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Don’t go it alone

It takes more than ganas to quit smoking

By Tony Ornelas

The National Latino Council on Alcohol and Tobacco Prevention tell us that lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths among Latinos in the United States. Statistics show that smoking often is the root of most forms of lung cancer. That makes quitting especially critical for Hispanics.

Yet culturally, addiction among some Hispanic patients is perceived as a bad habit that can be overcome if one just “puts his mind to it” or applies what is referred to as ganas. While a noble state of mind, the fact is that when it comes to nicotine addiction, it is nearly impossible to quit without help. Nicotine addiction is a chronic, relapsing condition. Fewer than five percent of smokers who try to quit on their own achieve abstinence for six to 12 months.

The highly addictive nature of commercial tobacco guarantees that the smoker will make as many as seven attempts to quit before achieving success. Intervention from a healthcare professional can go a long way in affirming that addiction to tobacco is, in fact, a chronic condition.

A doctor, nurse or nurse practitioner has the power to make a long-lasting impact on patients, as they are in positions of influence and are in tune with the health impacts of smoking as well as on the cutting edge of treatment options.

These professionals know that helping patients who smoke make a permanent change requires the right combination of counseling support and access to services, including FDA-approved, over-the-counter and prescribed medications. They can provide linguistically appropriate counseling services and multiple treatments per year, if necessary.

It’s been proven that access to services and support, in conjunction with appropriate therapies and prescription smoking-cessation medications, delivers the greatest results for smokers attempting to quit. Nurses observe the emotional and human toll that diseases like lung cancer have on our society.

Such experiences should inspire every healthcare professional to educate their patients and the community at large about the addictive nature of tobacco and help them understand it is a chronic condition that must be addressed. As the single leading cause of preventable disease and preventable death in the United States that contributes to more than 400,000 deaths annually, it is a topic that demands our attention.

Strategies for quitting

Making the decision to quit is the first step toward a smoke-free life. Set a “quit date” and try to stick to it. Prior to the big day, the U.S. Surgeon General’s office suggests that you throw away all cigarettes, ashtrays and other smoking-related articles – don’t buy anymore. Keeping the act of smoking out of sight will help keep it out of mind.

Just as visual cues can trigger the desire to smoke, they also can be excellent tools for achieving success. Make a list of your personal reasons for quitting, including pictures of people you love – your child, husband, wife, you! Place the list someplace where you will see it every day. Look at it! Read the written reasons out loud every day.

Now is the time to “toot your own horn” and make an announcement about your important decision to quit. Tell everyone that will listen that you are quitting, but start with your closest circle, people you see every day. Share the news with your family, friends and coworkers. When you tell them that you have decided to quit smoking, enlist them as allies by asking them to help you stick to your promise.

Because smoking is embedded into your daily routine, it is necessary to alter how tasks, large and small, are achieved. This means doing things in a new way. For example, if driving to work in the morning and lighting up go hand in hand, make a plan to chew on gum or hard candy to help overcome the craving during that particular task. Any flavor will do, but cinnamon gum and cinnamon sticks are popular choices to eliminate cravings. If vacant hands become a problem, try holding a marble or a stress ball during your commute.

See this story in print here:

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This Article appears on the July 2011 issue of LPM under Health

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