Nicotine can be as addictive as heroin, which is why it is so difficult for people to kick smoking.

It’s never too late to quit tobacco. It might be easier, though, if smokers get help. Lora Buechele, program coordinator for the TSET Healthy Living Program in Cherokee County, said the best thing a person can do is find a support system.

“It could be someone they known who they can talk to, it could be a local group in the community, or even just contacting the Oklahoma Tobacco Helpline and finding someone to talk to to help you through the addiction,” she said. “Don’t do it alone.”

The decision to quit is personal, and often smokers have friends and family who use tobacco. This can make it harder so potential quitters should create an environment that isn’t set up for failure.

“Having that conversation with people you live with to let them know you’re trying to quit, they can understand where you’re coming from and help find solutions to avoid triggers,” said Buechele. “So if someone is using tobacco and they’re the ones always asking to go smoke, by saying, ‘I’m trying to quit,’ they may be more aware and more willing to not invite you on that smoke break.”

Quitting “cold turkey” can be the hardest, and generally isn’t effective, according to the American Lung Association. With a support system, it can be done, but there are a variety of FDA-approved medications smokers can take to help them quit. They can use over-the-counter replacement therapies such as nicotine patches, lozenges and gum. There are also non-nicotine prescription drugs, such as Zyban or Chantix.

Buechele said it’s important to use methods that are proved to help quit. Users should also not try switching to smokeless tobacco or vaping.

“Vaping is not an FDA-approved cessation method and there’s no evidence that it’s actually helping people quit smoking,” she said. “A lot of times, what the data is showing, is people who stop smoking for a while may do vaping. Then after a while, they become dual users. That happens a lot with smokeless tobacco, too.”

In fact, vaping could potentially make people more addicted to nicotine.

“What they’re finding is the way the nicotine – the tobacco leaf – is processed for vaping devices, makes the nicotine so much stronger,” said Buechele.

The benefits to quitting tobacco are almost immediate. Quitters will notice they’re able to breathe better as they are receiving more oxygen. Constant coughing will eventually go away, although for same it make takes weeks, as the lungs clean themselves by bringing up mucus, according to ALA. Former smokers will have fewer wrinkles in their faces and their teeth will look whiter. Also, it reduces the chance of lung cancer and other serious diseases.

Quitting may not work the first time. But it’s important that people don’t let one cigarette derail progress, and turn it into a learning experience.

“Keep trying,” said Buechele. “Just like any type of behavioral change, it doesn’t happen over night, and sometimes it takes multiple times before you’re successful. Every attempt is a success, and then one day, it will get you to your end goal, which is being tobacco-free.”

The Oklahoma Tobacco Helpline offers three free plans for quitting tobacco. Smokers can even receive free patches, gum or lozenges. It can also offer a place for people to be more open about the problems they’re facing. The Oklahoma Tobacco Helpline can be reached by calling 1-800-784-8669. Smokers can also visit okhelpline.com for more information.

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