Today, all across Alberta, thousands
of people will wake up and decide
this is the day they will quit smoking.
And many of those people decide the
very same thing the next day, and the
week after, and the month after that.
Most people who smoke (or who use
smokeless tobacco) want to quit, but for
many, it’s really difficult.
“ I threw everything at it. I used
lozenges and Champix, the prescription
medication,” says Pat Doyle, 48, who
smoked his last cigarette in 2010.
“It wasn’t my first attempt to quit
smoking, but it will be my last.”
A pharmacist in Drumheller, Doyle
was more than aware of the negative
effects of tobacco. Smoking can cause
any number of cancers, including
most lung cancers, as well as chronic
obstructive lung disease. Smoking is
also associated with heart disease,
high blood pressure and stroke, and can
increase the risk of menstrual problems
in women and erection problems in
men. Chewing tobacco has more than
4,000 chemicals (including at least
70 carcinogens) and can cause oral
cancer, cavities, gum disease and
tooth loss, to name a few.
Whether you smoke it, chew it or
snuff it, the nicotine you’re ingesting
triggers the release of a chemical,
dopamine, in your brain that soothes
your nerves and gives you a sense of
well-being. As soon as you stub out
the smoke or spit out the tobacco, the
dopamine starts to drop and you can
begin to feel irritable, anxious and tense.
You go back for more to relax. Nicotine
is as addictive as heroin or cocaine.
“Once I got over the four-day hump,
it got easier,” says Doyle. “All the temptations and stressors are still there, but
you have to fight through them, and
the cravings for the nicotine eventually
subside.” And as the cravings go away,
your body also starts to undo the damage.
So, how to quit?
There is no one right way. Alberta
Health Services’ AlbertaQuits, one
of many different programs available
in the province (see list of resources),
recommends a cessation program
to double your chances of success.
Doyle says signing up for a program,
as well as using pharmaceutical supports
helped him beat the habit. “ I didn’t go
to the meetings, but I did follow the
literature that said: This is what you
should do, this is how to prepare
yourself and then you have to follow
through with it.”
Most programs recommend planning
a “quit day” and then changing your
routine to try to avoid some of the
triggers that make you crave tobacco.
Keep busy, avoid temptations and
manage your cravings with pharmaceutical aids such as a patch, gum or oral
drugs. Meetings and online groups can
help support you through the process.
For some, quitting smoking is a very
personal endeavour. Sheryl Campbell
of Edmonton quit smoking 20 years
ago after trying a few times. In her
next-to-last attempt, she told everyone
she knew that she was going to quit
smoking and she kept them informed
of her efforts along the way.
After that very public attempt failed,
she tried a different tack.
“ I tried again but I didn’t tell a
soul and I didn’t talk about it at all,”
Campbell says. “ I was turning 30 and
I had always promised my dad that
I would quit smoking. I was going to
do this for my father.”
Campbell says it took people a couple
Giving up tobacco is seldom easy for those addicted to nicotine.
As writer Jennifer Allford reports, one of the most important elements
to quitting tobacco is just believing that you can do it
Photo by Jessica Fern Facette
You have to fight
through the stressors,
and the cravings for the
who wants to quit
wants to quit for their