New Year’s resolution. In fact, the New York State Smoker’s Quitline is barraged with calls this time of year and with good reason — tobacco wreaks havoc on your body and cuts 14 years off your life. Lung cancer is the number one cancer killer of women and smoking goes hand-in-hand with heart disease.
“We know that women tend to be more susceptible to the negative effects of tobacco. Pound for pound, women need to smoke fewer cigarettes to see the same health problems that men do,” said Leslie Holmberg, MS, RN, director of the Tobacco Cessation Center at St. Joseph’s Hospital.
Smoking also causes women to look older. “When women smoke, their skin is very dry and has a yellow tinge. They age faster and the lines are very pronounced around their lips, eyes and mouth,” said Patricia Briest, NP. “Their teeth are yellow,” added Holmberg. “With all the concerns that many women have about their appearance, tobacco use is going to achieve the opposite effect than they desire.”
Kicking the habit for good, though, is a tough challenge because nicotine is highly addictive. It traditionally takes seven to 10 times to quit permanently. You know how it goes…you’re motivated in December, thinking to yourself, “Jan. 1 I’m going to do it. I’m going to [insert resolution].” But, soon after, the resolution is forgotten.
“You have to decide this is what you want to do,” Holmberg said. “There are a lot of women who will stop smoking cigarettes when they’re pregnant, yet go right back to it after they have the baby. They were successfully able to stop for nine months but they’re not stopping forever because they’re not doing it for themselves. It helps to stop for the spouse, child or pet, but you have to want it yourself.”
It’s not as simple as flushing the rest of the pack. Cold turkey usually doesn’t work.
“Getting counseling and having some sort of evidence-based therapy such as nicotine patches, lozenges, gum or a prescription medication works best,” Briest said. “Evidence shows people who get counseling are more likely to be successful at quitting — no matter what method they use to quit.”
“So many times, women put themselves last,” Holmberg said. “They don’t want to subject the family to their struggle. We need to realize that the best thing we can be for our family is to be there and to be healthy. It is worth the extra time and energy of the whole family to support the woman in this.”
Many women are concerned about the weight gain that is typically associated with smoking cessation. Yes, you can gain about seven pounds; however, you’ll be adding 14 years to your life. It’s time to decide which is more important?
By Kelly Quinn