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October 13, 2021

10 Tips for Quitting Tobacco Use to Reduce Lung & Oral Cancer Risk

10 Tips for Quitting Tobacco Use to Reduce Lung & Oral Cancer Risk

It probably won’t come as any surprise that tobacco use is one of the primary causes of lung cancer and oral cancer. Quitting can help you lower risk for not only these types of cancer but can also reduce back pain and lower the risk for heart disease and diabetes.

While you already know that quitting is the right thing to do, it’s still a significant change in habits that usually requires some help to make it a lasting change – whether it’s smoking or chewing tobacco, here are some tips that have helped people quit.

1. Identify Triggers that Make You Want to Use Tobacco

Certain situations may make your urge stronger to smoke or chew tobacco. For instance, a stressful deadline at work or going out with friends may give you the mental “OK” to smoke or chew tobacco more often. Identify such trigger situations. While you might not be able to avoid the situations because it’s your job, your family, or your friends, it’s important that you make a mental note of when you feel a stronger urge to use tobacco. And, whenever possible, try to redirect yourself to a different activity when you feel like it’s time to use tobacco.

2. Get Rid of Reminders

Eliminate traces of cigarettes or tobacco packs from every corner of your home, car, and workspace. Clean out your cupboards, dashboards, nightstands, etc., and ensure there are none left in a secret spot, or where you normally keep it. Get rid of ashtrays or spit bottles and cans. Consider changing your curtains and carpets to get rid of the smell left behind by smoking. Some people also repaint their walls and change their upholstery to get a fresh start.

If you have a roommate or a life partner who smokes, come to an agreement on using tobacco in or around the house as you’re trying to quit so that you’re not tempted.

3. Find a Physical Activity to Reduce Nicotine Cravings

Smokers have lower physical endurance than non-smokers. But as a part of your healthier lifestyle, exercise can not only help your heart and lung health, it can boost your mood too. It can even reduce nicotine withdrawal symptoms while you’re going through the process of quitting. Studies have shown that moderate physical activity can bring down tobacco cravings significantly. While trying to quit, make time to take a morning walk or jog, join a yoga class, or consider one of the at-home fitness programs that have become very easy to access after COVID.

4. Count the Money You’ll Save – Then Treat Yourself!

One of the benefits of quitting tobacco that you may not consider at first is the amount of money you’ll save by not using it. For a few months, keep track of the money that you would have otherwise spent on cigarettes or smokeless tobacco packs. Then, treat yourself to a healthy reward at the end of each month.

5. Join a Program that Will Help You Quit Tobacco Use

There are several organizations in the Chicago area that help people stop using tobacco. Some are live and some are online including:

Some of these programs offer free nicotine patches and gum to help you gradually quit, and others offer tips for how to make your tobacco-free lifestyle stick with you.

6. Try a Healthier Alternative to Tobacco Use When You Need to Occupy Your Mouth or Hands

There are nicotine gums that are useful while you’re trying to quit. Eventually, you won’t need them anymore, but you may still have an urge to do something with your mouth or hands as part of your habits – especially under stress. If you need to do something with your mouth, try chewing sugar-free gum or sucking on hard candy, or using a toothpick. If you need to do something with your hands try a stress ball or a fidget toy that will keep your mind distracted from the urge to smoke or use chewing tobacco.

7. Talk to Your Doctor

There are medicines that can be useful when trying to stop using tobacco. Especially if you have tried before without success, there are some options that can help curb the cravings. If you’re already using a nicotine patch or gum, but the cravings are still strong you should mention this to your doctor. They can review your current dose and create a plan that gets you enough to stop the cravings while you’re in the process of quitting.

8. Use a Phone App to Track Progress

Several mobile applications can help with tobacco cessation. These apps track your progress, deal with temptation and even help you identify possible temptation before it happens. Some apps also allow you to track the money you are saving and share ideas to reward yourself. Most of these apps, available on iPhone and Android, are free with premium options if you really like how it helps.

9. Give Yourself a Break, and Some Extra Self-Care

Quitting tobacco can make you stressed. Don’t be too hard on yourself, and if you can take a few days off, it might be good to avoid work stressors while you’re in the process of quitting. Try to get plenty of rest, eat a healthy diet, drink plenty of water, and even work on your deep breathing so that you’re doing what you can to reduce points of stress in your life during this critical time when you’re trying to quit. And, periodically, you’ll find yourself feeling the urge to use tobacco again when you’re in a stressful situation or in certain social settings. Be kind to yourself and if you happen to mess up, start over tomorrow. Introducing deep-breathing exercises, visualization, or massage therapy can take the stress off your shoulders.

10. Take Up the Challenge and Do Not Give Up

The first few days or weeks of trying to quit tobacco can be very challenging. You may also experience a few setbacks along the way. The key is to learn from setbacks and not use them as an excuse to give up. Quitting tobacco is a huge step forward in reducing your risk of developing lung, oral, pancreatic or other types of cancer. Focus on the benefits for your own health and for the health of your loved ones who want you to be around for a long time to come.

Cancer Screening for Tobacco Users

If you’re a long-time tobacco user, talk to your doctor about various types of cancer screening that may be available to you. Stopping tobacco use is a huge step forward. But regular testing to identify cancers that you may be at a higher risk of developing is also important. With cancer screenings, cancer can be found sooner when it’s easier to treat. There are currently lung cancer screening exams that can be done for those with a long history of smoking. Talk to your doctor about whether you qualify. Oral cancer screening is also available and performed by your dentist during your regular checkups.

At Affiliated Oncologists, caring for cancer patients in the South Chicago Suburbs, we hope you’ll take advantage of these tips for your own health and well-being as well as for your loved ones. It’s not a sign of weakness if you don’t quit all at once, or if you have setbacks. Stick with it and you’ll find success!

Categories: Lung Cancer