Chitchat and the occasional in-depth analysis about fiber, knitting, spinning, crochet, cooking, feminism, self-image, and a modicum of personal blathering.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Smoking Cessation

This is something I've been meaning to post. As regular readers know, I smoked my last cigarette on January 11, 2006. I worked up a smoking cessation talk for our local Mensa gathering that summer, and figured I'd go ahead and put it out here in case anyone finds it helpful.

Don't be a chicken, go turkey!

Smoking Cessation

Facts and Figures

-Tobacco kills more than 1,500,000 humans each year. On average, each will die 22.5 years early.
-A few years ago, lung cancer became the most common cause of cancer death in women here in the United States.
-At least 20% of all heart disease deaths are smoking related.
-Tobacco causes 30% of all cancer deaths.
-Tobacco greatly impacts lung function in smokers and their children and spouses, causing premature aging of the lungs.
-Risk of stroke in smokers is 1.5 to 3 times higher than that of nonsmokers
-Smokers have more infections due to tobacco-induced decrease in immune system function

Definition: ``A cigarette is a euphemism for a cleverly crafted product that delivers just the right amount of nicotine to keep its user addicted for life before killing the person.'' World Health Organization director-general Gro Harlem Brundtland

Recent polls indicate that, despite all accumulated knowledge on the subject of diseases caused by tobacco products, a shockingly high percentage of smokers continue to believe that their cigarettes will not cause them harm.

As smoking decreased over the last five years, cigarette manufacturers increased the amount of nicotine in cigarettes, even in “Light” cigarettes. Dependence was thus increased. Do you really want to give these people your money?

Philip Morris Admits Making Cigarettes More Addictive
July 31, 2000
News Summary
Philip Morris International admitted to using ammonia to make its cigarettes more addictive, the Sydney Morning Herald reported July 27.
Philip Morris acknowledged it used ammonia to change cigarettes taste and marketability and boost the absorption of nicotine. "This disclosure is an important step in our ongoing effort to work constructively with the government, the public-health community and others to address issues concerning tobacco use in our society," said a statement from the company.
Associate Professor Simon Chapman, editor of the journal Tobacco Control, compared the addition of ammonia with techniques used in the manufacturing of illegal drugs. "The changes they make are like changing cocaine to crack cocaine -- it's all designed to get the drug to the brain that much faster, which makes it more addictive," he said.
Internal tobacco-industry documents noted that adding ammonia is just one of seven methods used to increase the "nicotine kick" and addictiveness of cigarettes. "Methods which may be used to increase smoke pH and nicotine 'kick' include use of alkaline additives, usually ammonia compounds, removal of acids from the blend and special filter systems to remove acids from or add alkaline materials to the smoke," said one industry document.

Link Here

Cigarettes would be bad enough if they just had tobacco in them.
· Additives are used to make cigarettes that provide high levels of 'free' nicotine, which increases the addictive 'kick' of the nicotine. Ammonium compounds can fulfill this role by raising the alkalinity of smoke
· Additives are used to enhance the taste of tobacco smoke, to make the product more desirable to consumers. Although seemingly innocuous the addition of flavorings making the cigarette 'attractive' and 'palatable' is in itself cause for concern.
· Sweeteners and chocolate may help to make cigarettes more palatable to children and first time users; eugenol and menthol numb the throat so the smoker cannot feel the smoke's aggravating effects.
· Additives such as cocoa may be used to dilate the airways allowing the smoke an easier and deeper passage into the lungs exposing the body to more nicotine and higher levels of tar.
· Some additives are toxic or addictive in their own right or in combination. When additives are burned, new products of combustion are formed and these may be toxic or pharmacologically active.
· Additives are used to mask the smell and visibility of side-stream smoke, making it harder for people to protect themselves and undermining claims that smoking is anti-social without at the same time reducing the health risks of passive smoking.
Additive technology is a major tool used by the tobacco industry in the production of this nicotine 'package'. While some cigarettes have been marketed as additive free, according to the verbal testimony of JL Pauly of the Santa Fe Natural Tobacco Co., the modern U.S cigarette contains about 10 percent additives by weight, mostly in the form of sugars, flavorings, and humectants4. But there are others - present in smaller quantities --, which may have a more profound influence on the product. Evidence suggests that additives are actually used by manufacturers to influence the pharmacological effects of nicotine, make individual brands taste more appealing to young and 'aspirational' smokers and mask the taste and immediate discomfort of smoke.

At the simplest level, a cigarette delivers a dose of the main active ingredient, nicotine, into the smokers' lungs in a mixture of smoke particles and gases. The nicotine is rapidly absorbed into the blood through the large surface of the lungs (and mouth and throat) and reaches the brain within ten seconds. Receptors in the brain respond to nicotine stimulation by producing chemicals (dopamines and other neurotransmitters) that give the user what is variously described as a 'hit', 'kick' or 'impact' - the drug effect of nicotine. Over time the receptors become conditioned to expect nicotine (tolerance), and when deprived, the smoker experiences nicotine withdrawal - a very unpleasant sensation for many. This pharmacological impact and withdrawal, enhanced by psychological and social factors related to smoking, create dependency on tobacco products. Nicotine is the main reason why tobacco products are addictive. As this report shows there are a number of subtle ways in which the delivery of nicotine to the brain's receptors can be influenced by additives.

You may think it’s your choice to smoke. Maybe, just maybe that first one was your choice. But the manufacturers took that choice out of your hands with deceptive methods like these. It’s typical drug pusher behavior. Get them hooked, and keep them hooked.

