Let's face it, quitting smoking is a tough challenge.  I know firsthand from trying to quit myself over the past few years and have failed.  I decided to take a look at the different methods available to quit and the effects it would have on my health.

There are five stages to smoking cessation:

Pre contemplation, meaning the smoker is content and doesn't want to stop.

Contemplation is when the smoker is concerned about health and is considering quitting.

Preparation is the stage when the smoker plans ways to quit.

Action is when the smoker chooses a day to stop smoking.

Maintenance is continued support to help the patient and prevent relapse.

stop smoking(89893)Credit: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CigaretteSmoking has psychological and physical addictions, which is why it is so hard to stop.  It becomes part of daily routine and provides the body with a temporary high.  Many people will experience withdrawal and cravings as they attempt to quit.  Others feel that they can not deal with stress and anxiety without smoking.  There are several ways people use to try to stop smoking.  With any method the first step is to choose a date that you intend to quit.  Let family members and co-workers or others who will support you know of your plan.  Prepare yourself mentally and physically for the challenge.  Remove cigarettes from your home, place of employment, and vehicle.  If needed, you may choose to talk to your doctor about quitting.  Some people benefit from support groups where they can discuss issues and be among others experiencing similar feelings.

You may experience dry mouth, dizziness, headaches, become restless or irritable, and have increased hunger.  This is due to lack of nicotine and is a sugar related craving.  Drinking juice can help ease this symptom.  

Staying active and busy can also help to keep your mind off smoking.  You can also try substitutes such as chewing gum, hard candy, or sunflower seeds.  It is important to drink a lot of water.  Water helps flush toxins out of your body much quicker.  Breathing exercises may help you cope with stress.  Excercise is also a great stress reliever, and after time will become easier as the effects of smoking wear off.  Set your mind to the fact that you are going to quit and stay strong, positive, and confident.  Tell yourself that you are a non smoker.  If it's the 'hand to mouth' motion you miss, try a straw or pretzel stick. 

Quitting cold turkey is a method that works for some people.  This involves setting a date and simply deciding that you are no longer going to smoke.  This is hard for some people to do because of the effects of addiction, but recent studies show that 75% of smokers quit in this manner.

Some people quit smoking by slowly decreasing the number of cigarettes they smoke each day.  This method works well for a lot of people because it takes away the anxiety of knowing you will not be smoking at all.

Nicotine Patch(89891)Credit: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smoking_cessationOthers choose nicotine patches.  The patches are offered in different strengths depending on the number of cigarettes a person smokes daily.  Some people don't like wearing the patch because it may cause rapid heartbeat and strange dreams.  They can also be rather expensive, but are still cheaper in the long run when compared to the cost of smoking.

Nicotine gum, sprays, inhalers, and lozenges are also available for those who would rather get nicotine in small doses when needed.  Overdose is possible, so if choosing these methods be sure to follow the directions.

Some people choose acupuncture because it can decrease withdrawal symptoms effectively, and increases relaxation and well-being.

Many herbal and natural products are available on the market to aid in smoking cessation, with little or no side effects.

Hypnosis is another method that is commonly used.  Although some believe hypnosis is dangerous, it is considered safe when performed by professionals.  Many people have stopped smoking after attending one session.

Medications are also available for use to stop smoking.  Chantix and Zyban are popular medications on the market.  Some insurance companies will not cover these prescriptions and they can be very expensive.  They also tend to affect some people negatively and may cause suicidal thoughts or depression.  Some studies have also shown that after 6 months, only 14% of Chantix users were still not smoking.  Zyban had a 30% success rate after one year of use. 

However you choose to stop smoking, the effects it has on your health begin to improve immediately within the first forty-eight hours.  After twenty minutes blood pressure decreases and pulse rate drops.  The body temperature in the hands and feet increase.  After eight hours carbon monoxide and oxygen levels resume to normal.  After twenty-four hours your chance of having a heart attack decreases.  After two days the ability to smell and taste increases, and nerve endings begin to regrow. 

Between two weeks to three months, walking becomes easier, lung functions increase by 30%, and circulation improves.  The worst withdrawal symptoms usually last around a month.

Over the next several months you will experience a decrease in coughing, sinus congestion, shortness of breath, and fatigue.  Cilia begins to regrow in the lungs, which increases the ability to clean the lungs and reduce infection.

After one year risk of heart disease drops down to half the risk of a smoker. 

Five to fifteen years later the risk of a stroke decreases to that of nonsmokers.   Lung cancer, cancer of the mouth, throat, and esophagus decreases by half.  After ten years precancerous cells are replaced, and risk for cancer of the bladder, kidney, and pancreas decreases.  At fifteen years the risk for heart disease is about the same as someone who never smoked. 

Quitting smoking will also fatten your finances.  At $4 a pack, one pack a day smokers are spending about $1500 a year.  Think of all the things you could do with that money, such as taking a vacation or saving for something you really want.

Don't give up!  If you relapse, try harder.  It is NEVER too late to stop smoking.