Snuffing out Cigarettes: Beating that Smoking Habit Once and for All
Dr. Thomas Patavino D.C., MS, F.I.A.M.A
Like it or not, smoking is a big part of our society. It has just as much social implication as it does impact on our health. From the days of Humphrey Bogart lighting Ingrid Bergman’s symbol of sophistication and James Dean dangling a butt from his memorable pout, cigarettes have been a huge part of the American culture. It has served as trademark for the rebellious youth as well as a totem for social breaks throughout corporate America. Despite surgeon general warnings promising health deterioration, the high purchase price and constant increase in taxation, smokers will not be deterred from this habit. Other parts of the world like Europe and Asia have not only followed suit, but are statistically leaving us in puff of smoke with estimations of 2/3 of the male population lighting up in those regions. Globally current statistics show somewhere in the neighborhood of 33% of the world using tobacco.
In America, about 20% women and 24% men smoke today which in about ½ the statistical rate that it was in 1960. Although it appears there a decline in the amount of smokers, the problem is far from disappearing. Currently, about 25% of high school students smoke cigarettes. That is kind of surprising knowing what we know today with the cardiovascular, respiratory and cancer concerns that exist with smoking. The questions surrounding smoking no longer seem to be as much of a question of “if” as it is ”when” health problems will surface. Rather than focusing on why people take to the habit, it’s a larger concern why they can’t kick the habit.
Quitting smoking has to be one of the hardest challenges that plague so many people. Not only does one have to overcome the addictive chemicals that hide within the tobacco, but the mental component that can create a larger hurdle than the additives themselves. People have tried everything from prescriptions, patches, gums and hypnosis to beat the habit. Some choose to go cold turkey, while others try weaning themselves towards a healthier lifestyle. Unfortunately, the success rate of all these methods is surprisingly low and most people find themselves waiting for a magic bullet to help them reach their goal.
The reason people seem to fail or only manage to “quit” for a short time before they return to smoking regularly is most of the products out there only focus on the chemical portion of the habit and fail to address the mental component. True success can only be accomplished when the mind processes that the habit is undesirable. Chewing gum won’t convince the mind that he habit is bad if the brain still thinks smoking will reduce stress. Patches don’t make the brain think that cigarettes after dinner are a bad thing. Prescriptions may reduce nicotine in the blood, but have little effect on telling the gang that you don’t want to join them for that smoke break after school or during work. Finally, hypnosis works on the subconscious mind. Most people that light up do so in a conscious state not the subconscious.
From my experience, I have found the greatest success lies in approaches that address both the chemical and the mental portions of the habit. Statistically, most would agree that they know too many people who have come up short with only attacking the chemical side. If this wasn’t the case, then we wouldn’t see the crowd beneath the billowing clouds outside of bars, restaurants and the workplace. As a physician, it is my duty to educate and offer information that can potentially help others. What people choose to do with that information is entirely their choice like all other health recommendations.
One source that many people might not think of right away to stop smoking is the use of acupuncture. The Chinese have found that there are specifics points along the body are related to nicotine addiction. Just as there are points related to food and alcohol problems, it may explain why some people seem prone to these health problems while others remain unaffected. More specifically, the mouth point (located in the ear) tends to be over stimulated which is looking for attention throughout the day. If you ever noticed anyone that tried to quit smoking, they usually chew gum and eat like there is no tomorrow. The reason is simple; the mouth point is still craving activity even in the absence of nicotine. Acupuncture shuts off the mouth point reducing cravings while the body starts to rid itself from the chemicals. Furthermore, it helps reduce stress and supports lung, trachea and respiratory function while detoxification begins.
Combining acupuncture with stress management techniques and conscious mind retraining, attacks the habit from all sides. Reducing stress decreases the assumed need for cigarettes. Reducing cravings decreases the desire. Teaching you to remember why you want to quit replaces the blurred reasons why one started in the first place. Support and guidance helps rather than the failures of going at it alone. Logic should show that if all the traditional treatments seem to be failing, then perhaps success lies in alternative methods.
It’s no secret, smoking will cause health problems. Getting people to quit either keeps you or your loved ones around longer than puffing years off your life. November 15th is the Great American Smoke Out Day. The concept is simple. Smokers across the nation band together and give up smoking for 24 hours. It was designed to inspire the will to take that step towards giving up the habit once and for all. I urge and invite smokers to consider participating in the event. Finally, for those who hope to take it one step further and look for programs to help beat the habit there are a variety of available resources. The American Cancer Society Quit line can be reached at 1-800-227-2345. There is also a variety of online programs available as well as local support groups offered by many hospitals. Finally, on a local level Thoracic Park of Prospect offers the Kick Butt acupuncture/ counseling program for those who are ready to take the steps towards a new lifestyle. Keep in mind that success in never achieved by quitting or giving up………unless it’s smoking.