I grew up in a household of smokers. Both of my parents, as well as my older sisters and oldest brother all smoked. While my father eventually quit smoking, my mother and older siblings never did. As I got older, no matter how much I would plead with my mother to quit smoking (even one time going so far as to take her newly-purchased carton of cigarettes and break them up over a trash can while she was asleep), she continued to smoke up to the day she passed away. I knew that deep down inside she wanted to stop-especially since I suffered from asthma-but her smoking addiction was much stronger-much deeper than I would ever know.
My mother’s story of smoking addiction is not uncommon. In fact, about 46 million Americans smoke, but most wish they did not, according to the Centers for Disease Control. A 2010 survey showed that 70 percent of smokers in the U.S. would like to quit, and in 2012 more than 40 percent actively tried to stop.
The National Institutes of Health points to numerous reasons to end the habit. Smokers who quit lower their risk of getting various cancers, including lung cancer, and also reduce their chances of suffering from heart disease, stroke, emphysema, and other serious diseases.
Mental health expert and addiction specialist Dr. Gregory L. Jantz of the Center for Counseling and Health near Seattle points out that the road to ending smoking addiction can be a tough one to navigate alone. “Generally, given the opportunity, people do want to quit smoking. But they don’t believe they can or don’t know how,” said Jantz.
Jantz also notes that figuring out a strategy for quitting involves recognizing the depths of the smoking addiction. A few points to understand include:
- The belief that smoking meets emotional needs as well as physical needs. “It meets a huge need for comfort,” he says. “So smokers need to ask themselves, ‘How do I bring comfort into my life without smoking?’”
- Smoking is relational. Smokers get together with other people to smoke, which fuels the habit. “Once you become an ex-smoker, you are no longer part of that group,” Jantz says. “And that’s not fun. But if smokers can begin to see the possibility of themselves as healthier, vibrant persons, then they are more inclined to make the effort.”
- Going cold turkey doesn’t work for most people. Even all those health warnings on cigarette packages and images in the media portraying the devastating results of smoking don’t have the impact you might imagine, Jantz says. “This is so addictive and so powerful that people can see these pictures and continue to do it,” Jantz says. “That’s a powerful addiction.”
The American Cancer Society reports that only about 4 to 7 percent of smokers are able to stop on their own without using smoke-cessation products, yet almost all of these products use nicotine reduction therapy (NRT), which require smokers to quit cold turkey. Most smokers who have tried NRT products fail to quit multiple times.
There is one new product Jantz recently began using with some of his patients called NicoBloc, a more innovative approach helping smokers to quit the habit gradually, so going cold turkey isn’t necessary.
“Obviously, people can and do stop,” Jantz says. “Sometimes they just need the right method and approach that can free them from both the physical and emotional aspects of their addiction. We are focused on treating nicotine addiction by eliminating the use of nicotine in treatment, primarily because nicotine remains the most addictive drug known to man.”
If you or someone you love suffers from smoking addiction and needs help to quit smoking, find information and resources at the American Lung Association website here.
Meet the Expert:
Gregory L. Jantz (www.aplaceofhope.com) has nearly three decades of experience in mental health counseling and is the founder of The Center for Counseling and Health Resources near Seattle, Wash. The Center, “a place for hope,” provides comprehensive, coordinated care from a treatment team that addresses medical, physical, psychological, emotional, nutritional, fitness and spiritual factors involved in recovery. He is the best-selling author of more than 28 books and is a regular contributor to The Huffington Postand Psychology Today blogs.