It is here that my quitting diary will end. As reported in my previous three articles, I have successfully made it through days one through three – almost. Since time flies faster in real life than in the newspaper world, I am proud to report that at the time of writing I have been cigarette free for 36 days. So what have I learned?
The first thing I learned is that quitting smoking is miserable, and much worse than actually smoking. Hey, I’m being honest here. But the miserable part lasts for only about a week, whereas the effects of smoking last a lifetime. If you are planning to quit, my first piece of advice is to be prepared: Be prepared to be angry, to cheat and to probably cry at least once. I personally felt a little better after that first cry.
I decided that I would quit on Valentine’s Day. Michael McNeil, coordinator of the Temple Health Empowerment Office said, “The best way to quit is the way you think will work.” This for me was quitting without any assistance, otherwise known as “cold turkey.” Though McNeil warns that cold turkey is the least successful quitting method long term, it is still a viable option for students. I personally chose it because not using nicotine replacement was the cheapest option for me, and also because I started smoking all by myself, and wanted to quit all by myself. A noble approach? Not really, I think I might just be a glutton for punishment.
For those who feel they may need the help of nicotine replacement products, THEO once again comes to the rescue. The office offers free “quit kits” that include candy, mints, small items to help you get past cravings and even a sample of nicotine gum, among other items. If you think that nicotine gum might help you through the quitting process, THEO also offers free starter packs. They are in the process right now of acquiring patches and lozenges, which should be available by the end of the semester.
My first step, besides deciding to write about all of this in the newspaper, was to pick my quit date. Valentine’s Day was the perfect quit date because I surely did not have any plans for that night – sad, I know – and because there was nothing big coming up in my life that might start me smoking again. Still, there are many times in a Temple student’s life when quitting is not the best idea. THEO counselors here on campus have even been known to turn down students seeking smoking help, if only temporarily. According to McNeil, there are times in a student’s life where quitting is just not a viable option, such as during finals week. Pick a time when you can focus on the quitting process, and when you don’t foresee any overwhelming stress in the upcoming days or weeks.
Having people around me who knew I was quitting was a huge help. For one, they forgave me when I was crabby, and two, they also checked up on me incessantly that first week. I hated it at the time, but I couldn’t lie to them and therefore had to stay smoke free just to get them off my back. Well, technically, I could lie and let them down later. Nevertheless, as stated by McNeil, “you are accountable only to yourself.” After I cheated on day two, I was the only one to blame. I was ashamed to tell my friends, and I was pissed off at myself. That was definitely enough to stop me from cheating again, at least in the near future.
I kind of feel like my ability to stay smoke-free was partially due to the fact that I had told so many people about my quest, and had to report to all of them. According to the American Cancer Society stop smoking programs are another great way to provide support and encouragement in staying quit. Wouldn’t you know it, THEO offers these very programs! Free, one-on-one support by trained staff is available to students who are merely considering quitting, ready to quit, or just want to cut back on the amount they smoke a day.
Finally, it was not until I started researching for these articles that I realized how quickly the effects of quitting affected my system. As reported in days one and two, the first 48 hours brought a decreased chance of a heart attack, return of my ability to taste and smell, and also leveling of carbon monoxide in my blood. These are all good things. However, it doesn’t stop there; in fact, I will be on the receiving end of many benefits of quitting for quite a few more years. According to The U.S. Surgeon General’s Report of 1990, these benefits include:
u In one year: Excess risk of coronary heart disease becoming half that of a smoker’s.
u In five years: Stroke risk is reduced to that of a nonsmoker five to 15 years after quitting.
uIn 10 years: The lung cancer death rate is about half that of a continuing smoker’s; the risk of cancer of the mouth, throat, esophagus, bladder, kidney and pancreas decrease.
Now who can argue with those kinds of results? As I stated in my first article on the subject, if I could pull this off, I believe anyone can. Well, I’ve made it this far, so how about you? From the looks of all the e-mail feedback I have received over the past few weeks, there are many of you out there who want to quit, who have friends who they want to quit, or who are just plain sick of the smokers on campus. If you are a smoker, why don’t you just give quitting a try? There is enough support on campus to assist you, and at the very least, you can stop by THEO and grab some free stuff, no questions asked. Just tell them Michelle sent you.
Michelle Nicoletto can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.