Pass on the puff

A recent study done by Harvard School of Public Health indicated that a third of all college students smoke cigars or cigarettes, which is an astounding number.
Stress seems to be the main instigator in getting and keeping people hooked. If you think about it, it makes sense: You have a tremendous amount of homework and midterms, and finals can make even a grown bearded man cry. The common stress relievers, like getting enough sleep or exercise for example, sometimes take a back seat to smoking, which is a quick way to step outside for a moment, get some fresh air and relax for a bit.
However, not only is smoking terrible for your health, but it is also tremendously expensive. At $5 a pack, it can cost upwards of $60 a month if you smoke a pack every 2–3 days. Think of all the beer you could buy with that money! All joking aside, it’s not just wise for your wallet to quit, but also wise for your health.
Smoking kills more people each year than HIV, illegal drug use, alcohol abuse and car accidents combined. More than 10 times as many U.S. citizens have died from cigarette smoking than have died in all the wars fought by the U.S. It places an awful lot of stress on nearly every organ of your body and is the main contributor to several different cancers, not just lung cancer. If nobody smoked, over a third of the cancer deaths in the U.S. would not occur.
For women who take birth control pills, there’s the potential side effect of having a stroke. Would you believe that smokers are seven times more likely to have a stroke while taking oral contraceptives than non-smokers? It’s a scary thought.
There are more benefits to quitting smoking than there are to keep puffing. Not only will you stop smelling like an ashtray but you will also be able to be more active without painfully wheezing. Considering physical activity is one of the best stress relievers out there, you can use it to substitute smoking AND start reversing some of the damage done to your body. If you start replacing your smoke breaks with walks around the block, you’ll feel a whole lot better about yourself.
Upon quitting smoking, the carbon monoxide and oxygen levels in your blood return to normal within 12 hours and your sense of taste and smell start to return within 48 hours. In 2–3 months, your lung capacity increases by 30 percent, and after a year, your risk of heart attack drops by half. After two years, the risk of a heart attack drops to nearly that of a non-smoker.
This all sounds well and good, but overcoming an addiction to nicotine is difficult and may seem insurmountable at times. Scientifically speaking, nicotine causes your brain to generate dopamine, the “feel-good” chemical.
When nicotine levels in your blood decrease, your brain creates a craving to get more. Thus begins the vicious cycle. However, if you can tighten your seatbelt and hold on for a short 72 hours, the nicotine is out of your system and cravings start to go away. What you’re left with at that point are behavioral habits that are much harder to break, this being the positive feedback loop that you generate yourself.
Taking the previous example of stress, you puff and feel better, therefore if you keep puffing you keep feeling better. If you try to quit smoking without having a plan for how to relieve that stress, you’re just going to relapse.
If you truly want to quit smoking there are many ways to go about it, but the best way is to just quit cold turkey and deal with the cravings. This takes a tremendous amount of willpower, but it is ultimately the best strategy.
Each year, more ex-smokers quit cold turkey than by all other methods combined. The trick with this is to just take it one day at a time, nay, one hour at a time. When you feel the urge to smoke, wait a few minutes for it to pass while reminding yourself why you’re quitting.
Withdrawal symptoms lessen as each day passes. If you relapse, consider the position you were in that caused you to smoke, and make a new plan if that same situation occurs. Try not to get too down on yourself, accept that you slipped, learn from it and recommit to quitting. In essence, get back up on that horse and keep riding.
If you don’t believe that you can quit cold turkey, do what you are able to—only you know your limitations. Tapering programs like nicotine gum, patches and
e-cigarettes can work wonders to slowly work the nicotine out of your system. However, these can be incredibly expensive, sometimes even more so than smoking. It’s important to keep tapering down and not get hooked on them; they still have nicotine in them, after all.
Lastly, you can find more resources directed toward Portland State students at
pus/smoking-cessation. There
are tons of links with great information to help you. You can even meet with a Student Health and Counseling educator who will break down all the steps needed to finally quit. Sometimes it’s just important to know that you’re not alone in the fight.
You can do it.