By Jose Majano, Associate Director, Community Health Education, Training, and Research
“When life changes to be harder, change yourself to be stronger.”Edwin Mamerto
This quote brings to mind the challenging time we are living in during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the opportunity we have to make healthy choices, like quitting smoking. Research shows that smoking increases the risk for respiratory infection, so tobacco smokers have higher odds of contracting more severe cases of COVID-19 than nonsmokers.
To successfully quit smoking, you will need to break the addiction, as well as the habit.
Everyone has nicotine receptors in their nervous system. When you smoke tobacco, the nicotine (one of the thousand toxic components of tobacco) plugs into the receptor. This creates a chain of chemical reactions that makes you feel relaxed and powerful.
If you don’t have money to pay rent, for example, after smoking a cigarette you may say to yourself, “it’s not the first time and somehow this will be resolved” or “my friend can loan me the money, so now the problem is fixed.”
This relationship between nicotine and the nervous system creates the pleasurable feeling of smoking. When you quit smoking, you can use nicotine pills and patches to help to fight the addiction to that powerful feeling.
Quitting also requires dealing with the habit. Just as one person may start their day by drinking a cup of Colombian medium roast coffee with a biscotti, tobacco users may start every day by smoking a cigarette as soon as they wake up. This is more of a habit than an addiction, so pills and patches do little to help.
To fight the habit, you need mental support to learn strategies to resist the temptation of smoking, such as keeping your mind focused on a distractor at the usual craving time.
Today, on the Great American Smokeout, take the first step and decide to quit smoking to become a healthier person. Then, ask your medical provider or a counselor for resources to help you stay on track.
Click here to make an appointment with Mary’s Center and start your journey to a smoke-free life.