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Publix Greenwise Market Magazine Jan. 2009
Publix GreenWise Market Magazine
Publix GreenWise Market

Publix GreenWise Market Magazine - Winter 2009

Kick the Smoking Habit

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For 56 years St. Petersburg resident Dolores Urso greeted each day with a cigarette. Then one day a friend said “it’s going to kill you” and showed her a taped television show that demonstrated just how smoking damages the lungs. This time the message clicked, and Urso promised her friend she’d quit. “I did it for myself; I did it for her.”

And that’s when Urso made a new friend—a Quitline counselor from the American Cancer Society (ACS). The two talked on the phone every week for two months, chatting about strategies to change the ways Urso thought about cigarettes and how to change behaviors associated with smoking. It worked so well that today she says, “I don’t even think of smoking.”

If you’re a smoker who has tried to quit, you know it’s one of the toughest habits to break. Giving up cigarettes means fighting both a chemical and a psychological dependency, and that requires a multipronged approach. Urso benefited from counseling support, a strategy that may help smokers finally break free of nicotine.

Smoking intervention programs can quadruple a quitter’s success rate. What makes them so successful? Maybe it’s the counseling, which teaches smokers how to fight the urge whenever they want a cigarette.

Behavioral modification, along with nicotine replacement therapy, is key to kicking the smoking habit, says John E. Connett, Ph.D., professor and head of the division of biostatistics at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health. Counseling is an essential part of helping change behavior, especially among those with existing health conditions and weight control problems.

Connett was the principal investigator in the Lung Health Study, a clinical trial that included a smoking intervention program in which counselors helped smokers avoid psychological triggers such as tense situations or parties where others smoke. After five years, 21.7 percent of those in the counseling program had stopped smoking, compared to only 5.4 percent of those who didn’t receive help.

That’s where a program like Quitline, the resource Dolores Urso tapped, comes in. Participants agree to a series of 30-minute sessions with a counselor. “We help them plan how they are going to restructure their lives to anticipate problems,” says Vance Rabius, Ph.D., senior scientist at the ACS. “If you are a two-pack-a-day smoker, that’s 40 times a day you have to come up with something else to do.”

These relationships are important, and the ACS has found that participants who talk with the same counselor throughout the program have significantly higher quit rates than those who have several different counselors.

Smokers’ ability to quit may also be influenced by the company they keep. One study demonstrated that if a woman and her sister both smoked and the sister quit, the chances of the woman continuing to smoke decreased by 25 percent (The New England Journal of Medicine, May 2008). The biggest drop was among spouses. If one quit, the other’s chances of continuing to smoke decreased by 67 percent.
Smoking is not just a physical addiction. It’s also a habitual behavior throughout the day, and when it’s gone you have to fill the void. So instead of lighting up, Rabius suggests going for a walk.

Exercise not only gives the smoker something to do, but it can also reduce cigarette cravings and withdrawal symptoms such as stress, restlessness, irritability, anxiety, tension and poor concentration. In fact, English scientists demonstrated that even five minutes of activity can help reduce the craving for cigarettes (Addiction, April 2007). They speculate that exercise helps smokers by calming the brain’s mood centers.

Another study by Brown University scientists demonstrated that women who exercised regularly were nearly twice as likely to quit smoking and stay smoke-free as women who tried to quit without exercise (Archives of Internal Medicine, June 1999). The exercise group also gained significantly less weight and was better able to handle stress.

Because smoking is one of the toughest habits to break, it pays to throw everything you've got at it. Double your odds of success with a holistic approach that combines counseling and exercise.
Have You Tried This?
Experts say every smoker employs different strategies for quitting. Here are a few techniques that might work for you:
  • Write down the risks of smoking—the threat of cancer and lung disease, bad breath, odors on your clothes. Then list the rewards of not smoking—fresh breath, whiter teeth, a healthier body. Whenever you feel tempted, just review all of the rewards.
  • Meet your smoking friends at restaurants that ban smoking.
  • If you must have a cigarette with your coffee, replace that cup of coffee with tea or fruit juice until the cravings stop.
  • Develop an exercise plan to reduce stress and take your mind off smoking.
Herbal Relief?
There is some evidence that lobelia, an herb traditionally used by Native Americans to treat asthma, may be effective in helping smokers quit. Lobeline, a component of that herb, is an active ingredient in smoking withdrawal kits designed to slowly reduce addiction.

Research on the effectiveness of lobeline is limited, but it has shown some promise in combating nicotine addiction, says Linda Dwoskin, Ph.D., professor in pharmaceutical education at the University of Kentucky College of Pharmacy. A study Dwoskin coauthored (Biochemical Pharmacology, January 2002) found that lobeline limits the effect of nicotine, thus reducing the release of dopamine in the brain. A reduction in dopamine, in turn, can combat addiction (Pharmacogenetics, February 2004).

Talk to your physician before trying lobelia. Very large doses (500 mg per day) can be dangerous; pregnant or breast-feeding women and people with high blood pressure or heart disease should not use it.

For more information on lobelia and quitting smoking, visit and search for “smoking cessation.”
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