Don’t Let Misconceptions Keep You From Quitting
Quitting smoking is one of the hardest things that most former smokers have ever done. Common fears and misconceptions about quitting smoking can make things even more difficult for potential quitters. For example, many smokers fear that quitting smoking will result in weight gain; creative types may be afraid that they’ll lose their “edge” once they stop smoking. Luckily, most of these fears are untrue or greatly exaggerated. To prove it, we debunk the top 10 myths about quitting smoking.
Myth: Quitting Smoking Causes Weight Gain
The side effects of quitting smoking may include weight gain, but it’s relatively easy to fight off by eating healthier foods and exercising more with that fresh set of lungs you will have. On average, people who quit smoking gain 5 to 10 pounds in the first few months, according to the National Institutes of Health. Keep in mind that this amount of added weight is inconsequential healthwise compared with the ill effects of smoking. You’d have to gain about 100 pounds to equal the negative health consequences of being a pack-a-day smoker, according to Pat Folan, RN, DNP, the director of the North Shore-LIJ Center for Tobacco Control in Great Neck, New York. Besides, she says, “In our cessation program, less than 4 percent of participants reported weight gain.
Myth: It Prompts Mood Swings
It’s natural to feel a little edgy when you first quit smoking. The important thing to remember is that this side effect is usually short-lived. “The good news is that the body adjusts quickly to not getting nicotine blasted to the brain every 30 minutes, so withdrawal feelings are temporary and often go away in a week or two after stopping,”says K. Michael Cummings, PhD, MPH, a professor in the department of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Medical University of South Carolina and co-director of the Tobacco Policy and Control Program at the Hollings Cancer Center. “Nicotine medications help take the edge off these withdrawal symptoms, which is why they help people stop smoking.”
Myth: You’ll Get Depressed
Some people believe that short-term mood swings will lead to long-term depression. But in reality, depression over quitting smoking is most commonly an issue if depression is already a problem. “If a person has a history of depression and quits smoking, the depressive condition can worsen,” says Robert Gardner, PhD, the director of psychosocial oncology at the Touro Infirmary in New Orleans. “The good news about depression is often times it can be successfully treated with the right combination of medication and counseling.” Getting the right professional treatment can help you resolve both situations.
Myth: Not Smoking Will Ruin Your Social Life
Neil Gussman, a writer living in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and a smoker for 20 years, feared that his social life would be ruined when he first quit smoking. Instead, thanks to his stronger set of lungs, he found entirely new avenues of social interaction. “After quitting, I became a runner and a Masters bicycle racer,” he says. Last year, at 61, Gussman finished an Ironman competition. Now, you don’t have to go to Gussman’s extremes with a new hobby — any activity will be more fun and less physically challenging once you stop smoking, Folan says.
Myth: You’ll Lose Your Smoking Friends
The other part of the social life equation that smokers fear is that they’ll lose all their friends who smoke. However, you may be quite surprised to find out how supportive your friends can be, especially if you explain why quitting smoking is important to you. In fact, Folan says, your resolve to quit could be the catalyst for your friends to consider giving up cigarettes right along with you.
Myth: You Won’t Be as Creative
Another side effect that Gussman feared as he began the process of not smoking was that he would no longer be as creative and effective as a writer. Time and experience showed that this definitely was not the case. In fact, many creative people find that their creativity improves because they’re no longer preoccupied by when they’ll have that next cigarette and don’t have to stop work to go smoke, Folan says. Any loss of focus should be temporary, just like any mood swings.
Myth: You’ll Develop a Cough
Some people are hesitant to stop smoking because they believe cold-like symptoms or uncontrollable coughing might come next. “I’ve heard some people express fear that quitting will make them sick. This is definitely not true,” stresses Marc L. Steinberg, PhD, an associate professor of psychiatry at the Rutgers University Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in New Brunswick, New Jersey. “Tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of death in the United States”. Worldwide, it is responsible for about 6 million deaths each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. About 438,000 of those deaths are in the United States, the American Lung Association reports. The best thing you can do for your health is quitting smoking, Steinberg says. If you do develop a cough, drinking more fluids and giving it a little time will generally improve the situation, Folan adds.
Myth: Quitting Is Too Expensive
In this case, the numbers prove the myth wrong pretty quickly. Smoking cessationtreatments cost between a few hundred and a few thousand dollars, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. But compare that to the cost of smoking. With the average price of a pack of cigarettes in the United States being $6.36, according to the American Cancer Society, smoking a pack a day eats up more than $2,300 in just one year. What’s more, your health insurance plan might very well include coverage for the enrollment fees in smoking cessation programs, medications, or counseling sessions. Also, check with your state’s quitline. In addition to free counseling, quitlines often provide some free cessation medications to get you started, Folan says.
Myth: You’ll Fail Anyway
It’s true that once and done may not apply to quitting smoking. “Most smokers make numerous quit attempts before they achieve long-term, sustained abstinence,” says Joy M. Schmitz, PhD, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the University of Texas-Houston Medical School and director of the UT Center for Neurobehavioral Research on Addiction. However, “failing a quitting-smoking attempt can be beneficial if you learn from the experience,” she adds. “If the attempt failed, it is important to take a close look at what situations were particularly difficult.” Slipping up is no reason to give up. Rather, it’s a reason to try quitting again. “Keep trying,” Schmitz says.
Myth: It’s Too Late to Quit
Cummings has heard the “damage is done” argument for not quitting smoking many times, and he’s still not buying it. “It’s not true,” he says. “Many of the adverse effects of smoking are caused by the acute impact of smoking on the body, including cardiac strain that increases the risk of heart attack and stroke, and respiratory infections that lead to more serious problems like bronchitis and pneumonia. Also, your senses of smell and taste return quickly after quitting.” Even if you have developed health problems from smoking, quitting will improve the effectiveness of your medications and enhance your quality of life thanks to more oxygen to your vital organs and increased stamina, Folan says. “Surgical interventions will be more successful and pain can be better controlled when you quit,” she adds.