So how do I quit?

The secret to breaking free and staying free is education.

It takes just 72 hours to rid your body of all nicotine and 90% of the chemicals it breaks down into, and for the symptoms of withdrawal to peak in intensity before beginning to subside. No psychological crave anxiety attack will last longer than the time it took you to smoke a cigarette - about three minutes. The maximum number of daily craves experienced by the average quitter is six, which occurs on day three (72 hours). In other words, that's 18 minutes of possible hell on the worst day of recovery (3 minutes x 6 craves). By day ten the average quitter is down to experiencing just 1.4 craves.

Do what works for you. Visit websites. NOT cigarette company websites! is an excellent site. Livejournal has a great smoking cessation community, quitsmokingnow2. I strongly suggest either not using a nicotine replacement or using it for a very limited amount of time. I’ll get into the reasons for that more when I talk about my quit.

My Quit.

One day, on the way home from work, I was almost out of cigarettes. I needed to stop and get some, so I pulled into Eckerd Drug’s parking lot near our home. I’d been thinking off and on about quitting, as most smokers do, for years. I’d been thinking about it more seriously recently, because I had started to learn about the dirty tricks that the tobacco companies play on us and I really did not appreciate being hoodwinked that way. Bob and I had been going out singing karaoke a lot and I knew my voice would be better if I didn’t smoke. It was getting more and more expensive. I was tired of being sick. I’d get a cold and it would last forever. I couldn’t breathe outside in the winter or in very hot weather because of my asthma. I was afraid of getting emphysema. I had so much to live for that I didn’t want to die in five or ten years.

When I went into the drugstore, I bought a box of nicotine gum and several packs of regular gum.

That night, I told Bob what I was doing and asked for his understanding and patience. Of course I got it. The next morning when I woke up, I chewed the gum instead of smoking. I made it through a day and a half that way before I relapsed. I spent a lot of time over the next few days doing research online, looking for what I’d done wrong. The conclusion that I reached was that I’d done NOTHING wrong. I just had to try again. And again, and again, and AGAIN if need be. It turned out the next time I tried was the last time I needed to try. I smoked my last cigarette on January 11th, 2006. I chewed the nicotine gum for one week. I did this consciously, because I knew I needed two stages to break the addiction.

Stage one was breaking the impulses. Looking back on all my previous attempts to quit over the years, the one thing that did me in was the impulse control. I have No Impulse Control at all. I needed to learn how to stop myself from reaching for that cigarette, and I needed to learn not to obsess about not having one. Chewing the nicotine gum gave me the drug that I was craving and allowed me to really think about what I’d be doing with my hands instead of smoking a cigarette. I took up crocheting. I chewed a lot of regular gum, straws, cocktail straws, pencils, pens. I redirected my energy from smoking to creative acts. After a week (and not an easy week), I made the decision to stop chewing the gum and get off the drug. I didn’t want to be addicted, and as long as I was already edgy and crabby, might as well get the whole thing out of the way. I chewed the last of the gum on a Wednesday night. I went to work that Thursday, but took Friday off, as I knew the last two days would be the worst. They were. I was not at all disappointed in the intensity of the withdrawal. My hair hurt. My bones itched. My skin crawled. I heard things. It was bad.

Don’t ever let anyone tell you that nicotine withdrawal is easy, because it isn’t. You’re just as addicted as any junkie, you’re just able to buy your drug over the counter. Nicotine is nasty, it’s insidious, it is all through your brain and body and you will have hell kicking it. But kick it you can. Three days is the magic.

After three days, the drug has lost its physical power over you. Really, it has. Do whatever you have to do to make it through those three days. Now comes the hard part. Resisting the impulses. Thinking you can have "just one" and it will be okay.

You can't, and it won't.

Two years and some months later, I'm mostly free of impulses and cravings. I don't have any desire to smoke. Any whim that might tempt me to light up like stress, smelling others smoking, or nostalgia is not strong enough to make any real difference to me.

I can never smoke again. I can never take so much as a drag from a cigarette again. I am as much a nicotine addict as an alcoholic is addicted to booze, as a heroin addict is addicted to opiates. The hypersensitive receptors in my brain that I spent 33 years developing are waiting there, tendrils outstretched, hoping to grab onto something, hoping to trap me again. It’s not going to happen. I’m finished.

I can sing again. I can breathe again. I gained about 30 pounds, and have lost most those again. My lungs are still clearing themselves out, but the tarballs are almost gone. My sinuses have finally recovered from the 33 year long assault on them. My sense of smell and of taste has come back, and my brain has learned, finally, to stop overcompensating by being hypersensitive to smell and taste. I’m learning to be patient with myself in terms of my own healing. And finally, finally, I’m getting my life and my health back.


evilcostumelady said...

'grats! on quitting. and on staying quit! If I'm not as awful at math as I fear, you get a pair of socks' worth of yarn for every 3 or 4 packs you didn't smoke... YOU WIN! :) :) :)

kate smudges said...

Ah, this was good to read. I quit smoking 93 days ago and it's been a tough battle. I'd quit smoking for 17 years, but hanging out with a smoker and taking the occasional drag was enough to get me back into my 1/2 pack a day habit. It really does only take one drag for those nicotine receptors to spring back to life. Knitting has taken over my life now. I'm having a blast ~ especially since I learned how to knit on dpns. I've just figured out entrelac so am about to download your sock pattern. Thank you!