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Tips to Quit Smoking and What about Vaping?

Tips to Quit Smoking and What about Vaping?

Washington Township Medication Foundation Pulmonlogist Weights In

You probably already know that smoking cigarettes is not good for your health. But you may not realize how harmful it is. Consider that cigarette smoking is still the leading cause of preventable death and disease, according to the American Cancer Society.

“Quitting smoking is the single most important thing you can do to improve your health,” said Dr. Jason Chu, a pulmonologist with Washington Township Medical Foundation. “Smoking is responsible for about 480,000 deaths in the United States each year, or about one in five deaths. Up to half of all smokers can expect to die of a tobacco-related illness. Quitting is the only way to significantly reduce your risk of dying from tobacco use.”

According to Dr. Chu, cigarette smoking can cause cardiovascular disease, lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. He said it’s also a factor in other cancers, and increases the risk for heart attacks and strokes as well as blood clots.

“Smoking contributes to lung infections like influenza, pneumonia and tuberculosis,” he added. “It’s associated with an increased risk of diabetes due to impaired insulin sensitivity. It raises the risk of bone loss and fractures in women. It’s also associated with an increased risk of complications during pregnancy and low birth weights, and affects fertility in both men and women. Smoking increases the likelihood of developing gastric ulcers and gum disease, and makes it harder to recover from surgery because wounds don’t heal as fast.”

Never Too Late to Quit

While there are better health gains for those who stop smoking before age 40, it’s never too late to quit.

“Quitting before 40 is associated with a sharp decline in premature death,” Dr. Chu said. “That’s the age when the biological aging process starts to accelerate. But the risk of death is reduced even when you quit after age 60. Reducing the number of cigarettes you smoke isn’t enough. We don’t see a significant benefit for people who just cut back on their smoking.”

Great American Smoke Out

He encouraged people to take the first step on Nov. 17 during the American Cancer Society’s Great American Smoke Out. The day is dedicated to raising awareness about the dangers of smoking and helping people quit.

“It’s not easy to quit smoking because nicotine is highly addictive,” Dr. Chu explained. “Smokers develop a physical dependency on nicotine. Those who quit, develop strong cravings for nicotine that peak the first three days, but can last three to four weeks, or even months or years for some people. Withdrawal can cause depression, insomnia, irritability, anxiety, restlessness and weight gain – very unpleasant feelings that are hard to fight.”

The two main ways to quit are through nicotine replacement therapy and behavior modification, or a combination of the two, he added.

“Nicotine replacement medications do not contain nicotine,” Dr. Chu explained. “Instead, they reduce the cravings by inhibiting certain pathways in the brain. You should consult your doctor to find the best one for you.”

Behavior modification includes quit-smoking programs, support groups and other ways to help you break the habit.

“There are some basic steps you can take to help modify your behavior and create new, healthier habits,” he added. “It’s also important to reward yourself for good behavior like getting a massage, going to a sporting event, or doing something else you enjoy. You can create a plan for quitting that includes your quit day and ways you will cope with some of your cravings. Determine when you smoke and what triggers your smoking, then find other activities you can do instead. Plan to take a long walk, exercise, or find something else to do other than smoking. But don’t replace it with vaping or e-cigarettes.”

Vaping is Not the Answer

E-cigarettes – also known as vaping – have been touted as a way to quit smoking cigarettes. But Dr. Chu warns that vaping is also harmful to your health.

“Just like regular cigarettes, e-cigarettes have the potential to cause cancer,” he said. “They can contain toxic compounds like arsenic, lead, nickel, chromium and volatile organic compounds.”

There have been more than 2,000 cases of e-cigarette or vaping-associated lung injury (EVALI) reported to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). The CDC recently reported that vitamin E acetate contained in some products appears to be associated with EVALI, but added that the evidence is not yet sufficient to rule out other chemicals that may also be contributing.

“The vaping problem has skyrocketed since 2010, particularly among middle and high school students,” Dr. Chu said. “And the data shows they don’t help with smoking cessation. Among those who abstained from smoking by vaping, 80 percent are still using e-cigarettes after one year. For those who used nicotine replacement, only 8 percent are still using it after a year.”

There are a lot of resources available to help you quit smoking, including the California Smokers’ Helpline at 800-NO-BUTTS. For more information about the dangers of smoking and additional resources for quitting, visit and search “quit smoking.”

For information on Washington Hospital’s pulmonary rehabilitation program, visit